A 23-year-old French Canadian and a 24-year-old Tampa-area resident qualified early Sunday morning to play for poker's ultimate prize.
Jonathan Duhamel of Quebec, Canada and John Racener of Port Richey, Fla., will play heads-up Monday night at the Rio for crown in the World Series of Poker's $10,000-buy no-limit Hold'em World Championship. The winner collects more than $8.9 million while the runner-up earns more than $5.5 million.
The event drew a record 7,319 players and play began back in July. Saturday-Sunday's final table of nine took about 14 hours to cut down to the final two.
Duhamel, who was supported by more than 100 friends and family members wearing jerseys and t-shirts from his hometown Montreal Canadians, has a commanding lead going into Monday's play at the Penn & Teller Theater.
He has almost 189 million chips compared to Racener's nearly 31 million in chips. Duhamel won a massive 90.05 million-chip pot from third place finisher Joseph Cheong of La Mirada, Calif.; nearly 45 minutes after three-handed play began.
Cheong moved all-in after several back and forth raises and re-raises, turning over an ace-seven, which could not survive Duhamel's pocket queens. The beat left Cheong with just a handful of chips and it only took a few more hands before he was eliminated. Cheong, 24, earned $4.13 million for third.
Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi, the most decorated professional in Main Event, was eliminated in fifth place, earning more than $2.33 million. A few hands later, Filippo Candio followed him to the rail in fourth place. Candio, the first Italian to make the final table of the Main Event, earned $3.09 million.
Mizrachi, of North Miami Beach, Fla., was knocked out of the tournament by Duhamel's pocket aces, but the elimination on the game's 185th hand followed a bad run for more than a couple of hours after Mizrachi held a more than 20 million chip lead.
The Mizrachi knockout left Candio and John Racener short stacked to Duhamel and Joseph Cheong.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3871.