Las Vegas, NV
The November Nine is upon us. The 2009 WSOP final table starts at noon. Here's the run down of the final table players...
All photos are courtesy of Flipchip who has been snapping photos of the WSOP since the 1970s.
Chip Count: 58,930,000
Hometown: Oakland, MD
Career Earnings: $0 before the Main Event began
Quote: "I'm too fat to climb trees."
Bodog Odds: 2/1
Tao of Poker's Nickname: Luddite Logger
The professional logger from rural Maryland is the anti-hero at this year's Main Event. Darvin Moon sounds like the name of a protagonist from a James Ellroy novel. The Luddite Logger did not have a cell phone before the Main Event began and shrugged off a hefty paycheck to shill for the online poker sites while he sat underneath the bright lights of the TV tale. Moon even declined an offer to become a Doyle's Room player for the November Nine which included coaching tips from Doyle Brunson himself.
Yep, Moon turned the legendary Brunson down. Instead, Moon will wear a New Orleans Saints hat. The Saints are his favorite football team because they were always the big underdog for decades of futility -- with the exception of this year's 7-0 start. Heck, maybe the Saints look unbeatable not because of Drew Brees but because of the run good powers of Darvin Moon's Saints hat.
Since the July, Moon did not exactly fall off the face of the Earth as many insiders had predicted. Moon mostly ignored the shill sites but gave a sprinkle of interviews to leading news organizations including one to the Washington Post and he even made a trip to ESPN HQs in Connecticut.
Moon was absent from the tournament circuit since he became a November Niner, which puts him at a disadvantage. He claims that he doesn't playing online poker, so we have to assume he was honing his skills and preparing for the November Nine with his buddies in a local home game. Moon went on a hunting trip before the final table so perhaps deer stalking and sipping the warm blood of a fresh kill might have cleared his head before cards go in the air.
Moon is living personification that anyone can make a run at the Main Event Championship. He's entering the final table with 30% of the chips in play and his stack will be under major assault from his opponents. Will he sit back and fold to third place? Or will he try to pick off players trying to bullying him around? We'll soon find out.
Chip Count: 6,800,000
Hometown: London, UK
Career Earnings: $2.2 million
Quote: "Poker’s very addictive."
Bodog Odds: 15/1
Tao of Poker's Nickname: The Limey
James Akenhead is one of the premier players from the UK and currently ranks 12th on the All Time British Money List. Within a decade, all indications suggest that he'll near the top of that prestigious list.
With the exception of Phil Ivey, there is no one who is more skilled than Akenhead at the final table. Yet at the present moment, his short stack neutralizes his astute acumen. However, if Akenhead can double up a couple of times in the early hours there is no doubt that he has the skill to win it all.
The former train conductor, who had a route over the London Bridge, was a runner-up in a donkament last summer. He's not a stranger to final tables so the bright lights won't frazzle him like a few of his opponents. If anything, Akenhead has nothing to lose. Every sports book listed him as the biggest dog. That's why I put in a small bet. If he can double up twice early on and Ivey busts before action gets short-handed, Akenhead has a shot at winning the Main Event. Of course, that's a big if... the kid needs chips first before we can talk smack about one of the greatest comeback in the history of the WSOP.
Chip Count: 9,765,000
Hometown: Las Vegas
Career Earnings: $12 million and 7 WSOP bracelets (with 2 in 2009)
Quote: "Some people I play against are just playing because that's their job. That's a big advantage that I have over them."
Bodog Odds: 7/2
Tao of Poker's Nickname: The Phil Ivey of Poker
I'm lucky and was paid to watch Phil Ivey play poker over the last five years. To take a quote from The Natural, "He's the best there is. The best there was. The best there will ever be."
If Ivey can pick up a few chips and be among the final five players standing -- then he will win the Main Event. Ivey is the most skilled short-handed player at the final table and if he can survive the first few eliminations and double up at least once, there's no stopping him.
