By Simon Young

Johnny Chan glances across the table as Stephen Kenna makes a raise from early position. The legend of poker looks at our PartyPoker qualifier, then down at his chips, then back again before passing his small blind – not something he likes to do too often. The big blind does the same, and Stephen picks up the blinds and antes to add to his 120,000 stack.

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Johnny Chan

It’s a familiar story at a table that on paper is so daunting. Sharing the felt with Stephen and Chan is Shawn Sheikhan and seasoned UK pro and bracelet winner Willie Tann, but all are giving our man a great deal of respect.

Chan, on about 80,000 in chips, is wary of the damage Stephen can do and eyes him menacingly to try and find a weakness. But he’ll have to search long and hard. Since taking up online poker while laid up with a serious back injury two years ago, Stephen has developed quite a game.

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Chan and Shawn Sheikhan together on Stephen Kenna’s table

It’s debatable whether Stephen is the chip leader at the table, although Chan has a view. He turns to Sheikhan next to him:

“Have we got a chip leader at the table?” asks the ten-time bracelet winner.

“I think he is,” says Sheikhan, nodding in our man’s direction.

“No, I think you have slightly more than him,” replies Chan, before the conversation is stopped dead by another hand being dealt.

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Feeling chipper: Stephen Kenna

They have all been on the same table since the beginning of play, except they are now sat in the blue section of the Amazon Room after tables in the overspill Brasilia Room were moved. So big was the field today that some tables were also set up in the Tropical Room and even in a makeshift area opposite a seafood restaurant near the main Rio casino.

At the dinner break Stephen confirmed he’d been getting lots of respect from a certain Mr Chan. “I’ve been the one re-raising him,” he said, adding that the make up of the table is so good he’d prefer it not to be broken. “I pretty much know where I am. Sheikhan has been very aggressive, while Willie Tann has been short-stacked and so unable to make many moves. He’s up to about 40,000 now, though.”

News of other PartyPoker qualifiers: Bo Christiansen, Sander Van de Ruit, and Derrick Spurrell have joined earlier fallers and bitten the dust. James McManus remains on 90,000 or so, Neil McCluskey from Canada his hanging on with 14,000 and Andy Hayes, who had worked up to 56,000, is back down to 33,000. Jan Skampa has dropped back to about 100,000 after hitting 150,000 earlier in the afternoon.

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