When you're a kid, there are a few universal sports dreams, like scoring a penalty to win the football World Cup final, hitting an Aussie for six to win a cricket World Cup or holing out to win a golf major.
Poker has a similar dream scenario, where you're dealt pocket aces deep in the World Series of Poker main event against two players who hold pocket kings and you take all of their chips.
For US player Nicolas Manion, that exact dream was realized last night in as perfect a scenario as could be imagined, in a hand that reduced the 2018 WSOP main event field to its final table of nine and made him the overall chip leader.
Manion was so excited, in fact, that he didn't even realize what had happened in the moments that followed.
"Somehow this is real life," Manion told ESPN. "When I got both calls, I flipped over my hand and I didn't even stay to see what they had. I went straight to my rail, looked up at the TV and they had set up pocket kings vs. pocket kings and my aces."
Conversely, it was a nightmare for Rich Zhu and Antoine Labat. Zhu saw his main event run come to an end in 10th place, albeit with an $US850,025 payday to soften the blow. Labat, who hails from France, was left with just 8 million chips -- putting him well behind the rest of the pack with the shortest chip stack heading into the first of three days of final table play this afternoon.
Something of a Cinderella story, Manion barely has a recorded tournament history with just a few small cashes and said he normally grinds $1/$2 back home in Michigan. A friend put him into a couple of $2,175 mega satellites and he won both so they agreed he'd take a shot.
Now, he's chip leader of the Main Event with nine players left, but to hear him tell it, he doesn't care much. He's planning for more of the same both in this tournament and in life in general, no matter the result.
"That will not affect my play at all," he told Pokernews. "I'm still gonna stick to my game plan of playing the hands that I'm dealt and trying to just chip up and win the pots that I'm entering in.
"I will not change what I'm doing. I'm not gonna go play big tournaments and blow my bankroll. I'm gonna play with all my friends just like before and enjoy life now."
Manion leads the final table, just ahead of Michael Dyer, With both players holding well more than twice the stack of current third-place stack Tony Miles, it should make for a fascinating table dynamic once play resumes.
The fight down from 27 players to nine saw some notable casualties, including WSOP bracelet-winners Zhu (10th), Ivan Luca (20th), Eric Froehlich (23rd) and Barry Hutter (25th). Sylvain Loosli, who finished fourth in the 2013 WSOP main event, also saw his bid for a return appearance dashed Wednesday, finishing 18th.
The winner of the main event will take home $12 million.
Final table chip counts
Nicolas Manion (Muskegon, Mich.) - 112.775 million
Michael Dyer (Houston, Texas) - 109.175 million
Tony Miles (Jacksonville, Fla.) - 42.75 million
John Cynn (Indianapolis) - 37.075 million
Alex Lynskey (Melbourne, Australia) - 25.925 million
Joe Cada (Shelby Township, Mich.) - 23.675 million
Aram Zobian (Cranston, R.I.) - 18.875 million
Artem Metalidi (Kiev, Ukraine) - 15.475 million
Antoine Labat (Vincenna, France) - 8.05 million