LAS VEGAS (AP) – As the field of players was whittled to a few final tables in the World Series of Poker, some of the game’s top pros asserted themselves after days of playing patient, smart poker.

Two of the biggest names, Phil Ivey and Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, were high on the leaderboard several hours into round five Wednesday.

The tournament opened with 5,569 players, but only 34 were left Wednesday night.

Tim Phan lost his grip on first place after Matusow ripped a couple of players, including making a brave bet with a bottom pair against Farzad Bonyadi. After the flop and turn, Matusow moved all-in. Bonyadi then folded, and Matusow revealed a pair of 2s, one of which he caught on the flop.

After the bold move, Matusow screamed: “Kneel.”

Bonyadi, who started the day in third place, busted out.

Matusow later ran his total to $3.6 million, right behind Tex Barch of McKinney, Texas, who held $4 million and the top spot. Ivey was third with $3.5 million.

Defending champion Greg Raymer, who fell out of the top 30 after leading early Tuesday, worked his way back into the top 10 after he doubled through Tiffany Williamson, the lone woman left in the event.

Raymer pushed all-in before the flop and Williamson called in what was the most dramatic moment of the night. Raymer, facing elimination, showed pocket kings and Williamson turned over ace-jack. The flop, turn and river didn’t help Williamson, and she lost more than $1 million to the unflappable Raymer.

Raymer increased his chip total to nearly $2.6 million in his bid to reach the final table Friday at Binion’s Gambling Hall & Hotel. The emerging story after six days of grueling play was the dominance of the pros and their ability to build large stacks and outlast thousands of other gamblers.

“If they play true to form, they will continue to try to avoid confrontations with other big stacks and look for opportunities to attack smaller stacks,” said John Vorhaus, author of the “Killer Poker” book series and an analyst with

Most of the topflight pros, including John Juanda, have played wisely, not taking foolish risks or going on tilt after a nasty beat or loss of a big stack.

Ivey, for instance, has taken his lumps throughout this no-limit Texas Hold em main event that boasts a first prize of $7.5 million. But the card shark known as the Tiger Woods of poker has never let on that his status in the World Series might be in jeopardy.

Ivey never seems to provide other opponents with a tell, or sign that his hand is weak or strong. His face always carries a quizzical look that’s occasionally distorted by a yawn.

He whispers and isn’t known for trash talking like the gregarious and occasionally obnoxious Matusow, who found himself on his first day of play in the penalty, or sitting out hands, after uttering a few expletives.

If Matusow faces the affable Raymer heads-up, it could get ugly. The two traded words in last year’s main event and Raymer refused to shake Matusow’s hand after the spat.

Raymer may appear soft but he once fought off two men at the Bellagio hotel-casino who tried to rob him at gunpoint. He won’t be steamrolled when the cards are dealt.

Matusow has bantered with Ivey at times, calling him his idol and saying the two would play off after he captures the main event and he would win Ivey’s car. Williamson had been in seventh place with nearly $2 million when the round began, hoping to become the first woman to win the prestigious event.

Late in the round, she had about $1.5 million.

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AP-ES-07-13-05 2225EDT

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