LAS VEGAS — Poker faces cracked into grins Friday as the field at the World Series of Poker main event narrowed to those who will take home a minimum of $19,000.
After a tense day of play, just 648 gamblers -the top 10 percent who get a payout - were left. Cheers went up and men in sweatpants jumped on their chairs as the final player was sent home empty-handed.
That unlucky gambler was Farzad Bonyadi, an Iranian pro who has played in the world series for more than 20 years, winning three bracelets.
“It’s so disappointing,” he said, adding that he never would have entered had he known he would be knocked out so close to the money. “It takes it out of you.”
Tournament officials awarded a stunned Bonyadi free entry into next year’s $10,000 buy-in, no-limit Texas Hold ‘em main event.
His loss ended an unusually hushed afternoon at the Super Bowl of gambling.
As the countdown approached the magic number, players put on their sunglasses and threw up the hoods of their sweatshirts.
Friday was day four of the tournament, which runs through Monday. Once the field is cut to nine, play will pause until November, when competition at the final table airs live on ESPN.
Several high-profile professionals remain in the chase, including poker legend Doyle Brunson, who had threatened to concede to “father time” and stay out of this year’s tournament, Erik Seidel, featured in the movie “Rounders,” and defending champion Greg Merson.
Many pros have already gone home, including poker personalities Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey.
Entries were slightly down this year, with 6,352 players from 83 nations anteing up. The total field is 95 percent male. Several female players remain in play, including Annette Obrestad, of Norway, who won the European world series one day shy of her 19th birthday in 2007.