LAS VEGAS (AP) -Two quick eliminations at the World Series of Poker after hours of maneuvering left five players in the running for the title and $8.94 million top prize.
Jason Senti was eliminated in seventh place and Florida poker professional John Dolan quickly followed him out the door despite starting the day second in chips.
Dolan, who said he never really got anything going in the session, gambled with a queen and a five and was eliminated by Jonathan Duhamel, 23, holding pocket fours.
``There's probably a few spots that I might have missed, but all in all I'm not disappointed with how I played,'' said Dolan, 24, of Bonita Springs, Fla.
Dolan won $1.77 million. His ouster guaranteed each of the five remaining card players at least $2.33 million each.
A total of 7,319 players entered the tournament in July, generating a top prize of $8.94 million.
Senti, a 26-year-old poker professional from St. Louis Park, Minn., lost the last of his chips with an ace-king despite catching two kings on the flop to move squarely ahead of his opponent.
Joseph Cheong, 24, of La Mirada, Calif., caught running straight cards to match his pocket 10s and save him from losing the vast majority of chips.
Senti won $1.36 million.
``I think most people would have put me in ninth or maybe eighth or whatever, but I managed to do better than that,'' Senti said. ``I'm happy with the way I played, anyway, and the way it turned out up until the last hand.''
The hand was the second to eliminate a player by giving him the lead from behind, then taking it away on the last card.
The eliminations left Michael ``The Grinder'' Mizrachi and Cheong atop the chip counts, with Duhamel not far behind. Also in contention for the title were 24-year-old John Racener and 26-year-old Filippo Candio.
The chips don't have any monetary value, but are required to remain in the running for the $8.94 million top prize. Each player needs to lose all his chips to be eliminated from the tournament that started with 7,319 entrants paying $10,000 each to buy in.
Mizrachi was one card from doubling up Canadian pro Matthew Jarvis earlier in the session and being left with close to nothing. But Jarvis was eliminated in eighth place after Mizrachi found a better full house on the river.
Cuong ``Soi'' Nguyen, the oldest finalist at 37 and the table's only amateur, was the first eliminated after gambling with an ace-king combination just before minimum bets were set to rise. He lost against Senti's pocket queens.
Mizrachi's win over Jarvis, Senti's aggressiveness throughout the first three hours and Cheong's consistent play early altered the dynamics of a game where community cards make all the difference.
Short on chips, Jarvis moved all-in with a pocket pair of nines, and Mizrachi called with an ace and a queen. The first three community cards brought two queens, giving Mizrachi a three-of-a-kind and leaving Jarvis few options to win the hand.
A nine on the turn turned the tables, giving Jarvis a full house and putting the table's most famous professional on the ropes, with less than a one-in-five chance of winning the hand.
A river ace gave the 29-year-old Mizrachi a better full house, sending his onstage supporters into a frenzy at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
``As soon as I got short, I realized that I'm the guy that everyone's coming after,'' Jarvis said afterward, tearing up in front of reporters. ``I've got to put the pressure back on the big stack. You've got to play for the win - you can't put scared chips in there.''
Jarvis won $1.05 million for placing eighth.
The gamble - Jarvis and Mizrachi were about even to win before the community cards were dealt - was Mizrachi's attempt to put himself in good position to cap off what would be an unprecedented series.
He is looking to win the main event after winning the series' first of 57 open tournaments, a $50,000 buy-in mixed game championship worth $1.56 million. A test of all-around poker skill, the Poker Players Championship is considered the series' most prestigious tournament behind the main event.
Just before the players broke for dinner, one Mizrachi supporter briefly chanted: ``Bracelet, bracelet.''
Senti trounced Nguyen in ninth in an about-even scenario. Senti hit a queen on the flop for a three-of-a-kind, protecting his hand, when Nguyen, a medical supply company manager, hit a king on the river to make a pair.
Nguyen said he wasn't afraid to bust first because getting any further would have been ``gravy.''
``I wasn't afraid, because nobody expected me to get this far anyways,'' he said. ``Hey, I lost for a raise, and I'm OK with that.''
Nguyen won nearly $812,000 for his finish, but did not add to his winnings as each player was paid the ninth-place jackpot back in July. The tournament resumed 111 days after the nine finalists last played together.