WPT World Championship Day 3: Naj Ajez wins monster at death for chip lead

Dave Woods
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Posted on: December 18, 2023 12:54 am EST

Things are starting to get serious.

480 players started Day 3 in the money courtesy of a quick and smooth bubble on Saturday night. We lost about 100 players in the space of the first hour and a bit, and by the end of the day we were down to just 132.

The chip lead was like a hot potato. Alessandro Siena was the only player past the three million chip mark at the start of the day. Chance Kornuth, Igor Kurganov and Kristen Foxen were up there. Reigning champion Eliot Hudon was still in and looking to go back-to-back. Put simply, there were any number of narrative threads that could unravel to create a compelling day of action.

In the end, it was mostly about the Foxens.

Kristen Foxen at the WPT World Championship
Kristen Foxen building stacks and running deep at Wynn Las Vegas

A Foxen’s Tale

Lynn Gilmartin busted early on but she was still smiling. “I’m so proud,” she beamed after busting. “I’m two-for-two in this event, I can’t believe I cashed. I would have liked a deeper run than last year but, hey, I’m very, very happy.”

Dara O’Kearney, Maria Konnikova and David Williams joined her on the rail, while the UK’s Jack Salter was moving in the other direction. He dragged a huge pot with 7-4 on a 4-4-J-7-2 board. His opponent had 3-4 and will have been surprised to see Salter table his hand from mid-position.

After two levels, Kristen Foxen was the new chip leader. Her stack was starting to resemble some of the WSOP towers of old. The other Foxen, Alex, was holding steady and letting his wife take the limelight in the early stages.

Worst bluff ever?

Then it was the turn of Narcis-Gabriel Nedelcu to take the wheel. He was the first player to break the five-million chip mark, and he knocked out so many players they had to pause play to find some new victims.

When they restarted, Jai ‘Trick Time’ Davenport decided he should take Nedelcu down a peg. He ran a huge bluff on the river and got it through. That wasn’t enough for Davenport, though, who flipped his cards straight in front of his victim and carried on a death stare. That made Davenport the new chip leader with over six million chips. Nedelcu’s response? He told Davenport it was the worst bluff he’d ever seen.

Kristen Foxen got moved to the feature table and that change put a hold on her charge, but she still ended the day as one of the chip leaders. “Smooth” is the word she used to describe both Days 2 and 3.

With Alex still in there as well, we’ve got a possibility of as husband and wife on one of the biggest final tables of all time. That would be one for the conspiracy theorists.

The feature table was worse for reigning champ Hudon. He ended up busting after losing a big chunk of his chips with queens against kings, and he couldn’t find a way back into it. He was followed out by start of day chip leader Alessandro Siena, who was railed in 162nd place for $31,300. That’s going to hurt for a while. Davidi Kitai made a late bid for a monster stack but had his kings cracked by Daniel Sepiol’s A-J in a five-million pot. That will sting, too. Kitai was left on fumes.

Eliot Hudon WPT World Championship
Eliot Hudon put up a great defence but bowed out on Day 3

One fewer for the Big One?

The festival here is so stacked it’s ridiculous. It’s not enough that we’re reporting on the biggest guarantee of all time. Tomorrow marks the start of the biggest buy-in event of all time, the latest running of the $1 million Big One for One Drop. 14 players have been confirmed so far, with Mario Mosböck declaring late, but one of them might be a no-show.

Artur Martirosyan is one of the 14 and he made a late charge for the chip lead in the World Championship tonight. Late reg for the Big One is up until the start of level five tomorrow, which will be around 6.15pm tomorrow. Matt Berkey might have surrendered a stack on Day 1D to go and play the high-stakes cash game on the main stage, but we can’t see Martirosyan doing the same this deep in the World Championship. That’s one to monitor.

Artur Martirosyan WPT World Championship
Artur Martirosyan took the chip lead towards the end of the day, with his Big One attendance now in doubt

Late eliminations included Chance Kornuth, Kenna James, Jason Somerville and Hossein Ensan. Kristen Foxen ended with 5.9m and Alex with 3.25m. Jack Salter will come back with 3.8m and Davidi Kitai with 725k.

But there was still time for the biggest pot of the night, one that would give the chip lead, after an almighty sweat, to Naj Ajez. You can watch it play out below and hear what he had to say about the monster flip that left him with a bag of 11,435,000 and a big smile.

Talking of the Big One, we’re at the Wynn to cover that, too. You can follow all the action from both tournaments on our Instant feed. The World Championship restarts with Day 4 tomorrow at midday. The Big One players get more of a lie-in, with a 2pm start.