July 11, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Pontiac's Jason Johnson making push for title at World Series of Poker's Main Event

Pontiac's Jason Johnson remains in contention for the World Series of Poker Main Event championship. (World Series of Poker)

So, Joe Cada and Ryan Riess are gone.

But yet another Michigan poker player is making at a run at the coveted World Series of Poker Main Event championship out in Las Vegas.

Jason Johnson, who lists himself from Pontiac, sat in 32nd place a little after 8 p.m. Eastern Friday — out of a field that began with nearly 7,000 players.

Johnson was at 950,000 chips, more than a million behind leader Michael Finstein of Las Vegas, but still well in contention at poker’s biggest tournament, which in November will award a first-place prize of at least $10 million.

This continues a strong summer for Johnson, a WSOP circuit newcomer. He finished seventh in the Millionaire Maker tournament and was runner-up in a No-Limit Texas Hold ’Em tournament last month. Both finishes earned him more than $200,000.

Johnson, though, still is searching for his first WSOP bracelet, and this sure would be a big one.

He’s also gunning to be Michigan’s third Main Event champion in six years, following Shelby Township’s Cada in 2009 and Clarkston’s Riess last year. Cada won $8.5 million, and Riess won $8.3 million. Both were eliminated from the Main Event earlier this week, before the money bubble burst.

It was a busy day at the Main Event friday, as the field worked its way down to the top 693 players — or the money bubble. There ended up being a three-way tie for the first money spot, so the three players split the prize of more than $18,000.

Everyone else after that is guaranteed to make a profit in the tournament, which required a $10,000 buyin.

Several Michigan players cashed, including Sterling Heights’ Christopher Sensoli (511th place, $22,678), Sterling Heights’ Gregory Josifovski (549th place, $22,678), Orchard Lake’s Robert Emery (577th place, $20,228), and Ann Arbor’s Jianming Zeng (683rd place, $18,406).

Michigan players still alive, and set for nice paydays late Friday night: Brooklyn’s Tom Midena (79th place) and Lansing’s Adam Lamphere (114th place).

Nearly 450 players remained in the tournament around 8:30 Eastern Friday night.

One of the sport’s biggest stars, however, was sent packing. Phil Ivey, widely regarded as the best poker player on the plant, was sent to the rails in 452nd place. Once a chip leader in this event, Ivey had a rough day Friday and eventually lost when his ace-king lost to an opponent’s pocket jacks.

Ivey has never won the Main Event, though a lot of the best players can say the same thing. It’s a ridiculously field, so the odds always are it’ll be some obscure name that emerges in the end — like Cada in 2009, and Riess in 2013.

The Main Event will continue for the next few days, winding its way down to the final nine players.

Then the tournament will break until November, when the final table will reconvene to fight for the championship at the Rio in Las Vegas.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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