Ronnie Bardah cashes in fifth-straight WSOP Main Event as players reach the money

12 July 2014

LAS VEGAS -- Phil Ivey busted out of the Main Event Friday. But he wasn't the biggest story at the World Series of Poker Main Event Friday. Not even close. That honor belonged to the money bubble.

The money bubble is the biggest, most organic source of joy and despair in a poker tournament. The player that bubbles out wins no money. And everyone else still playing walks away a winner. (Casino City's Dan Podheiser provides the blow-by-blow on Friday's Main Event bubble here.)

When the World Series of Poker Main Event reaches the money bubble, the atmosphere in the Amazon Room changes. The tedium of hours of play, the sounds of chips clacking and the quiet conversations of the table are replaced by anticipation, smiles of anguish and smiles of joy.

This year's WSOP Main Event paid 693 places. And as the big blue screens throughout the tournament floor showed the number of players slowly falling from 746 to 695 players, the buzz in the Amazon Room grew.

Families and friends were three deep at the rail, trying to catch a glimpse of their player (hopefully) make the money. Players started wandering around from table to table, looking for short stacks and gauging their chances of bringing home some prize money. At one point, with 696 players left, an all in and call from a table in the Orange section of the Amazon Room had players from five neighboring tables, an ESPN television crew, photographers and and several reporters crowding in to watch the action.

Ronnie Bardah flashes five fingers to the camera to represent his five-straight cashes at the WSOP Main Event.

Ronnie Bardah flashes five fingers to the camera to represent his five-straight cashes at the WSOP Main Event. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

But the elimination was not to be, disappointing everyone but the player that won the hand, and the crowd watching dispersed, hoping someone else would bust out soon.

At 695 hands, WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel stopped the clock, and hand-for-hand play began.

Justice was swift. Hand-for-hand play lasted just one hand, with five all in and calls and three eliminations. But in that one brief hand, 695 stories were born.

Howard Diamond was playing in his first Main Event. He's from Deerfield, Illinois, and as he waited for hand for play to begin, he stepped away from the table to talk with the player on his right, Nipun Java.

Java was playing in his third Main Event. He had never cashed before. That was about to change. Both were in no danger of being eliminated. And both were joking about their strategy on the bubble.

"It's been fun," Diamond told Casino City when asked about his Main Event experience so far. "It's been a big learning experience."

As for his bubble strategy, that was pretty simple.

"I'm going to do what this guy to my right does," Diamond said with a smile as he clapped Java on the shoulder.

"He seems to know what he's doing," Diamond said as Java chuckled. "I'm going to take it easy and stop playing ace-three and committing half my stack with it but still being able to chop the pot."

Diamond was definitely enjoying his bubble experience.

I've played other World Series of Poker events and I've cashed before, but this is a total circus," Diamond said. "It's like Disneyland."

For Java, this cash represents the realization of a professional dream.

"I just turned pro in May," said Java. "I played the whole Series -- about 25 events. Overall, I'm a little down. But I bought action of a few players that did well so that saved me."

"I've never been close to the Main Event bubble," added Java, who lives in Bakersfield, California. "The closest I (had come) before was Day 3."

"I love it, I love it," added Java when asked to describe how he was feeling about cashing.

On the other side of the Amazon Room sat a player with significantly more Main Event experience than Diamond and Java. But he was sitting in a more tenuous position.

Ronnie Bardah, a popular professional poker player from Massachusetts and winner of the 2012 WSOP $2500 Limit Hold'em Six Handed event, had cashed in four consecutive Main Events entering this year's tournament. Only five other players had ever done that -- Christian Harder, Chris Overgard, Theodore Park, Bo Sehlstedt and Robert Turner. And Bardah was hoping to make it five-straight cashes at the Main Event on Friday.

But his day got off to a rough start. Bardah began the day with 108,500 in chips. And on one of the first hands of the day, Bardah lost almost half of his chips to Eric Cloutier. With just 55,000 chips remaining and nearly two hours to play before the bubble burst, Bardah was in trouble.

Bardah, who always wears gear representing his home state, was sporting a Boston Celtics hat and a nervous smile as he nursed his short stack all the way to hand-for-hand play.

He was seated in one of the special TV areas in the Amazon Room, so cameras could easily track his quest for a fifth-straight cash (Phil Ivey drew the featured TV table treatment).

And when hand-for-hand play started, his table was one of the first to complete play, allowing him to stand up and peer across the room, wondering if he would need to play another hand.

When Effel announced five all in and calls, Bardah knew he had a chance. And when three of the five showdowns ended in eliminations, Bardah was all smiles. This clearly meant something to him. His grin was equal parts joy and relief. But he had done it. He stood alone in the WSOP record book with five consecutive cashes. Bardah hugged friends and celebrated briefly. A longtime friend of Casino City, he flashed five fingers out for our camera. Bardah knocked Cloutier out of the tournament on the next hand, before eventually bowing out in 475th place. He won $25,756 for his efforts.

Darren Keyes dealt the knockout blow that gave Bardah his fifth-straight Main Event cash. Zhen Cai pushed all in for 29,500 holding pocket queens. Keyes called with pockets aces -- and the aces held.

"This was the first time all tournament I had pocket aces," Keyes told Casino City with a grin. He exited the tournament shortly after money burst and won $18,406 for finishing in 633rd place.

After the money bubble burst, the pace of eliminations accelerated so rapidly that the tournament floor felt like the Red Wedding. There was blood everywhere. (Casino City's Dan Podheiser chronicles the "swingy" nature of Friday's play here.)

Day 4 of the Main Event began with 746 players. And after nearly 9 hours of play, only 291 players remained. At one point Friday, players were busting out of the tournament so quickly there was nearly one elimination per minute.

Ivey was one of the victims of the massacre. At one point Friday, he had around 650,000 in chips. But he busted out of the tournament in 430th place and won $25,756 when his Ac-Kd couldn't beat John Kabbaj's pocket jacks.

The chip leaders after play wrapped up for the night were Matthew Haugen (2.81 million), Zach Jiganti (2.36 million) and Griffin Benger (2.329 million).

Matthew Haugen 2.808 million
Zach Jiganti 2.364 million
Griffin Benger 2.329 million
Michael Finstein 2.316 million
Bruno Politano 2.28 million
Dan Smith 2.229 million
Andoni Larrabe 2.195 million
Kyle Keranen, 2.157 million
Farid Jatin 2.135 million
Brian Hastings 2.079 million
Vladimir Bozinovic 2.035 million
Mehrdad Yousefzadeh 1.67 million
Leif Force 1.987 million
Bryan Devonshire 650,000
Jonathan Aguiar 599,000
Maria Ho 544,000
Vitaly Lunkin 656,000
Jeff Madsen 419,000

Phil Ivey
John Juanda
Michael Binger
Maria Mayrinck
Abe Mosseri
Kenny Tran
Ronnie Bardah
Phil Galfond
Daniel Alaei
Joe Kuether
Olivier Busquet
Eric Cloutier
Hasan Habib
Allen Cunningham
Max Pescatori
Raul Mestre

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