How confident is Ivey? He stands to win millions in prop bets betting on himself to win the Main Event against his peers in the Big Game, fellow Full Tilters, and a few Vegas fat cats. When Ivey visited London a few months ago, he asked Neil "Bad Beat" Channing to introduce him a proper bookie who had the bollocks to book a $1 million bet at 6-1 odds. So if Ivey wins the Main Event, a couple of pissed off British bookies will have to shell out $6 million to the almighty and all powerful Ivey.
Chip Count: 12,390,000
Hometown: Coral Springs, FL
Career Earnings: $1.9 million
Quote: "I was one card away from being knocked out..."
Bodog Odds: 12/1
Tao of Poker's Nickname: Noonan
Kevin Schaffel is the "aw shucks" guy and your typical family man at the final table. He's from Florida and plays a ton of golf as a "scratch player" which means Schaffel is not the guy you wanna try to hustle out on the course.
"Hey Judge, $50 says you slice!"
As the oldest player, Schaffel's life experience give him a slight edge over guys that are half his age. He's no slouch at the tables and suited up for battle in the last six Main Events. He's seen how strategy and playing styles have evolved and changed in the last few years.
Schaffel has flown mostly under the radar during the WSOP, but he posted a decent run since the summer ended and won almost $500,000 in tournaments. He almost took down the WPT Legends of Poker in L.A. and finished in second place. He also went deep at the EPT London and finished in 17th place in the largest ever tournament in the UK. His play impressed the local poker media and there's been lots of European action on Schaffel at 12-1 odds.
In addition to the half-o-mil in cash, Schaffel picked up a ton of confidence in the last few weeks, which makes him slightly more dangerous than you would expect. That's why I placed a small bet on him. Go Noonan!
Chip Count: 29,885,000
Hometown: Chappaqua, NY
Career Earnings: $0 before the Main Event began
Quote: "What the heck... I'm going to play the Main Event"
Bodog Odds: 11/2
Tao of Poker's Nickname: Gekko
Residing in an uber-rich hamlet in the New York City suburbs where the Clintons took up residence after the White House, Steve Begleiter played in a local poker league. His boys have a 20% cut of his winnings. That's no Ponzi scheme.
Begleiter was Norman Chad's whipping boy during ESPN's broadcasts. Sadly, he's a casualty of "guilt by association" due to his work in the trenches on Wall Street. No one likes to see the "rich get richer" but then is why is everyone rooting for Ivey? He's got more liquid cashola than Begleiter. Shouldn't we be rooting for the underdog instead of the shark? Alas, Wall Street suits are given similar looks of disdain only reserved for pedophiles and dealers peddling dope in schoolyards.
Due to Begleiter's Wall Street roots, his appearance as a member of the November Nine drew coverage from the financial media entities such as Bloomberg and CNBC.
Despite a deep run at the WPT Legends of Poker, Begleiter was mentioned as the "worst player" at the final table among my peers. However, its been revealed that Begleiter receieved coaching from Jon Little and Ylon Schwartz. As a member of last year's November Nine, Schwartz can give Begelieter advice on what it's like having to play under the circus tent. And Jon Little? Wow, I'd love to pick Little' brain since he's an SNG master. Obviously, Begleiter is aware of his deficiencies and he did everything possible to shore up his leaks.
Chip Count: 34,800,000
Hometown: Vally Stream, NY
Career Earnings: $2.2 million
Quote: "I'm just happy to be here."
Bodog Odds: 3/1
Tao of Poker's Nickname: Uncle Buck
Eric Buchman is my pick to win it all and I wagered a hefty sum of cash on him. He's the best player out of the big stacks and will be less eager to donk off his pyramid of chips and gamble like Begleiter. Buchman doesn't get rattled very easily. He's poised at the tables and acts like he's been there for years.
Change100 said, "If he takes off his sunglasses, no one will recognize him because he looks ten years older."
