WSOP: Jerry Wong holds lead with 80 left after Day 5 of main event

ESPN staff
July 17, 2016

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Tim Fiorvanti/ESPN Jerry Wong dispatched former chip leader Bryan Piccioli late on Day 5 of the 2016 World Series of Poker main event to take command of the top spot heading into the final two days of play.

The 2016 World Series of Poker main event has reached a crucial crossroads. Some 6,656 players have fallen to this point, some with a cash and some without, but for the 80 players still in contention for making the November Nine and winning the $8 million first place prize, there are two clear outcomes.

They’ve either fought their way through five grueling days of play only to fall a few tables short, or they’re two days away from realizing the dream that so many poker players have had -- reaching the bright lights of the Penn & Teller Theater in the fall to play for poker’s world title.

Jerry Wong stands tall in the lead with 11,555,000; he’s one of three players to bag over 10 million heading into Day 6. Jan Suchanek (10,305,000) and Kenny Hallaert (10,050,000) round out that top three. For Hallaert in particular, it’s been a rollercoaster three-day stretch; he bagged the chip lead after Day 3, left Day 4 with less chips than he came in with and dropped to a dangerously low point with 300,000 early in Day 5 before surging back to the top of the counts.

Part of that run saw him eliminate 2004 WSOP main event champion Greg Raymer, the last previous main event winner in the field.

Griffin Benger (9,860,000) and Joshua Weiss (8,330,000) round out the top five. While Benger, a former No. 1-ranked online player in the world, has occupied his time recently by taking a role as a commentator for the Global Poker League, this stage of the main event is a familiar one; he finished 90th in the 2014 WSOP main event.

Just behind Weiss is William Kassouf, a lawyer from Great Britain who garnered a large share of attention from ESPN cameras and WSOP floor staff alike throughout Day 5.

“It’s been a sick day,” said Kassouf, shortly after the end of play. “I do a lot of table talking -- it’s a big part of my game, I’ve been doing it for 10 years and I’ve been fairly successful doing it. I don’t do it just for the cameras, or showboating -- I’ve been on the outer tables for most of the day -- and getting into my opponent’s mind is a big part of my game. I like the whole psychological aspect of it.”

The most notable incident stemming from Kassouf’s consistent barrage of chatter involved a pair of hands with Stacy Matuson. The cameras were rolling as the pair engaged in a pair of hands that stretched on for more than 10 minutes apiece. Each time Kassouf set Matuson all in -- once on the turn, and once on the river -- and the second hand, where Kassouf tabled a bluff after Matuson open-folded pocket queens, earned Kassouf a penalty for taunting, which stemmed from the entire series of comments and hand gestures he made.

Regardless of how one might feel about the process, for better or worse, Kassouf’s results speak for themselves in looking at his chip count.

“It’s an information-seeking game, at the end of the day, and by speaking to them and conversing with my opponents I seem to get more information from them,” said Kassouf. “It's about learning from their body language and how they look, rather than just putting chips in the pot and not saying anything.”

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Tim Fiorvanti/ESPN William Kassouf (center, camouflage shirt) held court at the featured TV table after the dinner break on Day 5.

Jared Bleznick finished the night in ninth place with 7,955,000, and he experienced an unlikely pair of hands in short order on his way to that stack. He briefly took over the chip lead after flopping quads with his pocket deuces, which got paid off in full by the top full house on the board, but he slipped back slighty a short time later as his aces were beaten when a player with pocket sevens flopped quads against him.

10 percent of the players still in contention for the 2016 WSOP main event title already have a WSOP bracelet to their name. Colman, Cliff Josephy (twice), Paul Volpe (twice), Paul Hoefer, Michael Banducci, Dietrich Fast, Brian Yoon and Anthony Gregg have all tasted victory at the WSOP, and hope to do so again.

There are a few other notables to look out for as the final two days of the playdown to the November Nine play out. Tom Marchese has put up consistently strong results in high roller fields against the best the game's got to offer, and he's made final table appearances at the WSOP, World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour; James Obst has a stellar online record, and he logged his best live cash of his career earlier this summer when he took second in the $10,000 HORSE Championship; Max Silver has numerous WSOP and EPT final tables on his resume; Jason Les is a high-stakes heads-up specialist with a number of live results include a second and a third-place finish in a pair of events at the 2015 WSOP; and Chris Klodnicki is the perennial runner-up, with second place finishes in both the $111,111 One Drop High Roller (2013) and $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship (2012), along with a 12th place result in the 2008 WSOP main event.

