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July 30, 2014

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Los Angeles business owner leads WSOP Main Event with 68 players remaining

Carlos Mortensen is last champion in the field; Jackie Glazier the final woman

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Hundreds of players and spectators gather around Jack Effel, vice president of International Poker, as announcements are made on the first day of the World Series of Poker Main Event Saturday, July 6, 2012, at the Rio in Las Vegas.

Top 10 and notable chip counts at the end of Day 5

  • Sami Rustom 7,005,000
  • Marc McLaughlin 6,695,000
  • Jason Mann 6,580,000
  • Maxx Coleman 6,260,000
  • George Wong 5,740,000
  • Sylvain Loosli 5,690,000
  • Ryan Riess 5,570,000
  • Keanu Tabali 5,435,000
  • Matthew Reed 5,255,000
  • Chris Lindh 4,070,000
  • Yevgeniy Timoshenko 4,065,000
  • Jackie Glazier 4,045,000
  • David Benefield 3,675,000
  • Noah Schwartz 3,595,000
  • JC Tran 3,280,000
  • Carlos Mortensen 2,655,000
  • Amir Lehavot 2,665,000
  • Bryan Pellegrino 1,795,000
  • Steve Gee 1,360,000
  • Vitaly Lunkin 1,000,000
  • Brett Richey 690,000
  • Blinds begin at 25,000-50,000 with a 5,000 ante on Sunday

2013 WSOP Main Event final table payouts

  • 1st: $8,359,531
  • 2nd: $5,173,170
  • 3rd: $3,727,023
  • 4th: $2,791,983
  • 5th: $2,106,526
  • 6th: $1,600,792
  • 7th: $1,225,224
  • 8th: $944,593
  • 9th: $733,224

The green, 25,000 denomination chips gently slide through Sami Rustom’s fingers underneath his luxury wristwatch.

Beneath black sunglasses, Rustom peers into the eyes of his opponent across the table as he places his bet in front of him. Scooping the pot in with both hands after inducing a fold, Rustom shows no emotion.

The 46-year-old from Los Angeles comes off no differently than the hordes of professionals who pay $10,000 each year to compete in the World Series of Poker Main Event. Without some research, no one would know Rustom is among the most inexperienced players left vying for poker’s world championship after a week’s worth of action at the Rio.

“I like to work more than I like to play cards,” Rustom said. “But, when I get the chance, I’ll do it every once in a while.”

Rustom will do it with 7 million chips in front of him Sunday, making him the chip leader with 68 hopefuls left chasing the $8.36 million first-place prize.

Not bad for someone who had no plans on playing in this event a week ago. Rustom, the owner of a marble and granite construction business, came to Las Vegas to catch a couple shows and relax with his family.

For old time’s sake, Rustom ventured down to the Rio and entered a 10-player $1,060 buy-in satellite for an entry into the Main Event. He won.

“I used to play cash games in the casinos sometimes, but that’s about it,” Rustom said. “I used to play more often, but not anymore.”

Rustom has two previous WSOP in-the-money finishes, both coming in 2007 and totaling $21,316. He played in the Main Event once before, in 2008, when he was the chip leader at the end of Day 1 but had to go back home to take care of some business before his second-day session.

The travel left Rustom ill, and he was eliminated quickly upon getting back to the Rio. He’s guaranteed at least $102,102 in prize money this year, but refuses to look beyond that.

“I’m just exhausted,” Rustom exclaimed. “I’m an old man. I’m not a young guy like everyone else, so I’m taking it one hand at a time. I’m not looking to win it. I’m just doing the best I can.”

That’s been awfully well over the last two days. Rustom finished Day 4 second in chips. He overtook the chip lead with three hours left to play on Saturday night, going on a heater that saw him knock out two opponents.

Bunches of professionals who went deep in a tournament that started with 6,352 players made their exit during Day 5 including Ronnie Bardah, Annette Obrestad, Greg Mueller, Marvin Rettenmaier and Max Steinberg.

The most notable elimination, however, belonged to 2012 champion Greg Merson who claimed 167th for $42,990. It was the best finish for a defending champion since Peter Eastgate came in 78th in 2009.

Carlos Mortensen, who won the 2001 Main Event, is officially the last champion standing. He eclipsed the average chip count for the first time in days late during Saturday’s play.

Other notables operating with more than sufficient chips include Yevgeniy Timoshenko, Jackie Glazier, Noah Schwartz and JC Tran.

“The whole field left is tough,” Tran told pokernews.com. “I’m just going to respect everyone like they’re really good poker players and go from there.”

Professionals have won the Main Event in each of the last four years. With the WSOP celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Chris Moneymaker breaking through to win the title, it would seem an appropriate time for someone from a different walk of life to snap the streak.

Like Rustom, Moneymaker won his way into the tournament through a satellite. Like Moneymaker in 2003, destiny has hinted that it’s on Rustom’s side with favorable luck to this point.

“I’m catching the right cards at the right time and I’ve been able to read the other players well,” Rustom said.

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

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