LAS VEGAS — The wait is over for nine men to settle a US$9.12 million bet.
The final players at the World Series of Poker resumed play Sunday at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to determine the champion at this year's no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event.
Seven players were to be eliminated Sunday, with the last two scheduled to play heads-up Monday night for the title and top payday. The nine players will split $32.6 million - the lion's share of a pool built on the $10,000 entry fees of 6,844 players who began play in July.
The last nine players return to the table Sunday after a break to build up interest in the event with vastly different sized chip stacks. Chips don't have monetary value, but they tell players where they stand compared with their opponents and significantly affect how they can manoeuvre in the game. A player who loses all his chips is eliminated.
Dennis Phillips, 53, a trucking account manager from suburban St. Louis, leads the way with 26.3 million chips. Phillips won his $10,000 buy-in and trip for the main event in a $200 satellite tournament at Harrah's St. Louis Hotel & Casino.
"I think I have these guys pegged pretty well," Phillips told The Associated Press. Phillips hired a professional poker coach but did not quit his job at Broadway Truck Centers in St. Louis.
He did say he spent weekends and other spare time studying his opponents and poker.
"You're always learning, you're always perfecting, you're always trying to improve," he said.
Ivan Demidov, a 27-year old semi-professional poker player from Moscow, trails Phillips with 24.4 million in chips.
Next in line are poker professional Scott Montgomery, 26, of Perth, Ont., with about 19.7 million chips, and Peter Eastgate, a 22-year-old professional poker player from Odense, Denmark, who holds 18.4 million chips. Eastgate, the youngest player at the poker table, could become the youngest main event champion ever.
Ylon Schwartz, 38, of New York, is next with 12.5 million chips. The Brooklyn native has been hustling games since age 13 and said the only difference between the World Series of Poker final table and other poker games is the "public spectacle."
Schwartz said he would try to not let the pressure of the money stand in the way of winning.
"It is $9 million, but I have no understanding of what that means," Schwartz said.
Schwartz is slightly ahead of Toronto accountant Darus Suharto, who won his main event entry through a $650 online satellite tournament on gambling site PokerStars.
"I'm an online donkey," Suharto said, billing himself as the least skilled player left in the tournament. Suharto won $26,389 for finishing 448th in the 2006 main event.
David "Chino" Rheem, a 28-year-old pro from Los Angeles, is in seventh place with 10.2 million chips, just 20,000 chips ahead of Craig Marquis, 23, of Arlington, Texas. Marquis also is trying to become the tournament's youngest champion.
In last place is Kelly Kim, a 31-year-old professional from Whittier, Calif., who believes serious play won't start until he doubles his stack or busts out. With 2.6 million chips, Kim holds about two per cent of the chips in play.
Kim said he was looking to get lucky after a bad day nearly eliminated him before the final table was set in July. He held on as the last players busted out, and said afterward that just making the final nine was of paramount importance.
"After getting there, now you're free-rolling into placing farther," he said.
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