The last day of the World Series of Poker summer had arrived. It was Wednesday to everyone else in the world, but at the Rio’s Amazon Room, it was the final day of the summer and the opportunity to play poker well enough to make it to the most coveted final table in all of poker.
There were 27 players at the start of July 15, and the plan was to play down to the final nine. It was going to be a long afternoon that would lead into night and possibly lead into the next morning, and the started with Darvin Moon in the chip lead and all players seated as follows:
Seat 1: Jesse Haabak 2,750,000
Seat 2: Ian Tavelli 4,385,000
Seat 3: James Calderaro 6,475,000
Seat 4: Jonathan Tamayo 3,300,000
Seat 5: Warren Zackey 5,485,000
Seat 6: Eric Buchman 10,005,000
Seat 7: Leo Margets 1,530,000
Seat 8: Tommy Vedes 5,070,000
Seat 9: James Akenhead 8,615,000
Seat 1: Phil Ivey 11,350,000
Seat 2: Jeff Shulman 10,170,000
Seat 3: George Caragiorgas 1,615,000
Seat 4: Nick Maimone 1,545,000
Seat 5: Andrew Lichtenberger 5,625,000
Seat 6: Marco Mattes 5,285,000
Seat 7: Joseph Cada 6,565,000
Seat 8: Darvin Moon 20,160,000
Seat 9: Jordan Smith 4,510,000
Seat 1: Jamie Robbins 9,795,000
Seat 2: Antonio Esfandiari 4,470,000
Seat 3: Francois Balmigere 1,440,000
Seat 4: Ludovic Lacay 5,610,000
Seat 5: Steven Begleiter 11,885,000
Seat 6: Ben Lamb 9,410,000
Seat 7: Antoine Saout 11,135,000
Seat 8: Kevin Schaffel 11,245,000
Seat 9: Billy Kopp 15,970,000
Action began with one of what would be many double-ups that would ensure a very long Day 8. Balmigere started it off by doubling through Lamb with A-Q versus the pocket kings of Lamb when an ace hit on the turn. And Tavelli doubled through Akenhead. The action certainly kept the fans on their feet and the media on edge.
The first actual elimination of the day came earlier than expected, and it took a name out of the field that could have created a new rush for poker. Leo Margets, the last woman standing in the tournament, pushed preflop with her relative short stack and . Warren Zackey called with , and the board came to end Margets’ goal of making the final table. It was a deep run for the Spanish woman who garnered much media attention for being the last woman standing and playing a respectable game over the past eight days. Margets took $352,832 for her 27th place finish.
Other bustouts in the same payout level included:
26th place: Jesse Haabak, eliminated by Zackey
25th place: Francois Balmigere, eliminated by Kopp
It was soon after that the magic stopped. Late in the first full level of the day, Antonio Esfandiari got involved with Begleiter preflop to see the first three cards unfold as . Esfandiari bet out, but Begleiter raised to more than 1.6 million. Esfandiari raised all-in for about 2.5 million more with pocket fives, but Begleiter called with . The turn of and river of ended the tournament for Esfandiari, and he disappeared in 24th place with $352,832.
As players took their first break of the day, they returned to find that Billy Kopp was the undisputed chipleader with 27,800,000. The closest contender at that point was Darvin Moon and his stack of 16,800,000.
The next level found more eliminations, as follows:
23rd place: Marco Mattes, eliminated by Cada
22nd place: Warren Zackey, eliminated by Tavelli
21st place: Jonathan Tamayo, eliminated by Buchman
20th place: George Caragiorgas, eliminated by Maimone
19th place: Tommy Vedes, eliminated by Buchman
And then things got interesting. Not only did the payouts increase to the new amount of $500,557 for the next three players, rising substantially from there on out, but the last 18 players were relocated to two final tables.
Seat 1: Phil Ivey
Seat 2: Ian Tavelli
Seat 3: Steve Begleiter
Seat 4: Antoine Saout
Seat 5: James Akenhead
Seat 6: Eric Buchman
Seat 7: Joe Cada
Seat 8: Jamie Robbins
Seat 9: Nick Maimone
Seat 1: Ben Lamb
Seat 2: Kevin Schaffel
Seat 3: Jordan Smith
Seat 4: Andrew Lichtenberger
Seat 5: Jeff Shulman
Seat 6: Darvin Moon
Seat 7: James Calderaro
Seat 8: Billy Kopp
Seat 9: Ludovic Lacay
Just as play was thought to be slowing down, Andrew Lichtenberger started a hand with Darvin Moon to see a flop. Lichtenberger led out, but when Moon raised, Lichtenberger reraised all-in holding pocket jacks. Moon quickly called, however, with pocket kings, the better overpair. The on the turn and on the river didn’t help Lichtenberger, who finished in 18th place for $500,557.
That victory pushed Moon up to nearly 25 million chips and back into contention with Kopp, who had pushed far into the chip lead earlier in the day.
During the latter part of the level, play sped up a bit. The next to go was Ian Tavelli, who decided to stick around during a preflop raising war to see the flop. Begleiter bet big, and Tavelli moved all-in for a whopping 7.705 million chips with pocket nines. Begleiter called with the dominating pocket kings. The on the turn was meaningless, as was the on the river, knocking Tavelli out in 17th place with $500,557 for the effort.
