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November 23, 2014

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WSOP Main Event now in the money after four-way tie for 666th place

David Kelley, a 24-year old pro from Seattle, goes down as official bubble boy

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Mona Shield Payne

A player shields his cards next to his bling-bedazzled mug while playing poker on the first day of the World Series of Poker Main Event Saturday, July 7, 2012, at the Rio in Las Vegas.

With the World Series of Poker Main Event beginning to pay out 666 players on Friday the 13th, something out of the ordinary was bound to happen.

The money bubble in the 2012 world championship of poker burst early during the fourth day of play at the Rio in an unlikely fashion. Four players — David Kelley, Dane Lomas, Steve Rosen and Desmond Portano — busted out on the same hand to tie for 666th place.

They split the $19,227 payday four ways for $4,808 each. In other words, they each lost half of their $10,000 buy-in after playing for 32 hours and outlasting nearly 6,000 other players in the last week.

“You think about it,” Kelley said of becoming the Main Event’s bubble boy. “But you never believe it’s actually going to be you.”

When the tournament gets within three eliminations of the money, officials pause the action and go to hand-for-hand play so every table is on the same schedule. It typically takes several hands and as long as two hours to reach the payouts.

The time was drastically reduced from past years on Friday.

“Literally on the first hand, we had four all-in players who were all eliminated,” a baffled Jack Effel, WSOP tournament director, announced to the room.

The situation caused a fair share of confusion, as one of the WSOP’s sponsors annually buys the bubble boy into next year’s Main Event as a consolation prize. With four tying for the honors this year, Effel announced they would play a single-table tournament to determine who won the entry.

The players, however, didn’t like that idea. Kelley, a 24-year-old professional from Seattle, instead pulled out a wad of cash and paid the other three players $2,500 each. He kept the free voucher for next year’s Main Event to himself, thus officially becoming the 2012 bubble boy.

“No one else wanted to play,” Kelley said.

It was hard to blame them when considering the nature in which they went out. Portano committed all of his 160,000 chips pre-flop with pocket Kings, only to see the second-best starting hand in hold’em fall to pocket 5s when his opponent made three-of-a-kind.

Rosen also met his demise with pocket Kings, running them into a tablemate’s pocket Aces. Lomas left with the worst bad beat story.

He managed to get all of his chips in the middle with pocket Aces against Ace-King, for nearly a 90 percent chance to double his stack.

“I’m going to lose,” Lomas muttered despite the overwhelming odds.

Sure enough, the dealer fanned out two Kings on the flop to end Lomas’ dreams of poker glory.

Bad luck didn’t victimize Kelley, but he was questioning going all-in with pocket Queens so close to the money. He called after his opponent, model and actress Christina Lindley, raised all-in. Lindley flipped up pocket Aces, which held on to knock out Kelley.

“I felt like she was kind of waiting for the money, she might have even folded pocket Kings there,” Kelley said. “If I would have thought about for a couple seconds, I could have folded that. I should have folded that.”

Knowing they had safely earned payouts, more than 100 players were eliminated from the tournament within an hour of the four-way bubble. Among the notables to cash for the minimum were poker pro Jason Mercier, model Liv Boeree and Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo.

Kelley stood in the middle of all the madness for about 30 minutes, granting interviews and posing with a $10,000 check for next year’s Main Event.

When everything began to wrap up, attention went to a section where several players were coughing uncontrollably. Turns out a player accidently released pepper spray in the tournament area.

This was no ordinary bubble-bursting day at the World Series of Poker.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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  1. Fun reporting. Brought the action to life. Good job.