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LAS VEGAS — The final table for the 2013 World Series of Poker main event has been set.
The field was whittled down to the final nine in the wee hours of the morning today, with well-known poker professional JC Tran of Sacramento, Calif., holding the chip lead.
The world’s biggest no-limit Texas Hold ‘em competition now takes a break until Nov. 4, when play begins to determine a champion.
The top prize is more than $8.3 million. The other eight players will share $18.3 million.
Poker pro Amir Lehavot of Israel finished in second place, and Ryan Riess, of East Lansing, Mich., finished third.
When asked how he would be preparing for the final table, Las Vegas nightclub host Jay Farber said his only plan was to go to Hawaii in two weeks. The 28 year-old entered the tournament for the first time last year and plays poker only as a hobby.
Also coming back in the fall are tattoo artist Marc McLaughlin of Brossard, Quebec, and Columbia University student David Benefield of Fort Worth, Texas.
The rest of the finalists are self-identified poker pros, including Sylvain Loosli of Toulon, France, Michiel Brummelhuis of Amsterdam, and Marc Newhouse of Chapel Hill, N.C.
The 10th player, Carlos Mortensen, was eliminated early today after 14 hours of play as the final day of the weeklong tournament drew to a close.
Mortensen, a Spaniard pro known as “El Matador,” went head to head with Tran after the rest of the table folded.
Tran was holding a seven and an eight, and Mortensen, who won the main event in 2001, was holding an ace and a nine.
The flop, the first three common cards dealt, came down 10, six, three. Tran went all in on the turn, or fourth card, and Mortensen called, pushing all his chips in.
The turn was a nine, giving Tran a straight. Mortensen would have needed a club on the river, or fifth card, to make a flush but got a two of diamonds instead, costing him his spot in the championship.
Tran later said he was sad to have been the one to take out Mortensen, the most well-known of the finalists, but also glad that he won’t be competition in November.
“I know it’s going to hit me really hard when I see my family, but right now I just want to get some rest,” said the grinning, bleary-eyed 36 year-old.
The $10,000 buy-in tournament began July 6 with 6,352 entrants, slightly fewer than last year.
High-spirited, not entirely sober fans cheered on the weary group of card sharks in the dead of night today as the gamblers entered the final stretch of the contest under the blue and red lights of an ESPN set crafted within the Rio hotel-casino off the Las Vegas Strip.
The day started with 27 players in the hunt. The field had been winnowed to 12 as midnight neared. Play then slowed as the gamblers became more cautious, wary of losing their shot at poker stardom come fall.
Those remaining are already guaranteed a half-million dollar payout, but each was hoping for a chance to make the “November nine.”
The bad beats and roller-coaster chip swings had weeded out the one-in-a-million dreamers, leaving skilled, mostly professional players on the final day of the summer competition.
Among them was Brazil native Bruno Kawauti. Wearing tinted sunglasses and a Brazilian soccer jacket, he was surrounded by dozens of fans who wore Brazilian soccer jerseys and draped the country’s flag over their shoulders.
They sang Portuguese fight songs as Kawauti went all in. He bowed at 15th place thanks to Rep Porter, who flopped a set of sevens against pocket tens.
His fan base hoisted him in the air after his elimination.
“So many people playing different tournaments at the same time, it’s incredible,” said Romu Marujo, who traveled from South America to cheer on his friend. “To us in Brazil, it’s something we can’t imagine.”