Last summer there was a lot of uncertainty regarding the whole November Nine ideer -- not just over what effect the delay might have in terms of the marketing of the WSOP, but the way introducing a four-month delay at such a crucial moment in a poker tournament tended to monkey with the “integrity” of the competition. The natural momentum of the tourney would be damaged, argued many. Players will study each others’ styles, get coaching, etc. -- all manner of things that couldn’t happen in a tourney otherwise.
All of which turned out to be true. Of course, the WSOP Main Event has always been a unique event, and so perhaps it isn’t necessarily correct to judge it according to the same criteria we use to evaluate other tournaments.
One detail of last year’s delayed final table that proved somewhat perplexing was the matter of seat assignments. The usual procedure for WSOP bracelet events -- the full table (i.e., nine-handed) hold’em and Omaha events, anyway -- is that once the 11th place finisher is eliminated, there is a redraw and the remaining ten sit around a single table, from which point there are no more redraws and they play down to a winner. However, last summer the word was there would, in fact, be another redraw of the final nine just before play began on Sunday, November 9, 2008.
This was what we heard -- on a fairly consistent basis -- for the entire four months between the end of play in July and the restart in November. I listened to and read several interviews with players, and each one said he expected there to be a redraw. Indeed, I recall hearing Scott Montgomery interviewed just a couple of days before the final table, and when asked he said he had no idea who would be seated on either side of him.
Confusion about seating assignments continued right up until the day play resumed. Lon McEachern appeared on ESPN’s The Poker Edge that week and (somewhat surprisingly) said there would be no redraw. When asked again, McEachern said he might be “speaking out of turn,” which I took to mean either he wasn’t sure or perhaps he was revealing something he wasn’t supposed to be revealing. You may recall that while we didn’t get a pay-per-view live telecast of the final table last year, there was an audio broadcast by Bluff Magazine, and at the start of that host Nick Geber actually said they were redrawing for new seat assignments. But then it turned out they did not -- the nine came back to sit in the same seats they had occupied when play ended in mid-July.
This year I haven’t heard anyone say anything about redrawing for seats on November 7th. Rather, I think everyone is under the assumption that the players will come back to sit in the same seats they were in when Darvin Moon eliminated Jordan Smith in 10th place. Meaning this is what we’ll be looking at come November 7th:
Seat 1: Darvin Moon (1st, 58,930,000)As we all know, position is about as important -- perhaps even more important -- than chip stacks or even the cards one gets. So it makes sense that those handicapping the November Nine take position into account. I’ve been enjoying the discussions over on Al Can’t Hang’s “Poker from the Rail” in which he’s invited some bloggers to weigh in on the nine players’ chances -- you can read those here, here, and here. And as one would expect, frequent references are made throughout to the players’ relative position to each other when assessing their prospects.
Seat 2: James Akenhead (9th, 6,800,000)
Seat 3: Phil Ivey (7th, 9,765,000)
Seat 4: Kevin Schaffel (6th, 12,390,000)
Seat 5: Steven Begleiter (3rd, 29,885,000)
Seat 6: Eric Buchman (2nd, 34,800,000)
Seat 7: Joe Cada (5th, 13,215,000)
Seat 8: Antoine Saout (8th, 9,500,000)
Seat 9: Jeff Shulman (4th, 19,580,000)
Position should be affecting the players’ preparation somewhat, too, which is what made last year’s confusion all the more strange. Jeff Shulman will return to find chip leader Darvin Moon on his left -- will that influence how Shulman and his new coach Phil Hellmuth plan their strategy? James Akenhead and Phil Ivey come back to short stacks, but they get to act after Moon on most hands early on. And I imagine Kevin Schaffel and Steven Begleiter are probably glad they get to act after Ivey, but they’ll have to contend with Eric Buchman acting after them. In any event, all nine have had plenty of time to prepare for how they are going to deal with their table-neighbors.
In fact, last summer and fall we were hearing that one of the reasons why there would be a redraw would be to prevent the players from being able to prepare too much based on their position -- in other words, the suggestion was a redraw would somehow help protect the “integrity” of the competition, even though (paradoxically) a redraw would’ve meant introducing a late change in procedure that would have made the Main Event different from other bracelet events.
But then there was no redraw. And like I say, there doesn’t appear to be any plan to have one this year, either. Should there be?
(November Nine photo by FlipChip)