And then there were 27. The final three tables included the universally acknowledged best player in poker (Phil Ivey), one woman (Leo Margets), one magician-turned-poker-pro (Antonio Esfandiari) and most importantly, nine combatants who were soon to become the November Nine. As ESPN’s coverage continued tonight, all eyes were on how those nine would emerge from the pack. Let’s see what transpired.
The featured table included Ivey, Jeff Shulman, Joe Cada and chip leader Darvin Moon. Shulman and Ivey clearly were very comfortable with one another, with Shulman, scraggly beard and all, noting how dapper Ivey looked and stating, “I don’t care about my appearance, obviously.” Jeff Shulman also stated that he loves Ivey’s superfans, Mel and Pat Humphries, and said that he needs to find a fan, or at least someone who likes him, after the Humphries delivered Ivey his daily apple. After weeks of Ivey’s silence, it was refreshing to see him talking and joking with another player, who is clearly a friend of his.
Unfortunately, Ivey’s night did not get off to a good start. After losing a pot to Jordan Smith, when he bluff check-raised a turned ace with nothing into Smith’s top pair and nut flush draw, he then called Nick Maimone’s all-in bet with pocket jacks. When Maimone revealed his , Ivey looked good, but Maimone turned a queen, and Ivey began to feel as if his Main Event bad luck from years gone by was returning.
It was not the first time Maimone had gotten lucky to stay in the tourney. Earlier, he had gone all-in with Q-10, which Darvin Moon called in the big blind with Q-J. Maimone survived when the board made two pair, chopping the pot. Soon after the hand with Ivey, Maimone got all his chips in once again. Jordan Smith raised to 320,000 with pocket tens and Maimone popped it to 825,000 with a pair of sevens, which Smith called. When the flop fell 8-Q-4, Smith went all-in and Maimone called with his last chips. He then turned a 7 (!!!) to win yet another pot and stay alive yet another time.
Leo Margets was the first player to be eliminated when her A-7 failed to improve against Warren Zackey’s A-10. Soon to follow was Francois Balmigere, whose pocket jacks were busted by Billy Kopp, who rivered a straight. Kopp then took over the chip lead during the hour’s wild card hand. He raised from under the gun plus 1 to 275,000 with the mystery cards, which Antonie Saout called from the big blind with pocket fours. The flop was 5-6-9, with two hearts. Saout checked, and Kopp bet 600,000, which Saout called. With the turn card another 6, both players checked, but after a 3 fell on the river, Saout checked and Kopp made an almost pot-sized bet of 1.7 million chips. Saout called, and Kopp showed , for a rivered straight!
Ivey’s night of horrors continued in one of the strangest hands shown in this year’s tournament. After Phil Ivey raised from under the gun to 320,000 with pocket eights and Shulman properly laid down his deuces, Smith made it 1 million in the big blind with A-9. The flop brought 5-Q-10, with two spades, and both players checked. The spade queen fell on the turn, and they checked again. The ace of spades was the river card, and after both players checked, Smith revealed his ace, and Ivey disgustedly threw his cards in the muck, NOT NOTICING THAT HE HAD THE SPADE 8 FOR THE WINNING FLUSH!!!! Ivey then doubled up Marco Mattes, who went all-in over the top of Nick Maimone’s raise with pocket queens, which Ivey called, losing with jacks once again.
The first hour ended with Antonio Esfandiari’s exit hand. He raised to 310,000 with pocket fives, and Steven Begleiter called in the big blind with . The flop of 4-2-10 put Begleiter way ahead, and he raised Esfandiari’s continuation bet of 535,000 to 1.61 million. Esfandiari then went all-in and Begleiter called, and eliminated the magician when a 6 and an ace fell on the turn and river.
With 23 players left, the second hour of the telecast kicked off with a teaser focused on Ivey and Shulman, the two most experienced pros left in the field, with Shulman being the only player left who had already sat at a Main Event final table. However, Ivey’s chip bleeding continued when he doubled up George Caragiorgas, whose pocket deuces held up against Ivey’s unimproved A-10.
Meanwhile, much of the second hour action focused on heads-up confrontations between Steven Begleiter and Ben Lamb. First, Lamb raised to 285,000 under the gun with A-K, which Begleiter called with . The flop hit Begleiter in the face, with the 3-4-5 giving him an unbeatable straight. He checked, and Lamb bet 325,000, which Begleiter simply called. Lamb then folded Begleiter’s turn bet when another 5 fell. Next, the two got it all-in pre-flop, with Begleiter having pocket nines against Lamb’s . This time, big slick got there for Lamb, when he flopped an ace and turned a king. This put Begleiter’s stack below average, and he appeared to be putting himself in jeopardy a little later when he raised to 425,000 in the hijack with , only to have Lamb pop it to 1.1 million with pocket aces, which Begleiter called. However, he once again hit the jackpot on the flop, making two pair on a board of 5-J-9. He checked, and when Lamb bet 1.2 million, Begleiter went all-in and got a call from Lamb, who was shocked to see Begleiter’s hand. The turn and river gave no help to Lamb, and Begleiter doubled up to almost 17 million chips.
The final hand of the night saw Tommy Vedes eliminated in 19th place, when both he and Eric Buchman flopped sets, with Buchman’s sevens besting Vedes’ threes. This set the stage for next week’s show, where the final two tables will be played down to the November Nine. All of the players who make up the final table got a lot of play tonight, with the exception of Kevin Schaffel, who was completely invisible, and Darvin Moon, who after an early hand, was a non-presence in the show. We saw some nice play by Buchman, Akenhead, Cada and Saout, and Shulman continued his very, solid play, avoiding a number of dangerous situations very deftly. See you next week, for the climactic run to the final table!
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