Buchman is not a NL pushmonkey. He started out playing Stud and LHE in AC and Foxwoods. He's also decent Omaha 8 player with a couple of deep cashes in WSOP Omaha events. He's a true card player with deft skills in more than one type of game. Aside from Ivey and Shulman, he has some of the most experience at the tables.
Buchman was wearing Full Tilt gear for the Main Event and jumped ship to Poker Stars.
Chip Count: 13,215,000
Hometown: Shelby Township, MI
Career Earnings: $28,00 before the Main Event; He's won $200K online since then
Quote: "$600,000 was a big payday for me, it wasn't like I won the lottery... and I haven't bought anything."
Bodog Odds: 10/1
Tao of Poker's Nickname: Joey Tonsils
Joe Cada has a shot at breaking Peter Eastgate's record for youngest WSOP champion. Cada seems a lot cooler, more chilled out, and significantly less douchey than most 21-year old poker pros that you come across.
Cada's feeding waters are the online tables and he's posted over $200,000 in earnings since the WSOP ended. He's been on a healthy tear grinding it out on the Sunday tournaments. He even won a second-chance event for a six-figure score on the WCOOP at PokerStars.
Although Cada flirted with the dark side of the force during the Main Event, he has since wised up and ditched Ultimate Bet as a sponsor. He's now one of the three PokerStars players. He secured a $1 million deal. Not too shabby for a 21-year old.
Cada is staked by the Bax/Sheets syndicate. They crunched his stats and liked what they saw so they invested in the kid -- which has already paid off huge dividends.
Chip Count: 9,500,000
Hometown: St. Martin des Champs, France
Career Earnings: $1.5 million
Quote: "Je n'ai peur de personne."
Bodog Odds: 13/1
Tao of Poker Nickname: Pierre Fromage
The former engineering student woke up one day and realized that he hated school and that he was making decent money playing poker on the side. So Antoine Saout pursued poker as an avenue of financial freedom.
Back in France, Saout garnered a significant amount of mainstream media coverage. He's one of the big rising stars in Europe -- so much so that Everest Poker signed him to a €1 million sponsorship deal. Only ElkY has a sweeter deal among the Frenchies. Heck, for one of the shortstacks, Saout got a much better deal than the majority of his American counterparts.
Since the summer ended, Saout has been one of those Euro-Rounders playing on the international circuit. He posted positive results: final table of a High Roller event on the Barriere Poker Tour, cashed in the WPT Marrakech, final table of the WSOP-Europe Main Event, cashed in an event on the Partouche Poker Tour (France), and cashed in an event on the Spanish Poker Tour. Saout is currently 8th on the All Time French Money List.
Alas, Saout is short-stacked and needs a miracle from the French Poker Gods early on if he wants to go deep.
Chip Count: 19,580,000
Hometown: Seattle, WA via Las Vegas, NV
Career Earnings: $2.5 million
Quote: "I really could care less how I do in this tournament."
Bodog Odds: 4/1
Tao of Poker's Nickname: Happy
Jeff Shulman has won at least $100,000 playing poker tournaments each year since 2003. Over the last decade he won over $1 million so he's been around the block a few times. He was not shy about bragging about his friendships with poker pros. He even hired Phil Hellmuth as his coach.
Shulman caused an uproar in July when he claimed that he'd toss his bracelet in the trash if he won. That immediately made him the target of the angered masses who dismissed Shulman as a spoiled brat. He has since then retracted his statements.
Last month, it was Happy's father, Barry Shulman, won got all the attention when he beat Daniel Neagreanu heads up to win the WSOP-E Main Event. At the time, I wrote that Happy's run in the Main Event was doomed since his father used up the family's "run good" karma to beat Danny Boy.
But, it would be quite an amazing feat if both Father & Son could win bracelets in the same year -- let alone the Main Event in the WSOP and the WSOPE. When someone asked me to predict who would win the Main Event, I was honest with them and said that Happy Shulman will win. However, I'm not rooting for him because I don't have money on him, but I have this gut feeling that this is the year for the Shulmans.
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