Israeli player eliminated on day 2 of World Series of Poker
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Israeli player eliminated on day 2 of World Series of Poker

Ofer Zvi Stern, known for lengthy contemplation as he played, finishes fifth of 6,420 entrants

Ofer Zvi Stern motions before the start of the World Series of Poker Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Ofer Zvi Stern motions before the start of the World Series of Poker Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The Israeli poker player who held a long-running perch in second place and infuriated World Series of Poker viewers with his lengthy contemplation of most hands is out of contention for the World Series of Poker title and $7.6 million top prize.

Ofer Zvi Stern had already fallen to last earlier in the night, swapping places with Josh Beckley, who won a face-off with a pair of aces.

With his poker chip stack dwindling, Stern bet most but not all of his stake holding an ace-jack when fedora-wearing Neil Blumenfield with an ace-king pushed Stern to go all-in.

Stern watched arms crossed from the sidelines in front of coach and 2014 WSOP champion Martin Jacobson when Blumenfield clinched a pair of kings, and the hand, when the second-to-last card was turned over.

Stern held up a “fear the fedora” fan T-shirt Blumenfield had playfully given him earlier before giving the other players hugs and handshakes and departing the Rio All-Suites casino-hotel stage.

Stern had been roundly criticized by viewers and commentators for taking too long to make decisions during his time at the table and causing gameplay to slow to a crawl.

“I do realize sometimes it may seem like it takes too long. But if you need to take a moment to make the right decision you should take it,” he said. “You have a lot at stake.”

Four players remain.

The man to beat at the World Series of Poker Main Event had an unrivaled tower of chips and luck on his side.

Joe McKeehen of Pennsylvania held an enormous lead going into the final three-day face-off with eight other players. Going into day two, he held 57 percent of all the chips on the table with hopes of having them all by day three. Cannuli’s elimination was the first not caused by McKeehen.

Beckley was on the hunt in second place, shaking up the table’s dynamic with his key moment against Stern.

The chance for one player to win $7.6 million and poker’s most esteemed title continues through Tuesday.

Players still chasing the prize, and McKeehen’s chip lead, include — in order of their standing — Neil Blumenfield from San Francisco, Max Steinberg from Las Vegas and Joshua Beckley from New Jersey.

The first person to be eliminated Monday was Thomas Cannuli, the young poker pro from New Jersey, who had a pair of aces when he went all-in against Max Steinberg in the World Series of Poker’s Main Event finale on Monday night, with Steinberg showing a pair of tens.

But Cannuli’s fortune soon flipped. The flop of community cards revealed a third ten for Steinberg among the community cards, and there was no saving grace for Cannuli in the rest.

Cannuli was out in sixth place, leaving with $1.4 million, in just the second hand of night two of the World Series of Poker’s premier championship. “That’s just the game. It’s part of the game. You have to respect the game and that element that you could get unlucky and not be a whiny baby about it,” he said.

Three players lost their chance Sunday during about six hours of gameplay, each of their poker dreams vanquished in head-to-head battle with McKeehen.

Each brought cheering sections wearing matching T-shirts or in Steinberg’s case, tailored suits, and in Blumenfield’s corner, fedora-wearing fans, both trademark styles for the two players.

They all last matched wits in July for the series’ Main Event and returned to the Rio All-Suites casino-hotel in Las Vegas with their remaining chips for the final matchup. Each outlasted 6,420 entrants paying $10,000 each for the chance to win the no limit Texas Hold ’em event.

No limit Texas Hold ’em involves each player getting two cards unseen by the rest of the table and five community cards, the first three on the “flop,” the fourth on the “turn,” the fifth on the “river,” with betting between each.

For the last player eliminated Sunday night, 72-year-old Pierre Neuville from Belgium, his World Series of Poker end was hardly his poker playing finale, with his eyes already set on the next tournament.

“I’ve loved the poker for a long time. I love the ambience. I love the smell, the opponents, the media, the dealers,” he said. “I really will remember for the rest of my life, the next 20 years I expect to play poker, I will remember these past months as the best full-time dream of my life. And I will forget the last two hours, and (especially) the last two cards.”

Patrick Chan from New York was out of the running in less than five minutes, during the second hand of the night, and Italy’s Federico Butteroni departed about three hours later.

“I’m just so happy for this experience and for the beautiful dream the World Series of Poker let me dream,” Butteroni said shortly after being eliminated. “Now I am just in shock. I finished 8th out of 6,420 people.”

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