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WSOP Main Event gets into the money as two players make history

Ronnie Bardah’s goal going forward: Top his 24th-place finish from 2010

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Leila Navidi

Ronnie Bardah plays during the World Series of Poker Main Event on Thursday, July 11, 2013.

Updated Saturday, July 13, 2013 | 2:25 a.m.

WSOP Main Event 2013: Players to Watch after Day 3

Annette Obrestad plays during the World Series of Poker Main Event on Thursday, July 11, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Top 5 and notable chip counts at the end of Day 4

  • Jon Lane 2,839,000
  • Sami Rustom 2,485,000
  • Grayson Ramage 2,438,000
  • Victor Cianelli 2,197,000
  • Seaver Kyaw 2,060,000
  • Brett Richey 1,817,000
  • Amir Lehavot 1,783,000
  • David Benefield 1,675,000
  • Jackie Glazier 1,595,000
  • Max Steinberg 1,591,000
  • Yevgeniy Timoshenko 1,563,000
  • Ashton Griffin 1,415,000
  • Annette Obrestad 1,186,000
  • Ronnie Bardah 932,000
  • Vivek Rajkumar 858,000
  • Vitaly Lunkin 839,000
  • Marvin Rettenmaier 809,000
  • Brandon Steven 706,000
  • Greg Merson 635,000
  • Steve Gee 466,000
  • Roland Israelashvili 457,000
  • Amit Makhija 390,000
  • Carlos Mortensen 302,000
  • Greg Mueller 300,000
  • 239 players remain with an average stack of 797,332 chips and blinds at 8,000-16,000 with a 2,000 ante

2013 WSOP Main Event final table payouts

  • 1st: $8,359,531
  • 2nd: $5,173,170
  • 3rd: $3,727,023
  • 4th: $2,791,983
  • 5th: $2,106,526
  • 6th: $1,600,792
  • 7th: $1,225,224
  • 8th: $944,593
  • 9th: $733,224

Ronnie Bardah has turned into poker’s version of his hometown New England Patriots.

Much like the Patriots during their reign as one of the best teams in the NFL, it’s become safe to count on the 30-year-old Bardah being alive late with a chance to win a world championship. Bardah and one other player, his friend Christian Harder, tied a World Series of Poker record Friday afternoon at the Rio by securing a fourth consecutive Main Event cash.

“Balance,” Bardah barked when asked his secret to success in poker’s marquee event of the year. “There are other things in life than poker. These kids come in here and play 40 events per summer. In the last two summers, I’ve played 15 or 16 tournaments total and I have a bracelet and five cashes with two deep Main Event finishes. You’ve got to do other things.”

With 415 players left from a starting field of 6,352 in the $10,000 buy-in event, Bardah is guaranteed at least a $28,063 payday.

He may share the in-the-money record with two other players — Harder and Chris Bjorin, who pulled it off from 2008-2011 — but Bardah’s run has been the most impressive.

He’s nearly out-earned the other two combined in the Main Event by virtue of a 24th place finish for $317,161 in 2010. Harder met his demise within an hour of the WSOP reaching payouts with 648 players left, but Bardah soared past the average with more than 700,000 chips.

“I feel like it’s my time and I really want to get deep,” Bardah said. “My heart is set on making another deep finish.”

Take away skill and the odds of cashing in the Main Event, which only pays the top 10 percent of finishers, four straight times is around 1,500-to-1. But it’s clear Bardah’s talent level towers above the masses.

He came in third in a $5,000 buy-in limit hold’em tournament last month, snagging $94,793. He won a WSOP event last year in the same variant, scoring $182,088 in what he considers the most significant moment of his career — for now.

“If I were to cash five in a row in the Main Event and break the record, then that’s pretty close to winning a bracelet,” Bardah said. “I’m not sure which one would be better.”

He’s careful not to get ahead of himself, though. Bardah swears he’s committed to taking advantage of the opportunity provided this year.

He wasn’t one of the players making a ruckus with cheers and hollers when the money bubble burst with the final elimination, because Bardah’s goals are greater than a minimum-cash. It took around an hour during Friday’s Day 4 before he got into the money.

Farzad Bonyadi nabbed the unfortunate title of the 2013 bubble boy in a hand against one of the chip leaders, Nick Schwarmann. Bonyadi shoved all of his chips in on a jack-5-3-10-king board with ace-jack for one pair.

Schwarmann called immediately with ace-queen for a straight. Bonyadi explained that he thought Schwarmann was trying to make use of his big stack by bullying him in the hand.

“I really didn’t think he looked at his hand when he raised because I was looking at him,” he said. “I really thought I was going to double-up on the guy, but that’s poker. He had three outs and caught it.”

It marked the first time in recent memory that a well-known professional was the last player knocked out before the money. Bonyadi has compiled $1.6 million and three titles during a WSOP career that’s spanned two decades.

The 52-year-old, who received a buy-in into next year’s Main Event as a consolation, proved a good sport. He got a kick out of the entire Amazon Room celebrating his ouster and the ensuing pageantry revolving around his Mr. Irrelevant-like distinction.

“I have three WSOP bracelets and never had an interview,” Bonyadi said. “Now I get the bubble boy and everyone wants to talk to me. Finally I got the recognition.”

Bonyadi briefly became the center of attention on a day dominated by focus on 79-year-old Doyle Brunson — who ultimately finished in 409th for $28,063 — cashing in the Main Event for a fifth consecutive decade and defending champion Greg Merson maintaining a healthy chip stack.

Those two sat in designated ESPN featured tables. Bardah was stationed among the commoners, but the television cameras made routine stops at his table to chronicle his accomplishment.

“I’ve gotten used to it,” Bardah said. “I love all the coverage — ESPN and everything else, all the interviews. I came from nothing, so to be here and playing for this money, I can’t complain. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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