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Poker News | World Series of Poker | WSOP2008

Sights and Sounds of the WSOP Main Event Final Table

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Promoted as the biggest thing to hit poker since the hole card camera, the World Series of Poker Main Event delay and its “November Nine” had a lot to live up to.

The setting was the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio in Las Vegas, the players and their personal stories were hyped, the $9.1 million first prize was all the buzz, and the rest was up to...well…the poker industry. But the morning of November 9, 2008, the throngs of media and the long lines of fans awaiting entrance to the theater allowed Harrah’s, ESPN, and WSOP organizers to breathe a sigh of relief.

The theater was filled to capacity on November 9th and 10th, which meant that all 1,065 seats were filled. However, on the first day of play, there were hundreds more fans in line to take seats when they became available, and the number doesn’t take into account the members of the media in the orchestra and balconies, the members of the staff and crew, and the people with special passes allowed on the stage to sit next to the table as it played out. It was estimated that approximately 3,000 people were in attendance for the 2008 WSOP final table, which would be the largest crowd ever assembled to watch a poker game.

The crowds themselves were excited, especially those who were there in support of their friends or family members of the November Nine. Dennis Phillips, the chip leader when play began, was said to have brought 350 supporters alone, and Kelly Kim had at least several hundred people in his section as well. Many of the supporters brought props, such as the Kim supporters with their massive signs and the Phillips supporters with their shirts and St. Louis Cardinal hats that matched Phillips’ gear. All players’ supporters had chants prepared, and the Phillips crowd even had a machine that blew a semi truck horn, as he is the manager of a trucking company.

Electricity filled the theater, and the media couldn’t help but be encouraged and excited by it all. It was more than anyone realistically expected, and despite the slowness of play that sometimes dulled the crowd, the buzz never really left entirely. Even during break periods, an attractive female DJ played dance-type music to keep energy level high.

The only drawback from the set-up of the theater was the stage. The final table itself was surrounded by seating for close family and friends and celebrity poker pros, which in turn was surrounded by faux walls plastered with Milwaukee’s Best Light logos. Thus, audience and media members could only see the action at the final table via big-screen televisions set up in various places. The view of the screens was good, but most spectators could only see what the ESPN cameras chose to show.

Day 1

On November 9th, play began late due to last-minute set-up issues and some introductions by WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack and 2007 WSOP Champion Jerry Yang . With his usual awkwardness, Yang thanked everyone for a great year as the champion and noted that with the delayed table, he is technically the longest reigning champion - well over a year - in WSOP history.

Just before play began, all of the November Nine players were presented with engraved Corum limited-edition watches. Yang was given the microphone again to give the traditional “shuffle up and deal” command and action was underway.

Several breaks in the action throughout the day pertained to special announcements. The first came a bit before the dinner break when Johnny Chan gave a short announcement about his All In Energy Drink company. He noted that as an extension of his agreement as a 2008 WSOP sponsor, the company had signed a multi-year agreement to be the official water and energy drink provider at the World Series of Poker. And in true spotlight-stealing fashion, Phil Hellmuth also took to the stage to announce that he is endorsing and promoting All In Energy Drinks.

Just after the dinner break, the crowds reassembled in the theater for two inductions to the Poker Hall of Fame. Doyle Brunson introduced his friend Dewey Tomko with some humorous tales of their years in poker, and Tomko, clearly touched by the Hall of Fame honor, took a few moments to thank friends and family for their support and love through the years. Mori Eskandani then took to the microphone to introduce and accept the award on behalf of his friend Henry Orenstein, who was unable to travel from the East Coast to accept the award. Eskandani read a pre-written statement from the honoree, who escaped the Nazis after they had massacred his family and came to the U.S. to start what would be a successful career as an inventor. The hole card camera was one of his many triumphs over the years.

With some touching moments and two new members of the Hall of Fame established, play resumed. It continued through the evening until there were only two players remaining, which was nearly thirteen and a half hours after play officially began that morning.

Day 2

It was the evening of November 10th, after a day of press for the two WSOP finalists, when the heads-up match began between Peter Eastgate and Ivan Demidov. As the theater again filled with poker fans, Pollack again took the stage for an announcement, this time to award the 2008 World Series of Poker Player of the Year honor.

Erick Lindgren secured his spot as POY
during the main event of the WSOP in July, inching by Barry Greenstein to become the winningest player of the summer. Not only did he win his first WSOP bracelet in the $5K Mixed Hold’em event, but he had four other cashes, including two final tables - 4th place in the $5K NL 2-7 Draw Lowball tournament and 3rd place in the $50K HORSE event. Lindgren said a few words of thanks to the audience and commented on how impressed he was to see a theater full of fans, all of whom came to see poker. He was awarded, among other gifts, a custom engraved Harley Davidson motorcycle, and he then joined friend Daniel Negreanu in the stands to watch the final table.

Heads-up play lasted for a total of four hours, with both players patiently exchanging chips and picking their spots carefully. It wasn’t until just after 2:30am that the winner was determined, and Peter Eastgate from Odense, Denmark began a plethora of interviews, photo opportunities, and celebrations with friends.

The entire duration of the 2008 WSOP final table was 15 hours and 39 minutes, which made it the longest running WSOP main event final in the series’ history, breaking the 14-hour record from 2005 when Joe Hachem won his championship title. The table, in its entirety, also ran 278 hands, and more than one-third of them were in heads-up play alone.

While the theater staff quickly began tearing down the stage and ESPN camera set-ups, the media finished their tournament reports and articles, and the crowd filed out of the theater after watching poker history. Not only was it the longest final table in main event history, but Eastgate, at 22-years of age, became the youngest person ever to be the WSOP main event champion, beating Phil Hellmuth’s record that he held since 1989 when he won the title at age 24.

Nearly everyone in the Penn & Teller Theater left with a feeling of having not only witnessed history but an experiment with the delayed final table that will likely become a staple at the World Series of Poker going forward. Though what showed up on the ESPN broadcast turned out to be an extremely condensed version of what really happened, those who were in attendance for the 2008 WSOP final table have many more hours of memories to carry away from the experience.

The delayed final table was a much-debated issue since its announcement earlier this year, and while there are still naysayers because the mere two hours that appeared on ESPN clearly didn’t do the event justice, the overall result seemed to be a good one.

News Flash

The IRS Scores Big at 2015 WSOP ME Final Table

The IRS managed to snag 34.13 percent from the payouts of the 2015 November Nine, totaling $8,467,091.

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