And then came a big hit to French poker players, fans and media. Popular rising star Ludovic Lacay had been unable to gain much momentum on Day 8 and finally responded to Jeff Shulman’s raise with an all-in reraise for his last 3.09 million. Shulman showed , and Lacay turned over pocket sevens for the race. But the flop hit Shulman with , and Lacay’s chances decreased. The turn of and river of ended the tournament for Lacay in 16th place, which was worth $500,557.
After a brief break, the 15 remaining players returned with Begleiter having taken over the chip lead, holding nearly 28 million. Moon was steadily cruising in second place with more than 21 million, and Jordan Smith catapulted himself into third place and sat with more than 18 million.
About an hour into the level, it was Nick Maimone who got involved with Eric Buchman to see a flop. Maimone was the initial bettor, but Buchman check-raised all-in. Maimone called all-in for his last 4,505,000 with , and Buchman showed . The came on the turn to give Buchman trip jacks, and the river gave Buchman the straight. That left Maimone out in 15th place with $633,022 after the recent money jump.
The dinner break was next on the agenda, and it was a much-needed break to a day that was already feeling a bit long. When they returned, they found themselves with the following chip counts:
Seat 1: Phil Ivey 7,325,000
Seat 3: Steven Begleiter 27,260,000
Seat 4: Antoine Saout 12,420,000
Seat 5: James Akenhead 5,090,000
Seat 6: Eric Buchman 28,670,000
Seat 7: Joe Cada 19,465,000
Seat 8: Jamie Robbins 1,340,000
Seat 1: Ben Lamb 5,200,000
Seat 2: Kevin Schaffel 10,630,000
Seat 3: Jordan Smith 18,840,000
Seat 5: Jeff Shulman 15,500,000
Seat 6: Darvin Moon 23,800,000
Seat 7: James Calderaro 5,000,000
Seat 8: Billy Kopp 13,500,000
After the post-dinner coma wore off and the players looked to gamble again, it was Ben Lamb who started the action and Jeff Shulman who reraised. Lamb called all-in with , but Shulman showed the dominating hand of . When the flop came , there was little hope for Lamb, and the on the turn and on the river made it so. Ben Lamb took leave of the tournament in 14th place, which was worth a solid $633,022 payday.
Only moments later, there was another stack of chips at risk. James Calderaro pushed preflop for his 2.5-million stack with , and Kevin Schaffel called from the big blind with pocket tens. The board came to end it for Calderaro, who finished the tournament in 13th place for $633,022.
In an amazing fall from grace, the next player to be eliminated came as a surprise to almost everyone in the room. From a dominating chip position at the beginning of the day and many points throughout, he was still strong going into the hand in question. Billy Kopp started it with a raise, and Darvin Moon called to see the flop. Kopp bet out, and Moon check-called. But after the turn of , Kopp bet once again, only to find Moon ready to check-raise to 6 million. Kopp reraised all-in for 20 million chips with , which made for a flush. But Moon called with and the much better flush. The on the river ended the tournament for Kopp, and he went to the payout room to collect $896,730 for his 12th place finish.
The Kopp elimination left Moon with 45 million chips and an astounding chip lead.
It wasn’t long before another player moved, though this time it was short-stacked Jamie Robbins. He was holding and pushed all-in, and Phil Ivey called with . The board came , and Ivey collected the pot while Robbins proceeded to collect $896,730 for the 11th place finish.
It was an amazingly quick playdown thus far, but no one could predict how long it would take to eliminate the last player. There was a break in the action so the final ten players could be seated at the one ESPN feature table, and once the player announcements were made to the jam-packed audience sections, play resumed at approximately 10:20pm with the following seating and chip counts:
Seat 1: Darvin Moon 44,300,000
Seat 2: Jordan Smith 15,430,000
Seat 3: James Akenhead 5,100,000
Seat 4: Phil Ivey 10,210,000
Seat 5: Kevin Schaffel 13,080,000
Seat 6: Steven Begleiter 26,495,000
Seat 7: Eric Buchman 36,780,000
Seat 8: Joe Cada 13,400,000
Seat 9: Antoine Saout 10,200,000
Seat 10: Jeff Shulman 17,900,000
And it didn’t even take an hour. Some cautious play launched the final table, but that stopped when Moon and Smith went to see a rather expensive flop of . Moon bet 4 million chips, at which point Smith check-raised all-in with pocket aces. But Moon called with pocket eights and the set. The turn of and river of changed nothing, and Jordan Smith was eliminated in tenth place with $896,730.
With that, the November Nine were set. The nine players remaining at the table posed for photos and eventually bagged their chips as follows:
Seat 1: Darvin Moon 58,930,000
Seat 2: James Akenhead 6,800,000
Seat 3: Phil Ivey 9,765,000
Seat 4: Kevin Schaffel 12,390,000
Seat 5: Steven Begleiter 29,885,000
Seat 6: Eric Buchman 34,800,000
Seat 7: Joe Cada 13,215,000
Seat 8: Antoine Saout 9,500,000
Seat 9: Jeff Shulman 19,580,000
The players were in for 24 hours of photo shoots and interviews but likely anxious to get to their respective homes to rest. More will be known in the coming months about the November Nine, including their journeys to the coveted WSOP final table and plans for its completion.