LAS VEGAS (AP) – Many of the top poker professionals were already gone when the World Series of Poker’s second round began Sunday.

After three days, the field of 5,619 entrants had been winnowed to 1,884 at the Rio hotel-casino, with 10 former champions already eliminated, including 2003 champion Chris Moneymaker, Robert Varkonyi, who won in 2002, and Bobby Baldwin, the 1978 winner.

“It’s insane,” Moneymaker said shortly after busting out Sunday. “It’s tough to make money. Every time I made money, something bad would happen. I could never accumulate any chips.”

Getting to the final table that begins Friday will take a staggering amount of luck. To stand a chance of winning the no-limit Texas Hold em event, players must land superb hands and avoid bad beats.

“I got a lottery ticket in the lottery,” said 1995 champ Dan Harrington, who made the first cut. “Realistically, there’s no practical chance.”

Three other previous champs, Greg Raymer (2004), Huck Seed (1996) and Harrington (1995) were still alive. Harrington has made it to four final tables, including two in the last two years.

Harrington, along with Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer and Sam Farha, were considered favorites to win the crown jewel of poker. All remained in the hunt.

Before play resumed Sunday, Haakon Waerstad of Oslo, Norway, was in the lead with $169,200 in chips. Sam Farha, who came in second to Moneymaker two years ago, was in second place with $156,600.

Johnny Grooms, the tournament’s director, said Seed and Farha stood a good chance of making a run at the title and earning the $7.5 million first-place prize.

Farha, a well-known pro, is looking for some redemption after Moneymaker bluffed him at that final table in 2003 and scored a huge pot of chips on the way to winning the title.

Lady Luck has also not been kind to the best women, either. Jennifer Harman, Kathy Liebert, Annie Duke, Cyndy Violette and Evelyn Ng were knocked out in the first round.

“I guess I could give you a lot of excuses,” Ng said. “But I kind of played bad.”

Hopes for a woman to win the World Series for the first time appear to rest with Liz Lieu and Barbara Enright, the only woman ever to make a final table.

Enright finished in fifth place in 1995.

AP-ES-07-10-05 1752EDT

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