LAS VEGAS (AP) – Greg “Fossilman” Raymer might be chatty, likable and wear silly holographic sunglasses, but he’s a monster at the poker table, flattening opponents with a gigantic stack of chips that has allowed him to continue his run at another World Series of Poker title.

Hours into the fourth round Tuesday, the 2004 champ found himself holding onto second place in the prestigious no-limit Texas Hold em event with pile of chips totaling about $1.5 million.

But to be crowned poker king once more and claim the $7.5 million top prize, Raymer will have to get through the round and outlast 109 other gamblers.

Some of the remaining players that Raymer could face on his way to the nine-person final table that begins Friday are among the most well-known in the game.

Lagging behind the two is the formidable and expressionless Phil Ivey, whose chip stack was dissipating slowly. Tim Phan was the leader with $1.75 million.

Mike Matusow and John Juanda of the team had dominant stacks. Ivey also is part of that impressive poker stable.

At one point, Howard “The Professor” Lederer, Ivey and Juanda were at the same table, creating plenty of excitement as the fans, known as rail birds, crowded the convention hall.

But Juanda was getting the best of them, knocking out the short-stacked Lederer. In a tense scene, both players went all-in, but Juanda had an edge with his ace-king versus Lederer’s ace-jack. Juanda caught a king on the flop and the turn and river didn’t help Lederer.

He was gone.

Russ Hamilton, the 1994 champion, was still in the tournament. He, along with Raymer, are the last of more than a dozen former World Series of Poker champs entered in the event.

There were still three women in the World Series, but a woman has never won the tournament and making history could be tough in this field that has been whittled from 5,619 original players.

If Raymer’s luck holds, the 41-year-old patent lawyer from Stonington, Conn., could join an elite crowd by winning back-to-back titles. On Monday, he started in ninth place with $318,700 but quickly moved up the leaderboard.

By Tuesday afternoon, he had added $500,000 or so to his stack of $1 million, keeping him in the top spot.

In one big hand, Raymer scored a flush on the turn, beating his opponent’s pair of kings and raking in more than $200,000.

“I don’t take it easy on anybody,” a tired-looking Raymer said. “I play the cards.”

Others have made a run, too. Internet player Tom Sartori, a musician from Buffalo, N.Y., has been on a tear. On Tuesday, before play began, he was in 20th place, up 297 spots from the previous day.

“I can’t believe it,” he said. “I should have been out of this thing.”

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AP-ES-07-12-05 2040EDT

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