With only 18 players left, viewers looked forward to a night of coverage where there were only two tables to focus on, as the last nine eliminations were set to take place, leading to the highly-anticipated November Nine. With all the players seated at tables where the hole cards could be seen, it was a great opportunity to get a final impression of each of the players who will battle it out for the ultimate poker prize at the end of the week. The two hours were sure to be packed with huge swings of chips and emotions, and here’s how ESPN presented it tonight.
The first player eliminated was the young Internet whiz Andrew “Lucky Chewey” Lichtenberger. He raised with pocket jacks to 400,000 and Darvin Moon called with a pair of kings. With a flop of 3-3-6, Lichtenberger bet 680,000 and Moon raised to 1.5 million, whereupon the suddenly very “unlucky” Chewey pushed for over 5 million, and Moon called. The 6 and 7 on the turn and river changed nothing, and we were down to 17.
Many of the hands tonight featured players with pocket aces. The first of these saw Kevin Schaffel raise to 425,000 with the rockets, which Jeff Shulman, loosening up a bit, popped to 1.4 million. Moon called with a pair of tens, but when Schaffel put in a huge raise to over 5.8 million, the other two got out of the way.
Phil Ivey, whose stack had been cut almost in half since the field got to 27, sat through a night of remarkably bad cards, but scratched out some small wins to stay in the tournament. First, he raised to 420,000 with pocket nines, which Steven Begleiter called in the hijack with the first hour’s wild card hand. The flop fell 4-8-6 with 2 clubs, whereupon Ivey led out for 600,000, which Begleiter called. Both players checked the on the turn, as well as the river . Begleiter showed that Ivey had dodged multiple draws from the former Bear Stearns executive’s . Ivey then raised to 420,000 with pocket deuces, which Antoine Saout called with a pair of fours. Both checked the A-A-6 flop, but when a jack came on the turn, Ivey took the lead in the betting with a 600,000 stab at the pot, and Saout folded the best hand.
By far the most entertaining hand of the first hour began with Ian Tavelli raising to 450,000 with a pair of nines. Begleiter than re-raised to 1.35 million with kings, leading to some very interesting play. James Akenhead looked at A-K suited, and he folded it! Then, Eric Buchman had pocket tens, and he folded! Joe Cada continued the trend by folding a pair of jacks!!!! Tavelli called, and then checked the 6-2-4 rainbow flop. Begleiter checked on Tavelli’s stack, and bet 3.5 million, almost half of what Tavelli had left. Tavelli pushed all-in, and Begleiter called. The turn and river brought no help to Tavelli (Buchman would have rivered a set), he was eliminated in 17th place, and Begleiter temporarily took over the lead.
The next player out was Ludovic Lacay, whose pair of sevens was outraced by Jeff Shulman’s , when Shulman flopped a king. That left 15 players.
Darvin Moon showed that he didn’t have to be dealt perfect cards to win a hand. After Jordan Smith raised to 525,000 with A-7 offsuit, Moon called on the button with an unsuited J-9. Smith made a continuation bet of 775,000 after a flop of 3-3-4, but Moon’s raise to 2 million pushed Smith right off his hand. On the next hand shown, Moon raised to 425,000 with A-9 offsuit. Billy Kopp chose to fold his pocket fours in the small blind, which was to take on huge importance later in the hand, and Ben Lamb called in the big blind with an unsuited K-6. The flop was 6-4-2, and Lamb checked his top pair. Moon stabbed with 600,000 and Lamb called. Kopp, of course, would have hit a set of fours. Moon’s magic carpet ride continued when a 9 fell on the turn, and Lamb called his bet of one million chips. When another 9 came on the river, Lamb called the 3 million chip bet as well. This hand maintained Moon’s chip dominance over Kopp, which was to be crucial later in the telecast.
Nick Maimone’s remarkable run of luck seen in last week’s telecast finally ended. He raised to 480,000 with , only to have Buchman call in the small blind with . The flop of 8-10-J brought a check from Buchman, a bet of 900,000 from Maimone and a check-raise all-in by Buchman. Maimone called with his double belly-buster straight draw, but a jack on the turn and a queen on the river sealed his fate, and he was gone in 15th place.
Antoine Saout was soon all-in for his tournament life. He raised to 550,000 with , which Begleiter called with pocket sevens. The flop was 8-3-8, and Begleiter checked. Saout bet 650,000 and Begleiter check-raised to 1.5 million, whereupon Saout went all-in!!! Begleiter considered the situation, and announced to the table that he thought Saout had either A-K or A-Q, but that he had been playing with Saout, and he hadn’t yet seen Saout show down anything but a big hand in this type of situation. He folded, Saout showed the bluff, and Begleiter slugged him in the shoulder, then realized what he had done and quickly offered his hand after Saout winced in surprise and a bit of pain. Saout then won a race against Akenhead with pocket eights against the Englishman’s A-K, putting Saout in good position to make the final table, but leaving Akenhead in jeopardy with a very short stack.
Akenhead was soon all-in with K-Q offsuit against Jamie Robbins’ pocket aces. He screamed out “ONE TIME!”, and promptly flopped K-J-Q, which, combined with a 7 on the turn and a 5 on the river, cracked the aces and kept Akenhead alive.
Ben Lamb went out in 14th when he called Jeff Shulman with . Unfortunately, Shulman had A-K, and when a king came on the flop, Lamb was summarily knocked out.
Joe Cada was the next one to have aces cracked, when Jamie Robbins, all-in for his tournament life with a severely short stack and pocket tens, caught the miracle two-outer on the river. This was followed by James Calderaro going out in 13th, when his K-J didn’t improve against Kevin Schaffel’s pair of tens.
The key hand of the night, and probably of the entire tournament to this point, came next. Billy Kopp raised under the gun to 600,000 with . Darvin Moon called with in the small blind, and the flop was !!!!! Moon checked, and Kopp bet 750,000, which Moon called. When another deuce fell on the turn, Moon checked again and Kopp bet 2.035 million. At this point, commentator Norman Chad began talking about how important it was to control pot size this close to the final table, as Kopp had nearly 20 million chips before this hand, and didn’t need to risk so much at this stage of the tournament. Moon raised the bet to 6 million, and Kopp then compounded his error by moving all-in!!!! Moon called, and with Kopp drawing dead, the on the river changed nothing. Kopp went out in 12th place when he could have waltzed to the final table, and suddenly, Moon was the overwhelming chip leader with over 45 million chips!
Robbins, who had been playing crippled ever since he lost that hand to Akenhead, was finally eliminated in 11th place when his K-Q got no help against Ivey’s . The remaining 10 players then moved to one table to eliminate one last competitor to create the November Nine.
The moment everyone was waiting for finally came, when Eric Buchman raised to 650,000 with , which Moon called with pocket eights. Jordan Smith then re-raised to 2.6 million with his pair of aces, which Moon called after Buchman folded. Given how pocket aces had been repeatedly trampled, and how unbelievably well Darvin Moon had caught cards for days, it was almost inevitable that the flop would bring 8-2-4. Smith check-raised Moon’s 4 million-chip bet all-in, and when the turn and the river brought the and the , Smith was gone, and we had our November Nine!
Next week: What we’ve all been waiting for. The crowning of the next world champion of poker! Darvin Moon holds almost 30% of all the chips in play, but pros such as Buchman, Shulman, and, of course, Ivey, as well as young guns Cada and Akenhead, plus Begleiter, Schaffel and Saout will all be gunning for his stack, trying to win that most coveted of bracelets. See you then!
*Read Clearspine’s Blog*