LAS VEGAS (AP) For nine poker players, the dream is just beginning after outlasting 6,411 others in days of near marathon-length games to advance to the final table of the World Series of Poker's no-limit Texas Hold `em main event in November.
Alex Turyansky of Germany was the last player eliminated shortly before 1:30 a.m. Wednesday when he put the last of his chips on the line with an ace, king but faced a pair of queens held by chip-leader Joe McKeehen.
That left the final nine players guaranteed at least $1 million each in winnings and a bid to return to the World Series of Poker's no-limit Texas Hold `em main event in November for a chance at $7.7 million.
McKeehen leads far and away in chips with 64.1 million. Zvi Stern, 36, of Israel is in second with 29.8 million. Behind him, 61-year-old Neil Blumenfield of San Francisco, Max Steinberg of California, Thomas Cannuli and Joshua Beckley of New Jersey, Patrick Chan of New York and Federico Butteroni of Italy will all surround the table one last time November 8-9.
The favorite among fans watching in person and at home to win the World Series of Poker's ultimate championship fell short.
Poker pro Daniel Negreanu, a six-time bracelet winner nicknamed ''Kid Poker,'' who has gotten close but never close enough to making the final table, ended his run in 11th place, the same place he landed in 2001 when he tried against a field of 613 entries.
Negreanu gambled the last of his chips on an ace, four and appeared to be in the clear when chip-leader Joe McKeehen called showing a jack, three. But McKeehen slowly but surely amassed a straight as the cards on the table were flipped one by one. It was the last one, a queen, that did Negreanu in, sending him tumbling to the floor with his hands covering his face.
Ten players remain in the running for the tournament's top prize.
Marathon sessions of bluffing, betting and reading opponents for any hints at their cards will soon be over at the World Series of Poker main event, when the last nine players claim at least $1 million each and a spot at the final table in November.
Shortly after midnight, the field shrunk to a single table with players representing the United States, Germany, Belgium, Israel and Italy.
McKeehen of Pennsylvania had become the runaway chip leader of the World Series of Poker no-limit Texas Hold `em main event amassing nearly 55 million in chips before knocking out Negreanu. That amount was more than twice the chips that five other players at his table, combined, had stacked in front of them.
The battle started with 6,420 players each paying $10,000 to enter. After seven sessions of gameplay spread over 10 days, the players left standing in the no-limit Texas Hold `em tournament Tuesday night or early Wednesday will each be paid just over $1 million in ninth-place money, with a chance for more at the final table that starts Nov. 8 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
The winner will claim $7.7 million and the event's coveted gold bracelet, joining poker legends like Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth and Johnny Chan as series champions.
The World Series of Poker has been crowning a champion since 1970, when it was by invite-only at Binion's Horseshoe and the players voted on the ultimate winner. Since then, only four players have won the main event more than once.
The series started May 27 and includes 68 events culminating with the main event.
The main event had fewer entries than last year. A guaranteed $10 million top prize was swapped for payouts to the top 1,000 finishers instead, after players pushed organizers to make the change.
The series attracted more than 100,000 entries for the first time, awarding $210.3 million in prize money, boosted largely by this year's Colossus event that cost $565 to enter and attracted 22,374 entries.
This story has been corrected to show the last name of the chip-leader is McKeehen, not McKeehan.