Giant Fields Crowd the Rio as 2018 World Series of Poker Enters Final Stretch

Inside the Amazon room on Friday, crews assembled the 2018 World Series of Poker Main Event stage and feature tables. Outside the Amazon Room, throngs of players circulated through the Rio Convention Center for one of the busiest days of the summer.

Players line up in the hallway of the Rio for the last day to enter the 2018 World Series of Poker $365 Giant event. (Image: CardsChat News)

Nine bracelet events were running on Friday, which kept the hallways filled with fans and players alike, and provided a colorful snapshot of the poker world.

WSOP Bracelet Events Running on Friday

$365 NLH Giant (Day 1 Flight E)
$1,000 NLH Super Turbo Bounty (Day 1)
$10,000 PLO/8 (Day 1)
$1,000 NLH Ladies (Day 2)
$5,000 NLH Six-Handed (Day 2)
$1,000 NLH Tag Team (Final Table)
$10,000 Razz (Final Table)
$1,500 PLO/8 (Final Table)
$3,000 NLH Big Blind Ante

In its second year, the WSOP Giant has already proven to be one of the most popular events of the Series. Even with nine events running on Friday, tournament officials were hoping to beat last year’s total of 10,015 entrants, which was the fourth largest field ever for a gold bracelet event.

In the end, this year’s total fell a bit short — 8,920 entries only — but Day 1E was by far the largest starting flight, with 4,347 players.

The WSOP Giant started on June 1. The tournament has run five starting flights every Friday since then, with survivors through the first 21 levels combining to return for Day 2, which starts at 2 pm Saturday.

Raul Morales, one of the hopeful with $365 and a dream, left work at a prison in southern California Friday afternoon and high-tailed to the Rio.

He arrived about an hour after registration opened for the last starting flight, and would spend two more hours in the zig-zagging line — well over 100 deep — that snaked through the hallway outside the Amazon room.

Asked whether he thought he’d make the registration deadline, Morales, who has more than $19,000 in live tournament winnings, responded, “Maybe. I don’t know what the over-under is at this point.”

He said the low buy-in with a potential six-figure payout lured him back to Las Vegas for his second trip of the World Series.

“I thought I’d give it a shot, but I didn’t expect… this,” he said, eyeing the others in front of him. “Just $365 and a dream, that’s what it takes, right?”

Not-So-Average Table

It was Day 2 of the $5,000 NLH 6-handed event, Jean-Robert Bellande sipped Pinot Noir from a large glass while compiling a decent stack, receiving a massage that likely would not end until his chips ran out.

Bellande would go on to finish the day 16th out of 27 in chips, seemingly solid footing for Saturday’s 2 pm restart. But to take the bracelet he would have to leap over 2012 Main Event champion Greg Merson, among others.

Ten Ladies Leaping

Meanwhile, notables Jessica Dawley and Danielle Anderson rounded out the final 10 women left in the $1,000/$10,000 (for men) Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship.

Just a few steps away in the Amazon room, Daniel Negreanu and Allen Kessler battled while seated side-by-side in the $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better Championship, which also featured Team CardsChat Ambassador Ryan Laplante. Kessler squeezed through to Saturday’s restart with 6,400 in chips, while Nathan Gamble led the field with 312,800.

Yet perhaps the biggest and easily the loudest crowd was surrounded around a final table tucked in a corner of the Brasilia room for the $1,000 Tag Team No-Limit Hold’em event, which featured tournament pro Loni Harwood and Los Angeles Lakers CEO Frank Mariani. 

In the end, Giuseppe Pantaleo and Nikita Luther scored two bracelets, outlasting a field of 1,032 and sharing the first-place prize of $175,805. 

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