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Unknowns top the field as 97 players return for Main Event

The top three chip leaders going into Sunday’s World Series of Poker Main Event cut-down day have combined career winnings of $315,000 at both the tournament and circuit events.

Ahead of three is a potential payday of $8.5 million.

When play begins Sunday at the Rio, 97 players will take their seats from a starting field of 6,598 in the $10,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em World Championship. The tournament will be cut to 27 players or less by the time the final hand is dealt.

On Monday, those survivors will seek a seat in the final table of nine players that will return to the Rio at the end of October where seven of the participants will each win more than $1 million.

While poker’s world champion will collect more than $8.5 million and the most expensive gold bracelet ever awarded, the runner-up still wins almost $5.3 million. The total prize pool for the Main Event is more than $62 million.

Kyle Keranen of Las Vegas is the Main Event’s current chip leader with 6.935 million. He has cashed twice at the World Series of Poker — in 2010 and 2011 — with total career earnings of $18,664.

Second place Robert Salaburu of San Antonio, Texas, has 6.195 million in chips and held the top spot several times during Saturday’s play. Salaburu has one in the money finish in his World Series of Poker career, earning $5,496 for 28th place at a circuit event in Florida in 2011.

Taylor Paur of El Dorado Hills, Calif., is the tournament veteran of the Top 3. He has cashed eight times at the World Series of Poker since 2010, earning $290,804. The graduate of San Diego State University has 5.82 million in chips, more than 1.1 million chips ahead of Sweden’s Erik Hellman who sits in fourth place. The field does have its share of tournament veterans.

Two former November Nine participants are still contention to become the first players to make two Main Event final tables since the format began in 2008. Erich Buchman of Hewlett, N.Y., who placed fourth in 2009, is 39th with 1.93 million in chips, while Sam Holden of Great Britain, last year’s ninth place finisher, is in 86th place with 765,000 in chips.

The top 20 chip leaders includes two women; Gaelle Baumann of France sits in the eighth spot with 3.98 million in chips, while Elisabeth Hille of Norway is 18th with 3.39 million in chips.

The best-known woman in the field, two-time gold bracelet winner Vanessa Selbst of Las Vegas, is in 69th place with 1.165 million.

Meanwhile, many in the poker community were still buzzing late Saturday over the elimination of actor Kevin Pollak, who finished in 134th place, earning $52,718.

Pollak, the star of the movies "Casino," "A Few Good Men" and "The Usual Suspects," was playing in his first World Series of Poker and was sponsored by social gaming website HollywoodPoker.com.

Having survived a near-elimination had earlier in the day Pollak chipped up and was moved to the ESPN feature table, where he eliminated popular professional Daniel Negreanu in the 160th spot.

Pollak, however, was knocked out after the dinner break when he went all-in with pocket queens. His opponent, Kirill Rabtsov, also had pocket queens. But instead of chopping the pot, four hearts came up and when matched with Rabtsov’s queen of hearts for a flush draw, Pollak’s tournament was over.

One other notable elimination Saturday was that of 76-year-old Perry Green, the oldest player in the field. Green, a three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, finished 52nd and earned $52,718, adding to his career total of $645,427.

Green finished runner-up to the late Stu Ungar in the 1981 Main Event.

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