It lasted almost exactly two hours, spanned a break and two blind levels, but the money bubble has finally burst at the PokerStars Players No Limit Hold’em…

It lasted almost exactly two hours, spanned a break and two blind levels, but the money bubble has finally burst at the PokerStars Players No Limit Hold’em Championship at the Atlantis Resort, Bahamas.

With a minimum cash of $25,450 and dozens of Platinum Pass winners hoping to squeak into a life-changing payday, the elimination of player #182 to finally pop the money bubble might have only taken two hours in real time, but for the players nervously folding as the hand-by-hand play unfolded, it probably felt like days.

Finally, after blinds had increased from 4000/8000 up to 6000/12000, after a reluctant 20 minute break (with one break having already been delayed), and numerous all-in survivals, Ireland’s Paul Leckey found himself in middle position with two black kings. He probably wouldn’t have put too much thought about getting in his 20 big blinds pre-flop against China’s Tianle Wang.

Unfortunately, he found himself in a classic setup against aces. The flop, turn and river brought him no luck, and he hit the rail—the last remaining player to walk away without cashing at PokerStars’ runaway-successful Players Championship in the Bahamas. The record $26.5 million prize pool will now start being paid out as players bust out.

But he did not walk away empty handed. He was surprised with an EPT Monte Carlo package valued at $11,000 as a consolation prize.

With the bubble burst and a collective sigh around the room, play continued. Action naturally loosened up, and players dropped fast. The next money bubble—from $25,450 to $35,000—a not-insignificant $10k bump in prize money—approached in just 45 minutes.

Unlike the first bubble which took an excruciating long time, this bubble popped with little fanfare. According to the official payouts, it was, fittingly, Tianle Wang who took the last $25,240 payout.

At the time of writing, 117 players remain, with bustees taking home $39,500. The last 31 will get six figure paydays; the final six will become millionaires. The last player standing will walk home with $5.1 million.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. There remains a lot of play in day three, and we will certainly get down into double-digit survivors for Day 4. There’s a full day of play tomorrow, and the last remaining hopefuls will play down to a winner on Thursday, January 10.