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It’s been a fantastic journey at the 2018 World Series of Poker (WSOP) for the Indian challengers who traveled to Las Vegas in the largest group ever, thanks to the all-expenses paid trips sponsored by domestic sites like 9stacks. After Team India’s stellar run and two bracelet wins in 2017, this year has been monumental for many reasons. Taking to the felts like never before, the veterans and the newbies, the amateurs and the seasoned, all rubbed shoulders and bonded with each other with a single goal in mind, to bring home the gold bracelet!
Now, after a bracelet win by Nikita Luther, with Aditya Sushant and Srinivas Balasubramanian reaching the final tables of two tournaments and deep runs in many side events, the spotlight has narrowed down to the $10,000 NLHE Main Event World Championship that saw an impressive Indian participation leading to 22 runners sailing past the mammoth battlegrounds of the starting flights to progress beyond. Such were the proportions of participation in this second-biggest WSOP Main Event that even the second day play was split into two flights! 11 Indians rode past Day 3 and nine of them progressed to Day 4.
And now, history is being scripted right at the WSOP felts in Las Vegas as etching their names forever among the top riders in Indian poker are the two Indian mavericks, 9stacks qualifiers Nishant Sharma (5,800,000) and Vivek Rughani (1,545,000), who after braving through the overwhelming obstacles on Day 5, have crossed all barriers making it among the 109 survivors in the Main Event, reviving India’s hope for a second bracelet win in this year’s tournament series and the very first Main Event Championship title win!
While both the Indian talents are already in the money for the minimum assured $57,010, they now grind their heels in preparation for another big day where they’ll be living up the aspirations of thousands of players who fell out of the prestigious tournament.
Meanwhile, another first-timer at WSOP, Kartik Ved also performed exceptionally well in the Main Event, but busted out towards the fag end of the day to finish in 128th place, taking home an impressive pay cheque, also his career-best cash of $57,010 (~₹39.20 Lakhs).
Team India’s performance on Day 5 was headlined by 9stack qualifier Nishant Sharma, who moved up the field steadily through the day. With 5.8 Million chips finally in his bag, Sharma is sitting pretty among the top 15 stacks for Day 6.
Rughani had a fairly eventful day as well as he doubled up several times, first through Joey Fabre and then via Matas Cikinas. The second-half of the day’s play wasn’t very favorable for him however, but he has made it to Day 6 and is the other Indian in the firing line to bring home the biggest title in poker.
For Ved who chipped up early against stalwarts like Shaun Deeb and maneuvered across hands to avoid losing out, the journey ended on Day 5. Midway through the day Ved’s stacks began to stumble and he finally faced Shaun O’ Donnell in a hand where he lost the pot and also his chance to make it to finish line.
As Michael Dyer (12,180,000) carries forward as the chip leader, along with Brian Yoon (8,395,000), Jeff Trudeau (8,305,000), Hari Bercovici (7,650,000) and Bart Lybaert (7,530,000) scooping up big stacks to Day 6, the action is far from over and the best of the battle yet to come!
There are many others also in the competition, including Barry Hutter (5,695,000), two-time bracelet winner Eric Froehlich (5,365,000) and high roller Ivan Luca (4,580,000). The sole woman who survived to Day 5, Kelly Minkin (1,205,000) had finished 29th in this very event in 2015 and as luck would have it, she has also made Day 6 this year.
Players who were eliminated include Brian Altman (113th for $57,010), Antonio Esfandiari (132nd for $57,010), Paul Volpe (142nd for $57,010), Ben Yu (150th for $57,010), Chris Moorman (273rd for $42,980), and Jake Schindler (293rd for $37,705).
Day 5 Recap
The story of 9stacks qualifier Nishant Sharma was that of a smooth and steady ride all through the day. There was not a moment of respite for Sharma who chipped up to an astounding 2,500,000 within the first two hours of play and didn’t stop at that. He went on to bag 5.8 Million and will be the top Indian featuring in the Main Event’s proceedings on Day 6.
Shortly after the play resumed and further up the levels moved to the blinds of 20,000/40,000 with an ante of 5,000, the young WSOP debutant and 9stacks qualifier Vivek Rughani doubled up through Joey Fabre. Rughani raised to 500,000 from early position and Fabre called from the hijack. The flop showed and Rughani bet his remaining 5,000 and Fabre called with . He was trailing Rughani’s . The turn and the river completed the board bringing a double up for Rughani.
