LAS VEGAS -- Friday divides the players with bragging rights from those with none at the World Series of Poker.

Of the 666 remaining players at the year's biggest poker event, most will reach the money, taking home the minimum $19,000 that goes to the top 10 percent of the field.

An unlucky 18 will be sent home a few good hands away from having recouped their investment in the $10,000 buy-in, no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event.

The winner takes home $8.4 million and a gold-diamond-drenched bracelet -- the Super Bowl ring of gambling.

Several high-profile professionals remain in the chase, including poker legend Doyle Brunson, who had threatened to concede to "father time" and stay out of this year's tournament, and defending champion Greg Merson, who was in the middle of the pack when play ended Thursday.

Entries were slightly down this year, with 6,352 players from 83 nations anteing up. The field is 95 percent male, but several female players remain in play, including Melanie Weisner, of Houston, and Annette Obrestad, of Norway, who are among the top 100 chip leaders.

Professional masseuses have been doing good business kneading the backs of gamblers for hours on end while the men sit backward in cheap conference room chairs, watching the table and making their plays.

Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier .



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