Yesterday Phil Hellmuth did something he has never done before: cashed in the World Poker Tour (WPT) Bay 101 Shooting Star tournament. Even though Hellmuth has what many consider to be homefield advantage, since he calls the Bay Area home, the Poker Brat has never fared terribly well in San Jose, falling short of the money every year he’s played.
This year, not only has he made the money, he is also the chip leader with just 27 players remaining in the $10,000 buy-in tournament. Hellmuth began the day in the middle of the pack, but worked his way up the chip counts by doubling up through JC Tran early in the day and later eliminating Yevgeniy Timoshenko. He would go on to win a huge and decisive pot off of Faraz Jaka to take the chip lead as play approached the 36-person money bubble, and he ended the day on top with 550,000 chips. After having what he admitted was his worst year of poker ever last year, could this be Hellmuth’s chance to finally capture that elusive WPT title?
Hellmuth has some stiff competition to contend with, including Hasan Habib (496,000), Andy “BKiCe” Seth (453,000) and Nick Schulman (381,500). Shooting Star bounty players Chau Giang, Miami John Cernuto and Scotty Nguyen are also still in contention for the title.
Day 2 play began with 126 players, but the field was cut in half within the first couple of levels of play and the field approached the money bubble much earlier than expected. Play was originally scheduled to end once the tournament was down to 36 players, but since the bubble burst fairly early in the evening, the field stuck around an extra hour and whittled its way down to 27 before calling it a night. Players who made the money, but will not be returning Thursday for Day 3 include Mohsin Charania (35th), Steve Gross (34th) and Mark Ketteringham (32nd).
Thursday is the day the field will play down from 27 to the final six players who will make the televised final table. At 36 players remaining the field switched from 9-handed to 6-handed play, so this play down day will likely be a speedier one than WPT fans are used to.
Here are the top ten chip counts headed into Day 3 of play:
1. Phil Hellmuth – 550,000
2. Hasan Habib – 496,000
3. Andy Seth – 453,000
4. Dan O’Brien – 439,000
5. Matt Keikoan – 426,500
6. Nick Schulman – 381,500
7. Faraz Jaka – 332,500
8. Brian Rast – 322,000
9. Chau Giang – 307,500
10. David Forster – 305,500
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