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May 20, 2019

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Player of the Year frontrunner among chip leaders at World Series of Poker

All four Mizrachi brothers still alive as Main Event nears money bubble



Frank Kassela, a poker pro from Memphis, Tenn., poses with the first of two World Series of Poker bracelets he won this summer, July 12, 2010.

Notable High Chip Counts

  • Johnny Chan — 440,000
  • Frank Kassela — 432,000
  • Robert Mizrachi — 414,000
  • Eric Baldwin — 315,000
  • Phil Galfond — 280,000
  • Bruce Buffer — 255,000
  • Sammy Farha — 230,000
  • Barry Shulman — 225,000

Since the World Series of Poker instituted a Player of the Year award six years ago, the winner has yet to cash in the $10,000 buy-in Main Event.

Frank Kassela, this year's runaway leader for Player of the Year honors, appears to be a good bet to buck that trend. Kassela, a poker pro from Memphis who recently moved to Las Vegas, had a top-five chip count with 432,000 after six hours of play Monday at the Rio.

"There have been no hiccups so far, thank goodness," Kassela said.

Calling for Kassela to make the money may not be ambitious enough. Based on the way he's thrived this summer, Kassela may cruise right into the November Nine final table.

Kassela won his first two bracelets this summer, taking first in the $10,000 seven-card stud hi-low split 8 or better championship and $2,500 razz events.

He followed those victories with a third-place finish in one of the most prestigious events of the series, the $25,000 six-handed no-limit hold 'em event., and has shown no signs of slowing in the Main Event.

"I made some changes to my game, both at the table and away from the table, emotionally and with the cards I play and how I play them," Kassela said. "Over the last seven months, it's all coming together."

Kassela still has a long way to go in the Main Event. After six hours of play Monday, the tournament was down to approximately 1,800 players out of the starting field of 7,319.

The money bubble will burst sometime tomorrow, with 747 players receiving paydays. They then will fight their way to the $8.9 million first-place prize.

Like most poker players, Kassela considers one of his dreams making the final table.

"What a topper that would be," Kassela said. "It would be the whipped cream and the cherry, I guess."

Kassela practically has wrapped up the Player of the Year race. Only two players can catch him and, in order to do so, they would have to win the Main Event and Kassela would have to fail to make the money.

One of those players, however, is Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi and he assembled quite the chip stack early Monday. Mizrachi also spent some time in the top five Monday, but was down to 170,000 chips after six hours.

"I'm happy with the way things are going right now," Mizrachi said. "Hopefully, it stays this way and I just keep moving up in chips."

The Mizrachi family continues to terrorize opponents at the World Series of Poker. After Michael Mizrachi and brother Robert Mizrachi both made the final table of the $50,000 Player's Championship to start the summer — which The Grinder ultimately won — all four brothers are still alive in the Main Event.

They have outlasted 75 percent of the field. Older brother Robert Mizrachi leads the quartet with 414,000 chips.

Michael's twin brother, Eric, is right at the average chip stack with 134,000 and youngest brother Daniel Mizrachi has 210,000.

"Everyone has chips, and I like our chances," Mizrachi said. "At least two of us are going to go deep, I feel. Hopefully all four cash and one can make the final table."

The only other player in the field who could catch Kassela with a victory is poker pro Dan Heimiller. But he has his work cut out of for him with a below-average chip stack.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at for live updates from the Main Event.

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