LAS VEGAS — The final nine players in the marquee no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event of the World Series of Poker are set to begin competing for $8.8 million Thursday in Las Vegas after besting thousands of competitors.
The men representing the U.S., Australia, France and Ukraine will take home at least $1 million. They will try to outsmart each other until three of them bust out ahead of another round of play Friday at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino.
The chip leader is Nic Manion, a small-stakes, online-poker player from Muskegon, Michigan, whose only previous cash at a series event was for $5,769. He is getting to the final table with more than 112.7 million chips.
A three-way all-in brought the main event down to its final nine. Manion, a main event rookie, rode pocket aces to a pot that set him as the chip leader Wednesday.
"When I got both calls, I flipped over my hand and I didn't even stay to see what they had," he told PokerNews.com. "I went straight to my rail and looked up at the TV and they had set up pocket kings and my aces. So the only way to lose the hand is a flush and luckily the turn card did not put a flush draw on the board, so it was all over."
Chips have no monetary value in the tournament — each player will have to lose all his chips before he is eliminated from the final table.
The famed tournament drew 7,874 players who either risked $10,000 or earned a seat through satellite competitions with lower buy-ins. The series as a whole has seen more than 120,200 entrants so far, and organizers believe the weekslong event in its 49th year could go down as the largest ever.
The 2009 main event champion, Joe Cada, is back at the final table with more than 23.6 million chips. He already holds three series bracelets, and if he repeats as main event champion, he would be the first to do so since 1997, when Stu Ungar won his third title.
The player with the second-most chips is Michael Dyer of Houston, with more than 109.1 million. He is followed by Lake Mary, Florida, resident Tony Miles with more than 42.7 million; Indiana resident John Cynn with more than 37 million; Australia native Alex Lynskey with more than 25.9 million; and Cada, a resident of Shelby Township, Michigan.
The youngest player at the table is 23-year-old Aram Zobian. The native of Cranston, Rhode Island, has more than 18.8 million chips. He is followed by Ukraine native Artem Metalidi with more than 15.4 million and Paris resident Antoine Labat with more than 8 million.
New Jersey's Scott Blumstein took home the $8.1 million event prize and championship bracelet last year.