When the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event began in July, there were 6,494 players vying for the opportunity to be at the final table. But it wasn’t until the late-night hours of July 15 with the elimination of Jordan Smith in tenth place that those nine players were determined, and they went on a subsequent break that would lead to selective media attention and various preparations for the action that would resume in November.
November 7 finally arrived, on schedule per the calendar that dictates such things, and the Rio’s Penn & Teller Theater was swarming with media, players, family, friends, supporters, and onlookers. The nine players, appropriately dubbed the November Nine, took their places on the bright stage, surrounded by cameras and other equipment, not to mention those rooting for their victory, and began the potentially life-changing final table. What was at stake was more than $8.5 million for the winner out of the original $61,044,921 prize pool, and despite all of them having already cashed in for the $1.2 million ninth place guaranteed money, glory and millions more dollars awaited. Payouts were set, including interest accrued over the past four months, as follows:
1st place: $8,547,042
2nd place: $5,182,928
3rd place: $3,479,670
4th place: $2,502,890
5th place: $1,953,452
6th place: $1,587,160
7th place: $1,404,014
8th place: $1,300,231
9th place: $1,263,602
After introductions by WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack and Tournament Director Jack Effel, the November Nine players were introduced and took their seats 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 |
Play started at 1pm PT in the midst of Level 33 with blinds at 120,000/240,000 and a 30,000 ante. Twenty four minutes remained in the level, and subsequent levels would come into play for 120 minutes each. The button was in Seat 1 to begin the action.
The very first hand went to Jeff Shulman, who raised from early position and took the pot uncontested. Eric Buchman did the same to take the second pot. The sixth hand of the afternoon went to a flop but was taken quickly with a post-flop bet by Kevin Schaffel.
Action was predictably slow during the first few rounds of play, though it soon became apparent that Moon was going to establish a strong image with some early raises and reraises. There were going to be no easy decisions at this stage of the final table, and Moon was ready to take advantage of that, considering he held the intimidating stack comprised of one-third of all chips in play.
Ivey took his first opportunity to push all-in just after about 30 minutes of play. With Cada and Shulman already wishing to see a flop, Ivey reraised all-in. Cada took quite a long time to consider, even asking for a chip count on Ivey, but he eventually folded, as did Shulman. After many minutes of a low murmur in the crowd, the hand was over and Ivey took the pot.
The next all-in move came from Saout, who looked to Buchman for the call that didn’t come. Players seemed to be more comfortable as the hour-mark neared, but though the all-ins seemed to come more freely, the calls did not.
The first hand that hit the river came a bit over an hour into play, with Buchman and Shulman betting past the flop but checking the turn and river. Buchman showed pocket queens to take the pot, and the crowd was happy to see a hand finally come to a conclusion.
At the first break of the afternoon, there were a few changes to be noted in the counts. Moon, Ivey, Begleiter, and Saout saw increases to their stacks, while the others lost a few. Most importantly, though, Akenhead saw his stack cut nearly in half, and he returned from the break with a stack of 3,445,000. He pushed all-in almost immediately but received no callers. He repeated the process a few orbits later with the same result.
And then it happened. A stunning turn of events took the game to a new level with the first monster hand of the table.
Akenhead moved all-in again, but this time Begleiter considered it. He asked for an exact count, which was 4,015,000, and he made the call. But next in line was Buchman, who reraised to 12 million. Begleiter reluctantly folded. Akenhead turned over , but Buchman had him dominated with . The flop came , and when the hit on the turn, Buchman tried but couldn’t hold back a wide grin. But when the came on the river, it saved Akenhead’s tournament life and allowed him a triple-up to nearly 13 million chips. Buchman was still alive and well with more than 35 million.
More drama ensued on the very next hand, and the entire theater was glued to the action again. The hand started rather innocently with a flop of , and when Moon bet at it, Saout raised 4,450,000 more. Moon reraised all-in, and Saout quickly called, showing for the flopped two pair. Moon showed only , but when the came on the turn, he was drawing to the straight. The crowd, fully aware of Moon’s previous run of luck, was on the edge of its collective seat until the came on the river. Saout’s game was saved with a dramatic full house, and he doubled to approximately 22 million, as Moon took a hit and dropped to just under 50 million.
A bit later, it was Moon who took a significant pot from Cada to leave the latter with only 6.75 million, thus relegating Cada to short-stacked status at the table.
But it was a big hand that put Akenhead back on the short stack. It started with Schaffel and Akenhead looking at a flop of , after which Akenhead put in a bet. Schaffel responded by raising all-in, and Akenhead called fairly confidently with , but Schaffel was happy to turn over . The on the turn and on the river allowed Schaffel a double-up and forced Akenhead back down into last position on the leaderboard.
Then it happened.
Akenhead pushed all-in preflop for his last 4,450,000, and he was called by none other than Schaffel. Akenhead turned over , but Kevin Schaffel flipped the to have his opponent dominated. The board showed , and the set on the river secured the outcome. James Akenhead was the first to be eliminated from the final table, and he left with the distinction of playing in the coveted stage, though he received no extra money other than the $1,263,602 that he received on July 15. The Brit and his many supporters left the building.
James Akenhead = 9th place ($1,263,602)
Less than ten hands later, another battle ensued. It was Schaffel who made the first raise and Begleiter who called, but Buchman came in for a reraise to nearly 6 million. Schaffel came over the top with an all-in move for 17.2 million, and though Begleiter called, Buchman called. Schaffel happily showed his , and Buchman turned over . The board brought a dramatic flop of , which gave Buchman the set but Schaffel the straight draw, but the on the river gave Buchman quad kings. It was all over for Schaffel, who finished in eighth place with a payout of $1,300,231.
Kevin Schaffel = 8th place ($1,300,231)
On the 90th hand of the evening, a big hand developed between Begleiter and Moon, which went to a flop. It was then that Begleiter bet 5,350,000, and Moon check-raised to 15 million. Begleiter came over the top all-in for 21 million chips, but Moon thought about it and did not call the additional 6 million but folded his cards. The significant pot put Begleiter up to nearly 45 million.
At 7pm, the tournament staff decided to stop the action for a two-hour dinner break and with seven players remaining after having played 112 hands, play stopped. Players were scheduled to return at 9pm in the middle of Level 36 with 250,000/500,000 blinds and a 50,000 ante.