LAS VEGAS (AP) — A 26-year-old New Orleans man nursed a chip lead at the World Series of Poker main event on Monday, then found others with big stacks at his table after a Brazilian professional quickly picked up big pots but shipped away his chips over the course of a few big hands.
Ryan Lenaghan, an LSU graduate who has played cards professionally for about two years, held 13.7 million in chips after six hours of play — 23 eliminations away from the no-limit Texas Hold ‘em tournament’s final table.
But Matt Giannetti, 26, of Las Vegas, moved past Lenaghan in chips after convincing Hilton Laborda of Manaus, Brazil to battle twice when flushes were no good to Giannetti’s full houses.
As Lenaghan’s opponents looked to wrangle some of his stack, he hoped to win enough hands to reach the final nine.
“You’ve got to maintain your stack and make sure not to lose too many chips, but also try to use the stack to your advantage to try to pick up some more chips so you can hopefully make it there,” Lenaghan told The Associated Press.
Soon after the day’s first break, Laborda moved to Lenaghan’s table and gambled more than half his stack with a pair of queens against Stephane Albertini’s ace-king. A river queen gave Albertini a straight, but Laborda made a full house and screamed in delight as he took the tournament chip lead with roughly 12 million.
Laborda’s first confrontation with Giannetti came with three clubs on the board including a queen, plus two red nines. Giannetti check-raised Laborda all-in, and Laborda called with a king high flush. Giannetti flipped over pocket queens for a full house — moving up to 12.6 million chips and dropping Laborda to 3.5 million.
A few minutes later, Giannetti again moved all-in after a river paired the board and gave a third club. Again, Laborda called — this time with an ace-high flush — but was eliminated when Giannetti showed a full house, deuces over sevens.
Laborda didn’t help himself during other hands, failing to bet with strong starting hands and playing cards others would normally fold without a second thought.
Laborda finished 36th, winning $242,636. Giannetti had a tournament-high 14.3 million chips at a dinner break, with plans to play four more hours on Monday before returning Tuesday.
Wearing a turquoise hooded sweatshirt with shaggy light-brown hair and a long beard, Lenaghan was relatively quiet through the day’s first 111 hands, though eliminated one opponent and doubled another’s chips after calling a hand with a 50-50 chance of winning.
John Esposito, who has cashed seven times in the main event, moved all-in with a king high plus straight and flush draws, and Lenaghan called with pocket threes — his flush draw negated by Esposito’s queen of hearts.
Esposito caught a king on the river for a higher pair, and doubled to more than 3 million in chips. It was his second double-up in about 10 minutes.
“That’s a good place to be,” Esposito exclaimed to a contingent of buddies watching from the stands.
Esposito, a 57-year-old former nightclub owner who gambles professionally on poker and sports, has 24 cashes at the series since 1987, winning a gold bracelet at a limit Texas Hold ‘em event in 1999.
Players were expected to play 10 hours, or until only 18 entrants remained Monday night.
Lenaghan vaulted to the chip lead Sunday night after a huge hand worth more than 10 million chips — his jacks against an opponent’s ace-queen. Lenaghan said he gambled all the chips after back-and-forth raising because he believed his opponent might be trying to outmaneuver him with a weaker hand.
“I had a lot of chips before that, 4.2 million, but it was a huge pot,” he said. “It was very fortunate to win.”