Top 10 chip counts

1) Jerry Wong (Brooklyn, NY, USA) -- 11,555,000
2) Jan Suchanek (Nelson, New Zealand) -- 10,305,000
3) Kenny Hallaert (Hansbeke, Belgium) -- 10,050,000
4) Griffin Benger (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) -- 9,860,000
5) Joshua Weiss (Los Angeles, CA, USA) -- 8,330,000
6) William Kassouf (Rickmansworth, Great Britain) -- 8,300,000
7) David L’Honore (Newport Paghnell, England) -- 8,265,000
8) Chang Luo (Seattle, WA, USA) -- 8,090,000
9) Jared Bleznick (New York, NY, USA) -- 7,995,000
10) Fernando Pons (Caldwell, NJ, USA) -- 7,930,000

Full chip counts

Gaelle Baumann takes “last woman standing” honors for second time

There were six women left in the main event field when play began Saturday, but for the second straight year, there wasn’t a woman left in the field once bags came out at the end of the night on Day 5.

Some of it could be attributed to misfortune, and some was the natural playout of the cards and action, but a few women in particular went out in particularly ugly ways on Day 5. Maria Ho’s ace-high flush draw fell to Valentin Vornicu’s queen-high flush draw when the latter’s other card, a four, paired the river. Jennifer Shahade lost when her pocket aces were cracked by a pair of queens that ran out a four-flush. Matuson was bluffed in a pair of consecutive hands against Kassouf and then had her pocket aces cracked by king-jack in a preflop all-in when her opponent flopped trip kings.

Louise Francouer and Dee Friedman were soon to follow, leaving just Melanie Weisner and Gaelle Baumann with 127 players remaining. Weisner got into a big pot where her opponent got stuck calling off with five-three suited against her ace-king, flopped an open-ended straight draw and rivered a pair to ouster the former chip leader.

That left Baumann, who couldn’t find a hand to go with for a long stretch. After folding all the way down to three or four big blinds, she shoved with pocket deuces and the big blind was all but forced to call with ten-three suited. A ten hit the flop, and all look lost until a miracle deuce gave her new life in the tournament, albeit briefly.

She’d go out shortly thereafter in 102nd, but not before she earned the right to call herself the last woman standing for the second time in her career. Baumann also did so in 2012, when she bubbled the November Nine with a 10th-place finish. She joins Ho as the only women ever to accomplish the feat twice.

Notable Day 3 eliminations

251st-226th ($36,708)

Maria Ho (242nd)
Simeon Naydenov (230th)

Ho is a two-time “last woman standing” in the WSOP main event

225th-163rd ($42,285)

Tyler Bonkowski (224th)
Shaun Deeb (221st)
Jennifer Shahade (204th
Max Altergott (193rd)
Johnny Chan (180th)
Adam Friedman (177th)

This was Chan’s eighth career WSOP main event cash. He’s a two-time champion of this event, having won in 1987 and 1988 (and following it up with a second-place finish to Phil Hellmuth in 1989)

162nd-100th ($49,108)

Jason Strasser (158th)
Sorel Mizzi (157th)
Todd Brunson (154th)
David Pham (152nd)
Scott Montgomery (140th)
Marc-Andre Ladouceur (139th)
Mukul Pahuja (138th)
Dan Heimiller (137th)
Melanie Weisner (127th)
Greg Raymer (122nd)
Brandon Adams (117th)
Michael Gathy (107th)
Gaelle Baumann (102nd)
Jon Turner (100th)

Montgomery’s elimination in 140th left Antoine Saout as the only November Niner remaining in the 2016 field. This was Raymer’s first WSOP main event cash since 2005, when he finished 25th the year after his title run.

99th-91st ($57,494)


90th-82nd ($67,855)

Mike Gorodinsky (87th)
Shankar Pillai (86th)
Bryan Piccioli (84th)

Gorodinsky was the 2015 WSOP player of the year. Piccioli was the chip leader at the end of Day 4, but lost a massive pot late in Day 5 with ace-queen against ace-king to give Wong the chip lead.

Small blinds: 12 players made it to the end of play on Day 3 of the $1,111 Little One for One Drop, with time concerns creating the need for a fourth day of play. Thai Tran has the chip lead, with bracelet-winners Calvin Anderson and Ryan D’Angelo still in the hunt… With cashes in the main event and Little One for One Drop, Roland Israelashvili now holds the record for the most WSOP cashes in a single year with 13.

What’s next: The final 80 players return for Day 6 Sunday, the penultimate day of action for the summer. The field must get down to the final three tables, but the exact schedule and point of stop is still not a concrete number. Play in the WSOP main event will resume at 12 pm PT at Level 27, with blinds of 40,000/80,000 and a 10,000 ante. The average stack is 4,210,625.

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