Vojtech Ruzicka takes top stack into Day 7 of 2016 WSOP main event

ESPN staff
July 18, 2016

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Tim Fiorvanti/ESPN Michael Ruane, center, is second in a three-way race atop the chip counts after Day 6 of the 2016 World Series of Poker main event. 27 players remain.

The World Series of Poker bracelet is quite literally the gold standard in keeping score between tournament poker players, and the most important one of all is obviously the one awarded to the main event champion. In recent years, it has even been modified to reflect its special status among all other championships.

There’s no denying the overall talent level among the final 27 players in the 2016 WSOP main event, with many of the players' records including sweeping successes on every major tour, both live and online. It might come as a shock, then, to learn that only one of those 27 has a bracelet (he has two, in fact) -- 50-year-old Cliff Josephy.

Josephy has been in or near the lead for the better part of the past two days of play in the WSOP main event, and while he finished third with 23.86 million, Josephy is within a single pot’s reach of overnight chip leader Vojtech Ruzicka (who has 26.415 million).

He’s ready for the battle that lies ahead on Day 7.

“I don’t feel any pressure,” Josephy said. “I never feel pressure playing, and I always love playing. I don’t know how it affects other people, they may blow up but I’m not going to blow up. If I lose a hand, I lose a hand. I don’t think that I’m going to feel any pressure at all. Who knows, I’ve never been there, but it’s just not that big a deal -- I love to play the game.”

Josephy employed a small-ball strategy throughout the day, and the cards cooperated, keeping him among the top stacks despite a lack of many big pots. While others were throwing haymakers, Josephy was contributing to an overall lighter-than-normal mood at the table for this stage of the tournament -- an element that was clearly evident to those watching things play out.

“I try to keep everybody loose,” Josephy said. “I want it to be fun, and I want everyone to enjoy themselves. I don’t want these a--h---- in the hoodies with earphones just ruining the game. It should be a social game.”

While historically there’s usually a player or two who separate themselves from the pack, the chip counts are tightly packed heading into the final day of play for the summer. Ruzicka and Josephy are joined by Michael Ruane (24.565 million), James Obst (19.56 million) and Mike Shin (19.345 million), but things are so close that the next 12 players behind Ruzicka could double up and take over the chip lead in a single hand, which leaves the potential for dozens of widely varied exciting outcomes for this tournament.

Several players still in this field have proven up to be up to a monumental task in coming out the gate firing and carrying that stack forward through thousands of other players. Day 2 chip leader Valentin Vornicu, Day 3 chip leader Kenny Hallaert and Day 5 chip leader Jerry Wong have each positioned themselves for a realistic shot at making poker’s most prolific final table, and maybe more.

Just one member of this group of 27 has a chance to join Mark Newhouse as the only two-time members of the November Nine -- Antoine Saout.

The French pro, whose first career cash was a third-place finish in the 2009 WSOP main event, has learned a lot in the seven years since his first run.

“I played a lot during those seven years, and now I know what I’m doing during the tournament,” Saout said. “It’s more fun. I know English now, so I can speak to the other players at the table.”

He’ll start Day 7 in 24th out of 27 returning players, and while it’s the first time he’ll be short-stacked all tournament, Saout said he is not worried.

“I’ve been deep every day since Day 2. This is my worst ending,” Saout said. “But in poker, even on a short stack, you can spin it up and be deep [in a short amount of time]. If I win the first hand tomorrow, maybe I could be deep again.”

Notable Day 6 eliminations

80th-73rd ($80,721)
Jonathan Karamalikis ($80,721)
Karamalikis’ best career results includes a pair of $450,000-plus cashes in events on the Asia-Pacific Poker Tour.

72nd-64th ($96,787)
Michael Banducci (69th)
Per Linde (68th)
Linde has a second-place finish in a European Poker Tour main event, a third-place finish in a World Poker Tour event and now two top-100 finishes in the WSOP main event.

63rd-55th ($116,963)
Caufman Talley (62nd)
Brian Yoon (60th)
Tom Middleton (56th)
Dietrich Fast (55th)
Yoon, along with Cliff Josephy and Paul Volpe, were the only multi-bracelet winners to make Day 6 of the main event.

54th-46th ($142,447)
Tony Gregg (50th)
Jan Suchanek (49th)
Gregg’s WSOP bracelet came in the 2013 One Drop High Roller, and also came with a $4,830,619 payday.

45th-37th ($174,826)
Chris Klodnicki (45th)
Paul Hoefer (43rd)
Jason Les (40th)
Klodnicki has never won a WSOP bracelet, but he does have runner-up finishes in two of the biggest WSOP events outside of the main event -- the $111,111 One Drop High Roller and the $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship

36th-28th ($216,211)
Max Silver (33rd)
Dan Colman (31st)
Paul Volpe (29th)
Volpe was the last 2016 WSOP bracelet-winner in the field, as well as the last bracelet-winner outside of Josephy.

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WSOP Michael Turieniec won the $1,111 Little One for One Drop for $525,520, closing out the World Series of Poker's preliminary event schedule.

Small blinds: It took four days, but the final bracelet-winner of the summer has been crowned. Michael Tureniec defeated Calvin Anderson heads-up to win the $1,111 Little One for One Drop for $525,520 and his first career WSOP bracelet. Anderson won $324,597 for second, and Ryan D’Angelo got $239,232 for his third-place finish. In all, this tournament raised $483,960 for the One Drop Foundation, which has raised more than $10 million in total to improve access to water and long-term sustainability. … With Paul Volpe’s elimination from the main event in 29th place, Jason Mercier officially earned 2016 WSOP Player of the Year honors.

What’s next: Day 7 of the main event is one of the most unique experiences poker has to offer. The day begins with 27 players, and no matter how long it takes, the field will be reduced to the final table of nine before all is said and done. Play kicks off at 12 p.m. PT with blinds of 100,000/200,000 and a 30,000 ante for the remainder of the level that was paused once the final 27 was reached on Day 6.

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