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November 26, 2014

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Players to watch in the WSOP Main Event with 90 percent of the field gone

Main Event should hit money bubble early Friday

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Leila Navidi

Greg Merson plays during the World Series of Poker Main Event on Thursday, July 11, 2013.

WSOP Main Event 2013: Players to Watch after Day 3

Annette Obrestad plays during the World Series of Poker Main Event on Thursday, July 11, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Since the World Series of Poker implemented its “November Nine” format five years ago, no player has advanced to the Main Event final table twice.

Some have the chance to make tournament history this year with four days of play remaining this summer in poker’s world championship at the Rio. Four of the final nine from last year, in fact, remain in contention in the $10,000 buy-in tournament.

Greg Merson, the 2013 champion, carries an above-average stack of 395,000 chips into Friday’s Day 4 to be in position to pull off one of the greatest poker feats of all-time.

Play continues at noon Friday, and payouts should start soon after with the tournament only 18 eliminations — they've played from 6,352 players to 666 — from the money.

Blinds will start at 2,500-5,000 with a 500 ante, meaning there’s still plenty of room for maneuvering. The deliberate structure of the Main Event gives players from deep stack cash-game backgrounds, like Merson, an inherent advantage.

Despite Merson ranking only slightly above the middle of the pack, his chips account for 79 big blinds — an astronomical amount compared to other tournaments.

Merson was a natural selection to lead our annual list of 10 players to watch out for in the Main Event after three days of play. In each of the last two years, someone in this group has gone on to a top-10 finish.

That’s good for at least a $573,204 prize this year, which may sound measly compared to the $8.36 million slotted for the champion.

Check out the other nine who could be destined for greatness below.

    • Doyle Brunson

      It’s a safe bet to pencil in Brunson for his first WSOP in-the-money finish in four years.

      The 79-year-old “Tex Dolly” has smoked the competition so far, building a stack of 650,000 chips. The local legend has a chance to join Johnny Moss and Stu Ungar as the only three-time champions, and could put himself alone in second place with 11 lifetime WSOP bracelets.

      It’s a good thing Brunson, who announced his WSOP retirement before the summer, accepted the tournament staff’s bribe of a Main Event buy-in.

    • Max Steinberg

      Steinberg seized the chip lead in style late Wednesday night at the Rio — by knocking out Phil Ivey at the ESPN featured table to surpass 1 million chips.

      The one-time bracelet winner, who has more than $1.5 million in WSOP earnings, dipped a bit back to 987,500 chips by the end of play but remains one of the favorites going forward.

    • Dick van Luijk

      Lujik was the first player in the 2013 Main Event to break the 1 million chip barrier.

      He scooped a massive pot by turning a flush with Ace-10 suited against an opponent’s Ace-King to burst onto everyone’s radar.

      Lujik, who finished the day near the top of the leaderboard with 940,000 chips, is a local amateur who has never previously cashed in a WSOP event.

    • Brandon Steven

      No amateur in the world has played better than the Wichita, Kan., car dealership mogul over the last few years.

      Since finishing 10th in the 2010 Main Event, Stevens has traveled the poker circuit with great results including a seventh-place finish for $621,180 in this summer’s One Drop event.

      Steven controlled a top-10 stack for most of the day, but fell back to 265,00 chips at the end of the night.

    • Melanie Weisner

      The title of “Last Woman Standing” is always a prestigious one in the Main Event.

      It’s going to take a special performance to beat Gaelle Baumann’s 10th-place finish from last year. If anyone’s capable, it’s Wesiner.

      The online phenom sat at one of ESPN’s secondary featured tables all day and racked up 536,000 chips.

    • Annette Obrestad

      Weisner won’t be without competition on the female front.

      With 470,000 chips, Obrestad looks like a cinch to cash in her first Main Event after four tries. Since famously winning the World Series of Poker Europe Main Event as an 18-year-old in 2007, Obrestad has disappointed in Las Vegas with just one final table.

      A deep run here will erase that.

    • Lauren Kling

      Noticing a trend yet? The women are representing in the 2013 Main Event, especially those that carry high profiles.

      Kling, who like Weisner and Obrestad honed her game through online poker, looks to top her 565th place finish in the 2010 WSOP where she earned $24,079. She’ll have to do it with a below-average chip stack of 185,500.

    • Greg Mueller

      One of the most successful WSOP mixed game players over the last several years, the former professional hockey player is finally showcasing his talent in the no-limit hold’em variety.

      Mueller built a stack of 430,000 chips on Day 3. The Las Vegas-based professional is most well known for winning two bracelets in limit hold’em during the 2009 WSOP.

    • Bertrand Grospellier

      The Global Poker Index ranks “Elky” as the eighth best tournament player in the world.

      The Frenchman is the second-highest rated player remaining, behind Germany’s Marvin Rettenmaier at No. 6, and holds 444,000 chips. He won a bracelet two years ago and last cashed in the Main Event four years ago, for $40,288 in 122nd place.

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

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