After an exciting summer, poker players and fans were in a holding pattern for several months until they could find out who would claim the title of 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event champion. The nine final table players walked away with more than $1.2 million each when play stopped on July 15, and the November Nine have been waiting for their chance to compete for the $8.5 million first place prize. That time is finally fast approaching, and the Rio, Harrah’s, and ESPN are preparing to present the highly-anticipated event in short order.
The final table is set to play out, as was the case in 2008, in the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. But there will be a difference with this year’s action. The November Nine will gather at noon on Saturday, November 7, to play down to the final two players, at which point they will take a break until Monday, November 9, at 10pm. Those two players will have time to do some press and rest before the heads-up match on Monday night, and ESPN planned it so the conclusion will happen within 24 hours of the Tuesday night World Series of Poker broadcast, making it semi-live and classified as “same day” coverage.
Play will begin on November 7 toward the end of Level 33 with blinds at 120K/240K and a 30K ante, and 24 minutes later, the next 120-minute level will ensue. Action begins with the following chip counts and seat assignments:
|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 |
And the prizes at stake for the players are as follows:
1st place: $8,546,435
2nd place: $5,182,601
3rd place: $3,479,485
4th place: $2,502,787
5th place: $1,953,395
6th place: $1,587,133
7th place: $1,404,002
8th place: $1,300,228
9th place: $1,263,602
It has been clear by the coverage in poker media outlets, and even beyond the poker industry, that Phil Ivey is the most notable player at the table and could have the greatest effect on poker should he win the 2009 Main Event. This was confirmed on an October 29th media conference call during which ESPN co-hosts Norman Chad and Lon McEachern discussed the players at some length. Ivey is more than a fan favorite, but his demeanor makes him a favorite of anyone who watches him play, as he remains calm, cordial, and sportsmanlike on every occasion. But when Chad was asked why Ivey seems to be so much better than any other player, Chad noted that he seems to have a sixth sense, more appropriately a 6th and a half sense, about the game and his opponents. Ivey not only knows everything about how to play the game but seems to be able to do it just a little bit better than everyone else.
Chipleader Darvin Moon wasn’t overlooked by the hosts, as he was given due credit for his position with the most chips. His story as a logger from Maryland who has chosen to remain out of the media spotlight and continue his simple way of life - no credit cards, no big purchases with money won thus far, and only having flown on an airplane once for the WSOP in Las Vegas. The story was noted by Chad and McEachern to be remarkable with the possibility of a fraction of the Moneymaker effect should he win, but McEachern pointed out that many of his winning hands thus far seemed to revolve around luck, making him an unknown factor at the final table. Chad added that he felt Moon to be the worst player at the table, but not being a reckless or impatient player, his chip stack should guarantee a finish in the top 3 or 4 spots.
Jeff Shulman is another known entity at the table, as well as the only one publicly acknowledging the hiring of a poker coach during the past few months. His employment of Phil Hellmuth for poker advice has been interesting, if for no other reason than Shulman is already one of the most experienced players of the nine. McEachern acknowledged that fact, as well as that Shulman has learned from past mistakes, specifically his run-in with Chris Ferguson at the 2000 WSOP Main Event final table.
Joe Cada is a big story at the table because he is the youngest player, and a win would allow him to take the place as the youngest WSOP Main Event champion ever from last year’s winner, Peter Eastgate. Chad and McEachern didn’t give him a vast amount of credit for being able to win the event, though they did say that he displayed a proper amount of aggression when in a dangerous position and when challenged.
Eric Buchman is one of the most experienced players, but it was a bit of a surprise when McEachern noted that he felt Buchman had the best chance to win the event. Pegged as a favorite because of his poker skills and even-tempered nature, McEachern gave the man quite a bit of credit.
Kevin Schaffel was not counted out by any means, though, as McEachern noted that he was not a “flash in the pan,” and his position as the eldest player at the table was notable, as was his recent second place finish at the WPT Legends of Poker. But it was emphasized that he is primarily interested in golfing, and his charisma and attitude will make for a nice finish in the event, no matter what it may be.
Steven Begleiter was noted by Chad to be a “lightening rod” player in addition to being the second oldest at the table, but it was primarily his luck in key situations that led to his position at the table. Though he is an unknown factor, he wasn’t given any words that indicated the ESPN hosts believed he would win.
James Akenhead was given proper credit for being an accomplished player, and Chad pointed out that his selective aggression could help the shortest stack at the table overcome that starting position.
And lastly, Antoine Saout was dubbed another wild card. Chad correctly remarked that Saout is the player about whom we know the least, and his experience at the tables is fairly limited, especially in America, as the summer of 2009 at the WSOP was his first time on American soil. But noting that he plays a smart and snug game, there are possibilities for Saout.
With ESPN ratings already increased for the 2009 WSOP episodes thus far, and with the promotion that will be done about Ivey through an ESPN show on November 3 called “E:60,” Doug White of ESPN seemed to have a positive outlook for the final few hours of the WSOP broadcasts. And with the wrap of the entire event less than two weeks away, the poker world will find out sooner rather than later how the public will receive the November Nine.
And we will have our 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event champion.