As the 2011 World Series of Poker Championship Event enters the homestretch, Saturday was a day for players to make their statements and move into stronger position on the leaderboard. Of the 378 players who started the day on Saturday, Canada’s contingent of 42 players remaining in the tournament ranked second only to the United States. By the end of the day, several of those Canadians would be sitting in great shape for play on Sunday.
Day 5 action on Saturday began with Manoj Viswanathan the chip leader with 2.115 million in chips, the only player over the two million mark. Edmonton’s Kyle Johnson was in the Top Ten when play began and top Canadian pros such as Daniel Negreanu, Peter Jetten and Sorel Mizzi were also still part of the mix. The start of Day 5 was part of the cable sports giant ESPN2’s massive coverage on Saturday afternoon, which lasted well into the evening.
Canadian players got a great deal of attention from ESPN2 when it came to the makeup of their featured tables. On the secondary table, Compton’s David Barter led fellow Canadians Jody Howe and Shawn Hattern to battle against Viswanathan. Shawn was playing from a short stack, having only 190K in chips, but both Jody and David had a bit more ammunition to go after Viswanathan.
From the start of the action on Day 5, it looked as though Daniel was pushing a different strategy than he had earlier in the tournament. At the featured table with tough pros such as EPT champion Rupert Elder, Jean-Robert Bellande and top online player Carter King, Daniel came out of the gates on Saturday firing. Unfortunately, this tactic didn’t work well for Daniel; he gave some chips away to Ralph Robinson and then, in a big three way pot, Elder took a sizeable chunk after reraising Daniel off the river. Only about twenty minutes into play, Daniel’s starting stack of 619K had been chopped in half to 337K.
Barter, on the other hand, was improving his stack as the day began. He got locked up with Viswanathan in a hand, reraising him on the river, to take down a sizeable pot. Although he would double up his countryman Shawn Hattern to about 325K several hands later, David was sitting nicely with about 1.65 million by the end of the first level of the day.
Things didn’t get any easier for Daniel Negreanu on ESPN2’s feature table. After an elimination at the table, fellow pro Allen Cunningham joined the mix. Allen would be the beneficiary of fortune when, in a hand against Patrick Coughlin, he called a bet from Coughlin of 38K on a flop of 2-9-K. On the turn, Coughlin continued to apply the pressure, betting out when a second deuce hit, bringing a call from Cunningham. On the river, Coughlin bet out again, but this time Cunningham came all in over the top. Coughlin made a snap call and tabled pocket nines for the boat, but Cunningham opened up pocket deuces for quads to rocket up the leaderboard to nearly one million in chips.
It didn’t seem to be Daniel’s day from the start. After a loss to Evan McNiff, “Kid Poker” was sitting around 185K in chips. Another double up to a short stacked Robinson put Daniel on “death watch” and, although he would battle to survive, he lacked the ammunition by this point to do so. After chopping a pot with Jacob Bazeley, Daniel would eventually get his chips to the center with pocket tens against Elder’s A-7. Although he faded an Ace on the flop, one came on the river and, when no ten came for salvation, Daniel Negreanu was eliminated from the tournament in 211th place.
Barter continued to move up the leaderboard, knocking out Day 4 chip leader Viswanathan during the evening action. Kyle Johnson and Tri Huynh joined David on the march to the top, with Kyle and Tri making especially impressive moves up the leaderboard. When play begins on Sunday, four Canadians will be a big part of the action.
Finishing as the Day 5 chip leader over the 142 survivors, 2009 $50,000 Poker Players Championship winner David Bach is sitting atop a 4.7 million chip stack. Kyle is in close pursuit, however, ending the day of play on Saturday in third place with 4.65 million. Tri and Tyler Bonkowski are sitting just off the Top Ten, with Tri in eleventh place with 3.17 million and Tyler holding 2.72 million for fourteenth place. David will be in the mix as well, holding down 32nd place with slightly more than two million in chips. All totaled, there are fourteen Canadian players left in the battle for the World Championship.
The plan for Sunday (which will not be broadcast on ESPN2, but on the internet arm of the sports station, ESPN3.com) is for the players to work through five levels. It is thought, however, if there are enough eliminations, that play may be stopped earlier. Monday’s action is expected to bring the field down to 27 players and Tuesday’s play will give us the 2011 “November Nine.” ESPN2 will be back on Monday and Tuesday for its live broadcast (delayed thirty minutes) so the poker world can watch the action.