LAS VEGAS (AP) -Just two eliminations stood between a group of card players and the World Series of Poker main event final table Saturday night after more than seven chaotic hours of play, with each card and wager twisting endgame fortunes for the top finishers in the marathon tournament.
Just 11 remained in the hunt to win millions at the no-limit Texas Hold 'em tournament after Matt Affleck, Hasan Habib, Duy Le and Adam Levy were eliminated after the dinner break.
Affleck, 23, of Mill Creek, Wash., was fifth in chips before he busted in 15th place, winning $500,165.
Johnathan Duhamel, who had the second biggest stack in the tournament, called an all-in bet from Affleck with pocket jacks and the board showing a 10, nine, seven and queen. Affleck turned up pocket aces, but an eight on the river gave Duhamel a queen-high straight and a commanding 51 million chip lead.
``Don't have any words to explain what just happened,'' Affleck said on Twitter after being eliminated.
Duhamel had 53.3 million chips by the players' next break.
Chips have no actual monetary value. Each player gambled $10,000 to enter the tournament - which started with with 7,319 players - and must lose all his chips to be eliminated.
Habib, a 48-year-old gold bracelet winner who placed fourth at the main event in 2000, was eliminated when his ace-nine lost to an ace-king. Habib took a slight lead in the hand with a nine on the flop, but a 10 paired the board a a river ace gave each player two pair, with John Racener holding the higher kicker.
Habib also won a half-million dollars for his finish.
Le was eliminated with an ace high; Levy's tournament ended with a pair of kings.
Only nine players will make the final table in November for a chance at $8.94 million.
Benjamin Statz, a 32-year-old trader from New York, was trounced in 16th place after gambling about 4 million chips with an ace-five and getting called by Matthew Jarvis with a king-queen.
The flop came king, king, queen, giving the 25-year-old Jarvis a full house. A king came on the river to give him four of a kind. Statz won $396,967.
Filippo Candio, a 29-year-old Italian poker player, knocked out two players and later raked in a huge pot on a bad beat against then-leader Joseph Cheong to take an early lead in the session with 27 million chips.
But it lasted less than one level. Jarvis and Duhamel were neck and neck with the top two chip spots by the dinner break.
Candio built most of his stack calling Cheong's all-in bet with about a 13 percent chance to win. His two pair, fives and sixes, were behind Cheong's aces and sixes.
But running cards - an eight and a four - saved Candio's tournament with a straight and sent the Cagliari, Italy-native into a frenzy as he scurried around tableside press and kneeled and pointed upward in celebration.
Cheong, a 24-year-old poker player with two degrees from the University of California, San Diego, shook his head and shrugged at the result, which dropped him from the chip lead to the middle of the hunt.
Candio had dropped to 21 million chips two hours later, and had 11.9 million by the first break after dinner. Cheong, meanwhile, built his stack back to third in the tournament with 26 million.
Jarvis picked up 4.9 million chips by eliminating two-time gold bracelet winner Scott Clements, who moved all-in with ace-queen. Jarvis moved all-in over the top of Clements to push out Michael Mizrachi, who had opened the betting with a raise. Mizrachi folded, and Clements didn't improve.
``You'll be back next year,'' Habib told 27-year-old Ronnie Bardah of Brockton, Mass., after Bardah lost the last of his chips to another opponent.
``I hope so,'' said Bardah, who won $317,161 for 24th place.
Bardah, Johnny Lodden, Matthew Bucaric, Mads Wissing, William Thorson, Robert Pisano, Redmond Lee, Patrick Eskandar and Michiel Sijpkens each were eliminated, winning $317,161.
Bardah lost to Candio, who called Bardah's all-in bet with pocket aces, the best starting hand in the game. Bardah held a suited ace-king, but didn't improve his hand with the community cards.
Lodden, a 25-year-old poker professional from Jorpeland, Norway, who is expecting his first child to be born in September, was eliminated within the first few hands of the day when his pocket eights lost to Matt Affleck's ace-10. Affleck caught a 10 on the turn.
Bucaric was eliminated by Candio when Candio caught a river flush. Pisano, who took most of 10-time bracelet winner Johnny Chan's chips earlier this week, lost most of his stack to a river straight and the rest one hand later to a pair of queens.
Thorson started the second level of the day with more than 5 million chips, but lost them all when he made a move against John Racener's pocket kings.
Eskandar lost with an ace high; Lee busted with pocket fours.
Michael Mizrachi, the biggest name left in the tournament who won a $50,000 buy-in mixed game tournament at the series earlier this summer, chipped up early to 7.2 million chips but was down to 3.21 million chips by the dinner break. He lost part of his stack soon afterward by doubling up Habib, but battled back to 7.8 million chips by his next break.
With minimum bets rising, Mizrachi was still the second-shortest stack in the tournament.