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WSOP: Defending champ Nguyen among big names advancing in Main Event

With three starting flights fully completed, the $10,000 Main Event at the 2017 World Series of Poker attracted 7,221 players to Las Vegas for poker’s premier tournament – making it the third-largest in series history.

The last time the Main Event drew 7,000-plus entries was in 2010, with 7,319 in attendance, while the 2006 edition is still the standard at 8,773.

Those numbers dipped to a “modern era” low of 6,352 in 2013, but a newly flattened payout system rolled out in 2015 – one which sees 15 percent of the field make the money, resulting in many more min-cashes paid to recreational players using their “one time” – has resulted in a healthy rebound.

Day 1A was held on July 8, and as is usually the case, the early bird flight was by far the smallest at 795 players. Those competitors began with 50,000-chip starting stacks, and after five 120-minute levels, 576 survivors managed to bag up a stack.

Morten Mortensen of Denmark led the Day 1A counts with 276,000 chips, while British pro Sam Grafton (231,600), American tournament veteran Jonathan Little (211,300) and defending Main Event champion Qui Nguyen (96,700) also made it through.

Among the casualties from Day 1A were 2007 Main Event winner Jerry Yang, along with pros like Blake Bohn, Sorel Mizzi, Dan Shak and Anthony Spinella, and esteemed WPT tournament director Matt Savage.

Day 1B took place the following day, and the field added another 2,164 buy-ins to the prize pool. When it was all said and done, 1,643 players from the second starting flight stamped their tickets to Day 2.

Argentina’s Richard Dubini bagged the top stack at 254,500, while pros Brandon Meyers (216,000), Brandon Adams (216,000) and Tex Barch (200,000) – who placed third in the 2005 Main Event – also eclipsed the 200K plateau.

Those who fell short on Day 1B included 2012 Main Event winner Greg Merson, and talented pros like Justin Bonomo, Abe Mosseri, Dan O'Brien, Ben Yu and Jesse Sylvia.

Day 1B also made the Main Event “go viral,” after a truly stunning hand played out between pros Vanessa Selbst and Gaelle Baumann. With the bright blue lights of the feature table stage shining, and ESPN’s cameras on hand for semi-live coverage, Selbst found As-Ad before flopping top set on the Ac-7c-5c board. Baumann held 7h-7d and managed to make middle set, and it looked like her demise would be imminent if the board paired up.

It did just that on the turn, but the 7s was gin for Baumann, giving her quads in one of the best possible spots. After Baumann shoved the river, Selbst seemed to suspect that her aces full were somehow beaten, but even the vaunted tournament legend couldn’t find the laydown, reasoning that Bauman could have Ah-7h along with quads in her range.

She was gracious in defeat, while Baumann used the early double to cruise into an 87,100 stack for Day 2.

Yesterday’s Day 1C packed the Rio to the rafters, drawing 4,262 players for the largest starting flight since the Main Event began dividing its early days in 2008.

By night’s end 3,300 players were still in contention from Day 1C, including chip leader Jerome Brion (247,900), while poker luminaries like 14-time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth (87,400), 2009 Main Event winner Joe Cada (63,000), and Player of the Year contender Chris Ferguson (56,100) are still in the mix.

Those attendance numbers generated a total prize pool of $67,877,400, with the eventual world champion taking home $8,150,000, and all final table members earning at least $1,000,000. In all, 1,084 players will cash, with the minimum payout set at $15,000.

Day 2A-B brings back the remaining players from Day 1A and Day 1B, beginning Tuesday at 11 a.m. Las Vegas local time.

Day 2C kicks off at the same time on Wednesday, and the remaining field will be combined for Day 3 on Thursday.

See poker reviews and WSOP qualifier specials here.

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