How long does it take to become a millionaire? For eight men who entered the 2011 WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas on July 7th, it was 13 days. If you want to know what it took to get to millionaire’s row; it took dozens of hours battling through a field of 6,865 players to be one of the last nine men standing in the wee hours of July 20, 2011.
Officially known as the $10,000 No Limit Holdem World Championship event, the day began with Anton Makiievskyi leading the 22 bracelet hopefuls. In a short time the field was cut to 15 and was down to two tables. The play was wild and aggressive at times with several hands seeing three, four, and even five bets (raises) with several all-ins from the short stacks thrown it at various times. Crowd favorite Bryan ‘Devo’ Devonshire couldn’t hang on and went out 12th followed by the last Canadian, Khoa Nguyen a short time later in 11th. Then it was time for the weary 10 to draw for seats around the final table to fight for their spot on the November Nine list.
As the most famous poker game on earth played out on the world stage in front of TV cameras, the excited fans, friends, and relatives on the rail cheered their favorite players on to glory. Just one to go and it would all be over until November when the final Nine would all reconvene to play down to the last man for the coveted gold bracelet, instant fame and $8,711,956.
There were several hands with the short stacks going all in and two times the excitement was at fever pitch when Matt Giannetti woke up with J-J twice and went all-in for his tournament life, doubling up both times. But it was Hewitt who was on the downswing and his death knell sounded when he lost two hands in quick order to bubble in 10th, sending the remaining competitors to November Nine fame.
Meet the November Nine (shown with chip counts):
1. Martin Staszko – 40,175,000
<blockquote>This 35-year-old poker professional hails from Trinec, the Czech Republic and is the second oldest of the group. Martin has already made history by being the first Czech ever to make the final table in a WSOP Main Event. He only entered the live tournament arena last year, but has already cashed seven times, including five times this year at the WSOP. Away from the poker tables, he enjoys playing competitive tennis and chess.
</blockquote>2. Eoghan O’Dea – 33,925,000
<blockquote>Eoghan is a 26-year-old student from Dublin, Ireland and has 20 cashes and $1,546,528 in total live event earnings since 2005. Following in his Father’s footsteps, he is the son of Donnacha O’Dea, who made it to the Main Event Final Table twice, in 1983 and 1991. O’Dea senior is regarded as the best Irish poker player in history and his son Eoghan has now made history for them both. When the younger O’Dea took his final table seat it marked the first time in history that a father and son have both made the final table in the WSOP Main Event. His Final Table cash is his fourth at the series this year, making a total of six times he has cashed at the WSOP since 2007.
</blockquote>3. Matt Giannetti – 24,750,000
<blockquote>At just 26 years old, this is Giannetti’s second Main Event cash and his 11th WSOP cash since 2006. A University of Texas graduate, he is a self-taught poker professional who lives in Las Vegas. Although he has 22 major tournament cashes under his belt and $1,274,418 in career earnings, he has yet to finish higher than fourth place.
</blockquote> 4. Phil Collins – 23,875,000
<blockquote>Collins is a 26 year old former University of South Carolina student turned professional poker player who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. He has 17 live tournament cashes and career earnings of $907,099 to his credit since 2007. This is Phil’s first final table appearance out of nine WSOP cashes and his second WSOP cash this year. Named after the famous singer, Phil was the crowd favorite and whenever he took down a pot or made a successful move, his cheering section could be heard singing his namesake’s song ‘In the Air Tonight.’
</blockquote>5. Ben Lamb – 20,875,000
<blockquote>Before even making the Main Event final table, Lamb collected his first WSOP gold bracelet when he won the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha Championship for $814,436. His other WSOP cashes this year were: second in the $3,000 PLO for $259,918; eighth in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship event to win $201,338 and 12th in the $10,000 NLH Six Handed Championship event for $56,140. Because of his great series run, Ben has catapulted past Phil Hellmuth in the Player of the Year race. At only 26 years old, this Tulsa, Oklahoma native has won five live tournament events, cashed 27 times (including 13 at the WSOP) and made 22 final tables since 2006. When he became one of the November Nine, his career earnings jumped to $3,347,334.
</blockquote>6. Badih Bounahra – 19,700,000
<blockquote>At 49 years old, Bounahra is the oldest member of the November Nine and has placed in nine events since 2007. His one other WSOP cash was a 51st place finish in the 2008 $2,000 NLH event for $7,582. A poker room owner in Belize City, Belize, he has only been playing poker for about six years and in his spare time says he enjoys fishing and sleep.
</blockquote>7. Pius Heinz – 16,425,000
<blockquote>Heinz is a 22-year-old student from Cologne, Germany and is one of the least accomplished and experienced players of the group. His trip to the WSOP marks two big ‘Firsts’ for Heinz: He is the first German ever to make it to a WSOP Main Event final table and he made his first ever live tournament cash at this year’s WSOP when he took seventh in the $ 1,500 NLH event for $83,286.
</blockquote>8. Anton Makiievskyi – 13,825,000
<blockquote>Ukranian Anton Makiievskyi, of Dnipropetrovsk is a 21-year-old aspiring poker pro hoping to become the next Ukrainian to win a gold bracelet at the 2011 WSOP. Since he just turned 21 and is now legal to play, he made his first trip to Las Vegas and the WSOP this year. This is Anton’s first cash ever in a live event, making him the least experienced of the group when it comes to live tournament play. Away from the poker tables, he is teaching himself to play guitar and drums and enjoys cycling.
</blockquote>9. Sam Holden – 12,375,000
<blockquote>Hailing from Sussex, Great Britain is 22-year-old professional poker player Sam Holden. This is Sam’s first WSOP cash and although he is sitting with the short stack, he will be picking his spots carefully to try to take a gold bracelet and the title back to the UK. With less experience than many of his opponents, Sam has only cashed in four events since 2010, but made the final table in three of those four events. Just before heading to the WSOP, he won the NLH 6 Max UK & Ireland Poker Tour (UIKPT) event in Newcastle for £3,550 ($5,785).
The battle between the seasoned pros and the rookies will commence in November with 34 minutes and 57 seconds remaining in Level 36. The antes will be $50,000 and blinds will stand at $250,000/$500,000 which will put pressure on the short stacks. In addition to the first-place prize of $8,711,956 and the prestigious gold bracelet the winner will receive, the other eight finalists will be paid as follows - making the top seven instant millionaires:
2nd place: $5,430,928
3rd place: $4,019,635
4th place: $3,011,665
5th place: $2,268,909
6th place: $1,720,396
7th place: $1,313,851
8th place: $1,009,910
9th place: $782,115
*Photos courtesy of PokerNews*