With the final table just three weeks away, ESPN turned tonight to Day 7, and the final 64 players. Although Full Tilt Poker commercials that have been running on the telecast for the past two weeks have made it clear that Phil Ivey is one of the November Nine, and the rest of the poker world knows the identity of the other eight, casual viewers are still in suspense, and poker players are enjoying seeing just how the Nine got there. So here’s the way tonight’s show played out.
We were treated to a big hand right off the bat at the featured table, which included Antonio Esfandiari and November Niners Steven Begleiter and James Akenhead. Esfandiari raised to 135,000 with A-3 offsuit, whereupon Akenhead pushed all-in for his last 1.5 million chips with pocket nines. Hung Pham then FOLDED a pair of tens, but Mark Ader also went all-in with A-K. Esfandiari folded, and Akenhead doubled up when he flopped a set.
Akenhead soon doubled up again when he held pocket kings against Adam York’s A-J, and re-raised York’s 160,000 to 435,000. When the flop came 4-K-J, all the money went in the middle, Akenhead insta-calling York’s all-in bet. Akenhead had gone from one of the short stacks to a little above average.
In the hour’s wild card hand, Jeff Shulman temporarily departed from the tight play he had been displaying during the tourney by raising to 150,000 with 7-3 offsuit, and was called on the button by Jonathan Tamayo with the mystery hand. Shulman made a continuation bet of 225,000 on a J-10-3 flop with two diamonds, which Tamayo called. The turn was the and both players checked. Shulman tried once more after the fell on the river, putting out a bet of 500,000, but Tamayo called with a king-high straight, showing K-J for the winning hand.
We had our first Eric Buchman sighting, with Buchman raising a hand to 140,000 with . Jeff Shulman raised to 500,000 with and Jonathan Tamayo went all-in over the top with pocket queens. Buchman backed off, and Shulman needed 2.75 million to call, with 3.96 million already in the middle. After thinking about it for a while, he decided not to risk his tournament on what he correctly assumed would be a coin flip.
Dennis Phillips was all-in for his tournament life on a flop of three clubs to an ace. Phillips had a pair of queens, with the queen of clubs, but Steve Sanders had pocket aces for the set. Phillips rivered the flush and stayed alive, with 3.9 million chips. However, Phillips was to get eliminated when he and Francois Balmigere got all their chips in with each holding A-K, Phillips in diamonds and Balmigere in spades. When two spades came on the flop, Phillips could see the end coming, and the third spade on the river sealed his fate, and ended the first hour of the show.
The second half of the show began with 43 players left, with the opening teaser focusing on Antonio Esfandiari, who was still at the featured table, where he quickly engaged in a hand with Warren Zackey. Antonio raised to 165,000 with , and Zackey called in the big blind with . A rainbow flop of 5-J-8 caused both players to check, and the on the turn gave Esfandiari a straight, and Zackey a flush draw. Zackey checked, and Antonio bet 260,000, which Zackey called, making a 950,000 chip pot. When the fell on the river, Zackey tried to bluff at the pot with a bet of 400,000, but when Esfandiari raised, Zackey folded.
Esfandiari’s good times, however, came to an abrupt halt when Darvin Moon was moved to the featured table. We found out that Moon has never played poker online, doesn’t have either a credit card or an e-mail address and has never been to Las Vegas before. As he was stacking his chips, Eugene Katchalov went all-in with A-10 offsuit. Not missing a beat, Moon raised to 5 million, and Esfandiari looked down at pocket jacks. The Magician tried to engage Moon in conversation, and Moon put on his best Jethro Bodine from the Beverly Hillbillies “aw shucks” act after Esfandiari typically said “why so much?” Moon said that he sometimes raises too much, sometimes too little, that he just barely glanced at his hand, and Esfandiari, fully befuddled, folded. Moon showed kings and rivered his set to send Katchalov home in 39th place.
Next, we were treated to the key hand that started Eric Buchman on his road to the November Nine. Buchman was all in for his last 2 million chips with pocket eights, and Tamayo called with kings, creating a 4.24 million-chip pot. The 7-9-2 flop posed no immediate threat to Tamayo, but a 6 on the turn gave Buchman more outs, and he caught a 10 on the river for a straight to keep him alive.
The second hour featured two very questionable plays by Steven Begleiter. First, he called an all-in bet with an open-ended straight draw, despite not having the pot odds to do so. He rivered the straight, prompting Norman Chad to comment about the 25-year Bear Stearns executive, “that seven on the river is probably the best bailout he’s seen all year.” Later, Begleiter got into a raising war with Tommy Vedes, and wound up all-in with A-Q against Vedes’ pocket kings. However, Begleiter turned the ace to go from having one foot out the door to being one of the chip leaders.
The rest of the hour was mostly the Darvin Moon show. We saw Moon hit a set with pocket aces, river two pair with 5-4, and take a huge pot from Esfandiari beginning with a bet of 340,000 in the small blind with A-Q, which Esfandiari called with . When the flop brought Q-3-3 with one diamond, Moon checked and Antonio bet 480,000. Moon raised to 1.125 million, and Esfandiari tried to push him off his hand with a re-raise to 2.125 million. But Moon simply went all-in, and the Magician had to muck. As Moon had said to the ESPN staff, “When I’ve got ‘em, I bet, and when I don’t I fold.” His run of cards in this Main Event seems to have even put Jamie Gold’s incredible luck three years ago to shame, and this was further borne out in a hand with Francois Balmigere and Joseph Cada, where Cada raised to 250,000 from under-the-gun plus one with just , Balmigere called with pocket tens, and Moon also called with A-J offsuit. So naturally, the flop came K-Q-10!!! Cada checked, Balmigere bet 550,000 with his set, Moon called with the nuts and Cada made the disciplined laydown with top pair. Balmigere bet 1.07 million on the turn, and Moon raised to 2.2 million, which Balmigere called. When the came on the river, Balmigere checked and Moon bet 2 milliion. Balmigere made the great laydown, and although Moon didn’t show, he told him that he had the nuts, saying “You’ll see it on tv, you’ll see I’m an honest man.”
The field was finally reduced to 27 when Joseph Ward, who had been on the losing end of two hands with Phil Ivey where Ivey extracted maximum chips from Ward twice with turned three-of-a-kinds, got three outed on the river with ace-king against ace-queen.
Once again, these two hours had a bit of everything, and began to build up the remarkable contrast between November Nine chip leader Darvin “When I leave here, I’ll be back in the woods with a chainsaw” Moon and Phil “the best poker player in the world” Ivey. With lots of play from Akenhead, Begleiter, Shulman and Cada, as well as Buchman’s miracle catch, we began to get a much better sense of the styles of many of the November Nine. We get even closer next week. See you then!
*Read Clearspine's Blog*