After five levels of play, the final six players were reached in the inaugural PokerStars Championship Bahamas Main Event, with Canadian player Michael Gentili going into the final day holding a marginal chip lead over Christian Harder.
With 16 players starting Day 5, every player was keen to challenge for a final table stack. There were inevitable casualties, and two of the first three players to be eliminated were probably the best known in the room. Former WSOP Main Event winner Ryan Riess was desperately unlucky to bust to Michael Vela when his dominating ace was outrun post-flop and then missed a flush draw on the river.
PokerStars Team Pro Jason Mercier was out in 14th when he was all in and dominated. Not the ideal situation, even for one of the best, and Mercier couldn’t catch up, joining the rail only an hour after sitting down. He was quickly followed by Alan Schein, Marcin Kapkowski and Michael Bartholomew, who ran pocket nines into Harder’s pocket aces preflop to bust.
Harder, who finished seventh at the 2008 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure for $200,000 in what was his first major live cash, could yet outdo that result with a win here in the Bahamas nine years on. In that time, he has added another $3.5 million of live cashes to his name and built a reputation as consistent performer on the live circuit.
It was Harder who took over following Bartholomew’s bust out. Pocket aces gave him a crucial pot against Argentinian player Rodrigo Cordoba, who then fell in tenth and sent the players to a single table when he lost a race to Harder. That gave him over 5.2 million chips and the overall lead when the tables combined.
Having reached the WSOP final table in 2016, Cliff Josephy had largely enjoyed a quiet day of survival rather than any dramatic confrontations, but he managed to climb off the bottom of the leaderboard each time he looked in trouble. The same couldn’t be said for the other two short stacks.
Nadya Magnus finished in ninth place when she lost a race against Michael Vela, and she was followed out of the card room shortly afterwards when former PCA Main Event winner John Dibella, whose victory in 2012 was marked by a $1,775,000 payday, left the tournament. Dibella lost a race when his pocket nines couldn’t hold against Harder’s aces.
Seven players remained in the tournament for a long time before the lower four players became a little marooned in terms of stack sizes. Someone needed to make a move from the bottom section to try and work their way back into the reckoning, and that someone was Brock Allison. Allison picked the wrong time to do it, however, with his pocket fours running into the pocket nines of Gentili, who in winning the hand became chip leader for the final table.
Can Gentili become the first PokerStars Championship Main Event winner? Every other player at the final table believes they can stop him, but he has a crucial lead when the players return.
Here's how things stack up when play resumes on Saturday:
|1||Michael Vela||United States||1,755,000|
|2||Christian Harder||United States||5,985,000|
|5||Cliff Josephy||United States||1,240,000|
Play begins at Noon local time, but our coverage will be spoiler-free, so check in with us right here on PokerNews for live coverage and the live stream beginning at 1 p.m. local time (7pm CET).