Main Event field at 27 players; Marc-Andre Ladouceur of Montreal holds the chip lead

It took until the early morning hours Monday, but the Main Event at the World Series of Poker got down to 27 players from Sunday’s starting field of 97.

When play begins today at 1 p.m. at the Rio in the $10,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em World Championship, Canadian Marc-Andre Ladouceur of Montreal is atop the leader board with 15.875 million in chips.

The field will be reduced to the final table of nine players who then get a more than three-month break. They return to the Rio at the end of October to play for Main Event championship, an $8.5 million first prize and the most expensive bracelet ever awarded to the winner.

Seven of the final nine players will each earn more than $1 million.

Ladouceur, 29, is an accountant and nightclub owner whose single World Series of Poker cash was a 30th place finish in the $3,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em Shootout this year, earning $9,086. He normally plays online legally in Canada.

When the 14-hour poker session on Sunday and Monday morning ended, American players held 14 of the top 16 places and two women were in striking distance of reaching the final table.

Daniel Strelitz of Torrance, Calif., and Robert Salaburu of San Antonio, Texas, are the only other players with more than 10 million in chips. Strelitz, who held the lead several times late Sunday, has 12.79 million in chips. Salaburu, who was second going into Sunday’s play before tumbling, climbed back to third with 10.915 million in chips.

Two female players are among the top 27 and will attempt to become the first woman to reach the Main Event final table since Barbara Enright accomplished the feat in 1995.

Elizabeth Hille of Norway is currently in sixth place with 9.77 million in chips, while Gaelle Baumann of France, who was chip leader after Day Two, currently ranks 20th place with 5.53 million.

Early Sunday, the last two American female players, Marcia Topp and Vanessa Selbst were eliminated.

Only two past World Series of Poker gold bracelet winners are in the field of 27.

Greg Merson, of Laurel, Md., is 12th with 7.435 million in chips. He collected more than $1.1 million this year in winning the $10,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em Six Handed event.

Merson also has some added incentive to earn a place at the final table. If he reaches the final nine, the spot will give him enough points to overtake Phil Ivey and move into the lead in the World Series of Poker Player of the Year standings heading into this fall European competition.

Steven Gee of Sacramento, Calif., is 22nd with 4.83 million in chips. He won a $1,000 buy-in no limit hold’em event in 2010.

Making it into Monday’s play kicked up the payouts a bit. Places 19 through 27 earn $294,601; places 16 through 18 earn $369,026; places 13 through 15 earn $465,159; and places 10 through 12 earn $590,442.