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After a grueling seven days and a late night on July 18, the 2016 World Series of Poker wrapped for the summer with nine players remaining in the $10K buy-in No Limit Hold’em Championship, better known as the WSOP Main Event.

The tournament began on Saturday, July 9, with three starting days. When all of the registrations were counted, the final number was 6,737 entrants, several hundred more than last year and the highest tally since 2011. The resulting prize pool for this year’s tournament was $63,327,800, out of which the top 1,011 players were paid at least $15K.

The nine players remaining are guaranteed at least $1 million, though the winner will receive $8 million. With quite a bit of money at stake and the most coveted WSOP gold bracelet of them all on the line, the anticipation for the final table is already building.

From 6,737 Players to 27

Three starting days translated into two Day 2 flights, which ended with 2,186 players coming together at the Rio tables in Las Vegas for Day 3. While the money bubble doesn’t usually come into play until Day 4, play was fast this year, and the bubble neared late into the evening of Thursday, July 14.

Before that, notable players like Phil Hellmuth, reigning champion Joe McKeehen, Vanessa Selbst, David Williams, Michael Mizrachi, and actor Ray Romano were among those who busted from the tournament with no financial compensation. When the money bubble did come into play near midnight, it took only moments to discover that it had already burst, with Adam Furgatch out in 1,012th place. Though he didn’t win any prize money, he was awarded a free seat into next year’s $10K WSOP Main Event.

Payouts then began with names like Scott Clements and Shannon Shorr heading to the cashier cage to collect some cash. Approximately 800 players remained with Kenny Hallaert of Belgium atop the leaderboard.

The field was reduced much further on Day 4, with former champions Tom McEvoy and Ryan Riess among those eliminated. Jason Somerville, Jamie Kerstetter, and Steve O’Dwyer also hit the rail, leaving only 251 when the night ended. Bryan Piccioli was the chip leader, and others near the top of the counts included Dan Colman and Melanie Weisner.

Day 5 thinned the field to just 80 players by sending many players, even Piccioli, to the rail. The last of the former Main Event champions, Johnny Chan and Greg Raymer, both exited on Saturday, as did all of the women, with Gaelle Baumann the last to go in 102nd place. Jerry Wong led the pack of survivors, with Hallaert in third place.

Action continued on Sunday to leave just 27 players at three tables. Some of the more well-known players eliminated on Day 6 were Brian Yoon, Tom Middleton, Tony Gregg, Chris Klodnicki, Jason Les, Ma Silver, Dan Colman, and Paul Volpe. Vojtech Ruzicka was in the chip lead with Michael Ruane in second, Cliff Josephy in third, and Fernando Pons and Kenny Hallaert also in the top 10.

Final Day Finds Final Nine

Players took their seats at the three tables on Monday at noon. Eliminations started quickly with Christopher Kusha out on the seventh hand at his table. Ruane then got involved in a hand with James Obst, with both players taking minutes on each move, and after 18 minutes, Ruane took the pot and the chip lead. Eliminations slowed drastically, with very little happening over the next few hours.

Late in the afternoon, Lau was eliminated in 20th place, and Cliff Josephy took over the chip lead from Ruane. Josephy held that lead through to the dinner break. When everyone returned from that break, action picked up quite significantly. Several double-ups and bustouts followed dinner, as players like William Kassouf, Jared Bleznick, and Tom Marchese exited. Australian pro James Obst busted in 13th place and Mike Shin in 12th.


Qui Nguyen had the chip lead at the next break and kept climbing to more than 70 million. Gordon Vayo busted John Cynn in 11th place as excessive stalling in numerous hands forced the tournament staff to rescind the players’ right to call the clock. Instead, the staff reserved the right to force action when they deemed appropriate.

Josephy sailed back into the chip lead not long after the final ten players were reseated at a single table. And just 18 hands into that table’s action, Josh Weiss pushed his short stack with A-8, Vayo called with Q-7, and Ruane called with J-5. Vayo and Ruane checked it down on a J-7-3-5-4 board, and Ruane took the pot with two pair. Weiss was gone in tenth place for $650K.

Just before midnight, the final table – in chip count order – was set as follows:

  1. Cliff Josephy (New York, USA) – 74,500,000
  2. Qui Nguyen (Nevada, USA) – 67,925,000
  3. Gordon Vayo (California, USA) – 49,375,000
  4. Kenny Hallaert (Hansbeke, Belgium) – 43,325,000
  5. Michael Ruane (New Jersey, USA) – 31,600,000
  6. Vojtech Ruzicka (Prague, Czech Republic) – 27,300,000
  7. Griffin Benger (Ontario, Canada) – 26,175,000
  8. Jerry Wong (New York, USA) – 10,175,000
  9. Fernando Pons (Palma, Spain) – 6,150,000

The players will return to the Rio in Las Vegas for a version of the November Nine that will actually begin on October 30. The earlier date this year is to refrain from competing with the United States elections. Days 8, 9, and 10 will play on October 30, October 31, and November 1 to find the winner. And they will be vying for these cash prizes:

1st place:  $8,000,000

2nd place:  $4,658,452

3rd place:  $3,451,175

4th place:  $2,574,808

5th place:  $1,934,579

6th place:  $1,463,906

7th place:  $1,250,000

8th place:  $1,100,000

9th place:  $1,000,000

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.