Rughani also doubled up through Mike Cordell in an epic cooler.. Cikinas opened with a raise of 80,000 and he was called by Cordellin from the cutoff before Rughani made it 325,000 on the button. The action folded back to Cikinas who called and Cordell quickly folded. The flop opened and the action checked to Rughani who announced a bet of 300,000. Cikinas mulled over for a bit before moving all in for another 400,000 and Rughani snap called. Rughani revealed on Cinikas’ . Both of them had overpairs and on the turn and the river Rughani’s hand held up to earn him another double up.
However later Rughani lost out close to 900,000 from his stack and was left with only 1,300,000. With only 127 players left now, the heat was building up for the Indian poker fans who were watching all his moves as Rughani patiently edged towards the top 100! He has now bagged his chips for the day and will looking to make it to the top when the action opens up again.
One of the most impressive runs in the Main Event came from Kartik Ved who came to the Day 5 play with more than a Million chips in his bag. A front-running online MTT player on the domestic felts, Ved has been mentored and coached by India’s poker icon, Aditya ‘Intervention’ Agarwal himself. In 2017 he scored big in the 60,000 NLHE-High Roller event of the Deltin Poker Tournament, Panjim where he placed fourth winning a paycheck of $15,216 (~₹10.46 Lakhs). Now on Day 5 Ved displayed an indomitable spirit to take on his opponents.
As the eliminations sent many returning to the cash register and with only 238 players remaining in the fray, Ved doubled up through three-time bracelet winner Shaun Deeb. He went all in for a bit over 500,000 and was called by Deeb who had a covering stack. Deeb tabled and Ved held . With the board showing , Ved got a double up through Deeb to reach one Million and Deeb was left with 1.2 Million chips.
However later as the field narrowed down to 171, Ved faced difficult challenges and his stack fell. He played it cautiously over the next level, and folded in a four-bet pot that was captured by Rifat Palevic who dug into Shaun O’Donnell’s stack.
O’Donnell eventually got it all back in a hand against Ved, and, losing the pot also meant an end to Ved’s deep run in the Main Event. Ved had only 450,000 left after he lost a pot to Palevic’s two pair of aces and sixes. He moved all in from the cutoff for 10 big blinds and O’Donnell called from the big blind. Both players tabled their cards and O’Donnell’s were superior to Ved’s . On the runout, O’Donnell scooped the monster pot, sending Ved to the rail in 128th place for $57,010 (~₹39.20 Lakhs).
There are many big names in the fray but Joe Cada (2,965,000) is the only former Main Event champion who has made it this far in the ongoing championship. Cada lifted the title in 2009 and this time he had quite a rough time building up on his short stack but he ran well in the all-in pots, displaying his style of play.
Also in the battle is Benjamin Pollak (5,715,000), who final tabled the 2017 WSOP Main Event when he finished third for $3.5 Million.
For Dyer who is leadingthe remaining field, there were some pretty swingy moments that he encountered on his way to the feature table. The key hand in the last level saw former November Niner, Cliff ‘JohnyBax’ Josephy opening the action for 110,000 under-the-gun, Dyer bet to 315,000 with his ace-king suited and Josephy upped it to 815,000. Dyer shoved to barely cover Josephy’s 3.8 Million and Josephy called it off with kings. He was going great till an ace popped up on the river and Josephy railed out in 123rd place for $57,010.
Later, with a little over an hour left for the day to get over, and right after Tyler Witteman was eliminated (110th for $57,010) a power breakdown owing to the storm in Las Vegas led the tournament to be halted for some time. Emergency lighting was switched on in the event venue and though the power returned, the play was halted just as 109 players remained in the field.
1. Michael Dyer – 12,180,000
2. Brian Yoon – 8,395,000
3. Jeff Trudeau – 8,305,000
4. Hari Bercovici – 7,650,000
5. Bart Lybaert – 7,530,000
6. Paulo Goncalves – 6,940,000
7. Peter Campo – 6,935,000
8. Konstantin Beylin – 6,930,000
9. Alexander Gross – 6,755,000
10. Artem Metalidi – 6,525,000
Content and image courtesy: WSOP.com.
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