LAS VEGAS — Kansas auto dealer Brandon Steven was eliminated at the World Series of Poker main event early Sunday, leaving nine players to play at the final table for $8.94 million and poker’s richest title.
The 36-year-old from Wichita finished in 10th place, winning $635,011.
He was eliminated early Sunday after a grueling marathon of no-limit Texas Hold ’em that ended with Steven holding an ace-king against 25-year-old Matthew Jarvis’ pocket queens. Steven didn’t improve his hand and Jarvis, of Surrey, British Columbia, took the rest of his chips.
“I’ve never folded so many hands in my life,” said Michael “Grinder” Mizrachi, a 29-year-old poker professional from Miami who was short-stacked in chips most of the day but finished the session sixth in chips.
“It felt like a satellite,” he said, referring to a type of tournament used to award a seat in a larger event.
With a spot at the final table worth far more than the nearly $177,000 difference in prize money between 10th and ninth place, some players simply refused to play their cards once the finalists sat at the same table.
Others, like 24-year-old John Dolan of Bonita Springs, Fla., took advantage to pick up chips without a fight.
“Honestly, when I got to the final table, I picked up some pretty awesome hands,” Dolan said.
Dolan began 10-handed play with 24.55 million chips, and less than two hours later had the second-biggest stack at the table with 46.3 million chips.
The nine remaining players will wait 111 days before returning to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas for a ninth card session Nov. 6. The winner will be determined in a heads-up session between the final two players starting Nov. 8.
The finalists were each to be paid ninth-place money — $811,823 — later Sunday. The rest of the remaining prize pool will go into an account and accrue interest before play resumes.
The tournament started July 5 with 7,319 players, each contributing $10,000 for a shot at poker fame, glory and millions. The entries and total prize pool of $68.8 million made this year’s main event the second-largest in series history after 2006.
Five players were eliminated within two hours after the dinner break Saturday night to trim the field to 10, but the final elimination took far longer.
Steven’s ouster ended a session that lasted more than 12 hours, plus breaks, ending after sunrise Sunday near the Las Vegas Strip.
Chips have no actual monetary value. Each player must lose all his chips to be eliminated.
Joseph Cheong, a 24-year-old poker professional who started the day with the chip lead among 27 players, took a big hit from 26-year-old Italian Filippo Candio early in the day after Candio called an all-in bet with about a 13 percent chance to win.
Candio’s two pair, fives and sixes, were behind Cheong’s aces and sixes. But running cards saved Candio’s tournament with a straight and sent the Cagliari, Italy, native into a celebratory frenzy as he scurried around tableside press and kneeled and pointed upward in celebration.
Cheong, who has two degrees from the University of California, San Diego, shook his head and shrugged at the result, which dropped him from the chip lead to the middle of the hunt.
“It was a bummer,” Cheong said. “But that’s why you build up a big stack early — so you can take these beats later on and still survive. So I felt fine. I was just going to work my way back up.”
Both Cheong and Candio made the final table.
Matt Affleck, a 23-year-old poker professional from Mill Creek, Wash., didn’t get a second chance after going from fifth in chips to busting in 15th place, winning $500,165.
Jonathan Duhamel, who had the second biggest stack in the tournament at the time, called an all-in bet from Affleck with pocket jacks and the board showing a 10, nine, seven and queen. Affleck turned up pocket aces, but an eight on the river gave Duhamel a queen-high straight and a commanding 51 million chip lead.
“Don’t have any words to explain what just happened,” Affleck wrote on Twitter after being eliminated.
Affleck, who was visibly upset at the table after the hand, said he lost despite being an 80 percent favorite to be the chip leader at the final table of the main event.
Duhamel, 22, of Boucherville, Quebec, finished the night with the chip lead with nearly 66 million chips.
When asked whether he was aware he made a grown man cry because of poker, Duhamel said: “I am. It’s part of the game.”
The remaining finalists were Cuong “Soi” Nguyen, 37, of Santa Ana, Calif.; John Racener, 24, of Port Richey, Fla.; and Jason Senti, 25, of St. Louis Park, Minn.