After Thursday's action at Crown Melbourne, there remains just two days left at the 2014 World Series of Poker Asia-Pacific, and two big, bad final tables are left to play out.
The AU$10,000 Main Event reached its televised final table of six, and Jack Salter leads the way. Those players will return on Saturday after taking a day off Friday while the AU$25,000 High Roller final table takes place. For that final table, which will see the winner earn AU$600,000, Mike Leah leads the way.
Beginning the day with just 18 players remaining and a final table of six the goal, Sean Winter would exit on one of the first few hands before a stall in play wouldn't see the next elimination for a further 80 minutes. Unfortunately, that elimination was the biggest remaining storyline, as Brandon Shack-Harris, who needed a top-two finish to take the lead in the WSOP Player of the Year race, hit the rail. Shack-Harris three-bet shoved holding the , but was undone by Frank Kassela's .
Joachim Chia (16th), Gary Benson (15th), Alexander "AJ" Antonios (14th), JJ Liu (13th), and Jackie Glazier (12th) all exited within the hour before Baden Logan (11th) and Eiji Matsumura (10th) left the field at the unofficial final table. At this point, Day 2 chip leader Kyle Montgomery held the chip lead, but Jason Giuliano and Victor Teng were snapping at his heels.
Play began really slow as players took their time to settle into the unofficial final table. Local player Giuliano had other ideas, however, as he started accumulating chips at a monster rate to eventually build his stack to 2.4 million — 1 million more then his closest rival as players headed on dinner break.
Once back, Henry Szmelcer made a move holding the , but it would be Scott Davies and his that would reduce the field to just eight. Davies then found a huge double holding kings against Giuliano's ace-king before Salter turned a set against Teng.
Although Giuliano began the level as chip leader, he would soon be the short stack after doubling Henry Wang and then busted just before break when he ran kings into Kassela's aces.
Needing just one more elimination before the televised final table of six was reached, Teng's rise and fall would be complete when his couldn't outdraw Salter's to leave us at the following half dozen with all eyes on the AU$850,136 first prize.
With an Aussie Millions side event victory and European Poker Tour Grand Final runner-up finish this year, Salter will be looking to ride this wave of momentum into another victory here at Crown Melbourne. Holding the chip lead with 3.255 million, Salter is 35 big blinds ahead of Davies, who sits in second with 2.210 million. Davies is registering his ninth WSOP cash for the year — second of the Asia-Pacific series — and will be looking to turn his second final table appearance into a victory.
Macau and Melbourne regular Henry Wang played an exciting brand of poker and sits in third place, whereas 2010 WSOP Player of the Year and two-time bracelet winner Frank Kassela sits in fourth overall. Montgomery and local Ang Italiano round up the rear with Italiano looking to write a storybook ending to her absolutely amazing run.
Italiano won her seat into this event for just AU$130. She played two "Phase One" $65 satellites and won her second to earn entry into an AU$250 "Phase Two." She won that before winning a AU$1,100 "Phase Three" to win her seat in this Main Event.
With the final table combatants having a day off to conduct interviews with ESPN, the final table will resume at 3:30 p.m. local time on Saturday afternoon in Crown Melbourne's Studio 3. The PokerNews Live Reporting team will be on hand to provide extensive live coverage, including hand-for-hand updates, as the event plays down to crown the 2014 WSOP Asia-Pacific Main Event Champion.
While the WSOP Asia-Pacific Main Event was playing down to a final table on one side of the room, the AU$25,000 High Roller was doing the same on the other. It took just over 10 levels of play, but eventually the returning 31 players — and five late registrants — of a 68-player field was whittled down to the final six.
All of them are guaranteed a minimum payday of AU$85,027, but every one of them have their eyes firmly fixed on the AU$600,000 reserved for the winner. The man best positioned to capture it is Mike Leah, who leads the final table with 2.576 million.
Leah's stack is more than twice as much as his next closest competitor, David “MissOracle” Yan, who finished sixth at the 2013 Aussie Millions. Others still in contention are 2012 WSOP Main Event runner-up Jesse Sylvia; 2 Months, 2 Million star Brian Roberts; 2010 WSOP Main Event champion Jonathan Duhamel; and then Sam Khouiss. Both Duhamel and Khouiss are making their third final table of the WSOP Asia-Pacific.
The day kicked off with a slew of eliminations including those of Jeff Rossiter, Rory Young, Fabian Quoss, Ali Ghezelbash, and Brandon Shack-Harris, who late registered after busting the Main Event in 17th place for AU$23,441.
The High Roller was Shack-Harris’ last opportunity to catch George Danzer in the 2014 WSOP Player of the Year race, but his quest came to an end in Level 12 (1,500/3,000/500) when, on a flop of , Shack-Harris and Sean Winter got all the money in. Shack-Harris had flopped the best of it with the for trip queens, and Winter held the . The turn was the to keep Shack-Harris in front, but then the spiked on the river to give Winter a winning full house.
With that ace on the river, Danzer earned the title of 2014 WSOP Player of the Year with 923.5 points to Shack-Harris' 829.2. Danzer earns an entry to the 2015 WSOP Main Event for his accomplishment, but of course everyone knows the title is the real prize.
Before long Shack-Harris was joined on the rail by Eddy Sabat, Tobias Reinkemeier, Jeff Gross, Daniel Neilson, Mike Watson, David Steicke, Mohsin Charania, and Phil Hellmuth.
Hellmuth actually exited as the "bubble boy" in Level 20 (10,000/20,000/3,000) when action folded to Yan and he raised to 40,000. Leah called, as did Hellmuth in the big blind, and three players saw a flop of . Action checked to Leah and he bet 55,000, which only Hellmuth called with just over 200,000 chips behind.
On the turn, Hellmuth checked again and Leah moved all in. The "Poker Brat" spent quite some time in the tank, removed his headphones, and double-checked his cards.
"What do you have, Mike?" he asked. About 30 seconds later he pushed his stack forward and the cards were tabled.
Hellmuth had top pair with a flush draw, and he needed to hit his flush as Leah had a set. Only a non-nine heart could save Hellmuth, but it wasn't in the cards as the blanked on the river sending a devastated 13-time WSOP gold bracelet winner home one spot shy of the money.
Toss in the eliminations of Andrew Hinrichsen (8th - AU$50,021) and Sam Higgs (7th - AU$65,035), and the final table was set.
The High Roller Final Table
The final six players will return to Crown Melbourne for Day 3 action at 3:30 p.m. local time and play until a winner is crowned. What’s more, every hand of the final table will air on a 30-minute delay on ESPN2 beginning at 4 p.m. local time, which is 10 p.m. Vegas time on Thursday night and 1 a.m. ET on Friday morning. Be sure to tune in after Thursday Night Football concludes, and of course you can always follow the live updates right here in our live blog.