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Poker News: August 3, 2006

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Copyright © 2006 Forbes

HEADLINE: World Series of Poker Field Narrows

Tournament supervisor Charles Ciresi was just trying to drum up morale. What he got was an answer that was more of the same - the relentless shuffling of chips and a dispassionate smattering of applause.

"Congratulations everyone! You beat out half of the room!" he called out, getting virtually no rise out of the players.

"Nobody really cares about that," said Kurt Acker, a 38-year-old software business developer from Springfield, Va., as he walked with 60,000 in chips to his next table. "Everybody's trying to get through today."

With Day 6 of the World Series of Poker's main event in full swing, there were 1,541 players left, down from a record 8,773 entrants.

Each player's $10,000 buy-in goes into a massive prize pool, and by Friday, some people - starting from the 873rd place finisher - will get a piece of it, at least $14,597, back. The winner will take home a top prize of $12 million.

"First goal is to get through Day 1, second goal is to get to the money," said Acker, who qualified to play in an online tournament. "Once you're in the money, God knows what could happen from there."

Big name pros like defending champion Joseph Hachem, Daniel Negreanu, Kathy Liebert, and others continued to grind it out. Others, like Huck Seed and 2004 champ Greg Raymer, were knocked out.

Ted Forrest, a cash game specialist who won the National Heads-Up Poker Championship in March, was at 56,000 in chips, after starting the day with just 1,000 more than that.

"I went all the way down to 19,000, got moved to this table and it took me an hour and eight minutes to win a pot. And now I'm back where I started," he said. "I'm wearing these 8,000 players down."

A lot of the action was away, or at least behind, the tables.

While working one player's stiff shoulders, masseuse Michelle Ardinez, 34, got two more requests for massages in the space of five minutes.

"We're all exhausted of course," she said. "Some people want two, three hours (of massages)."

Darren Nelson, a 34-year-old poker player from Rochester, N.Y., had aches and pains in his back after sitting at the poker table "for hours and hours," he said.

But he had a philosophical view of the tournament, especially with a healthy stack of 80,000 in chips, more than enough to carry him into Friday, after the tournament takes a break on Thursday. The final table plays down Aug. 10.

"Obviously everybody wants to win and it's frustrating when you get knocked out," he said. It's fun. If you can't enjoy playing it, then there's no need to be here. If this is stress, then you've got problems."

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