When the first hand of the final table is finally dealt, Maryland logger and amateur player Darvin Moon will enjoy a large chip lead with 58,930,000 -- that is, a little more than 30% of the chips in play. Moon’s nearest foe, Eric Buchman, will start with 34,800,000, followed by Steven Begleiter (29,885,000), Jeff Shulman (19,580,000), Joe Cada (13,215,000), Kevin Schaffel (12,390,000), Phil Ivey (9,765,000), Antoine Saout (9,500,000), and James Akenhead (6,800,000).
Last fall around this time there was a lot of talk about an apparent lack of hype surrounding the delayed WSOP Main Event final table. While there were interviews and articles about the players appearing within the poker media, there didn’t seem to be a great deal of publicity happening elsewhere, and by the time the final table arrived in November, a lot were wondering what exactly was accomplished promotion-wise during the intervening four months.
One reason we were watching for such extra attention was the fact that when the idea for the delay was first announced in May 2008 we were told to look for such. “The added time prior to the final table will help get poker mainstream media attention,” suggested Daniel Negreanu, a member of the Players Advisory Committee that had approved of the delay. WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack also noted that the delay created what he called “an unprecedented opportunity to capture the world's attention,” characterizing the interim as a period of “16 weeks of promotion and relevance” for the November Nine.
There were a few moments here and there during which the nine finalists were covered in places they might not have otherwise, such as when Brooklyn native Ylon Schwartz was profiled in the The New York Times. And we heard something after the final table had completed about invites to major talk shows like “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Ellen” having been turned down by players. But by the time the 2008 WSOP Main Event final table began, most were noting how little the “mainstream” seemed to have picked up on the story.
Another much-referenced argument in favor of the delay concerned the added opportunities it provided the nine players to solicit endorsement deals, including from non-poker entities. No one knows precisely how much last year’s November Nine benefited from the extra time, but most agree they all made more cabbage than they would have otherwise. After the final table had concluded, Barry Greenstein (another member of the Players Advisory Committee) said on Gary Wise’s podcast Wise Hand Poker that players had received three times as much as they would have otherwise.
So what has the “mainstream” been saying about this year’s November Nine? Well, again, outside of our little poker world, mostly a lot of nothing. Thus far, anyway.
Darvin Moon did get some press last week when a feature on the chip leader appeared in The Washington Post. It’s an interesting profile. Moon apparently had never even flown a commercial jet prior to his summer trip to Vegas. He earnestly claims he believes all eight of the other players at the final table are better than he is. And he’s not interested in seeking more publicity or even working on his game, eyeing a three-week deer hunting trip here in October instead. (Both pics on this post courtesy the great FlipChip, btw.)
As far as the other eight players go, I can’t say I’ve really noticed much “mainstream” attention of them, though each has been on the radar within the poker world in various ways over the last three months -- perhaps more so than was the case with last year’s November Nine.
Eric Buchman (in second) got a little bit of attention over on Two Plus Two during the last couple of days when someone -- an acquaintance of Buchman’s, apparently -- started a thread as Buchman himself complaining about how Full Tilt Poker was giving the player some difficulty with regard to the two one-day endorsement deals he’d signed with them at the end of play in July. The real Buchman then came on to clear things up a bit, though the story brought attention to the fact of Buchman’s switch from Full Tilt on Days 7 and 8 to PokerStars for the final table. Here’s the new thread (the old, spurious one was deleted), and here’s a Poker News Daily article from late July in which Buchman mentions his endorsement deals (and the distractions they cause).
Steven Begleiter (in third) turned up a bit on last night’s WSOP coverage on ESPN. The 47-year-old from New York seems like a nice fellow, and I’m not just saying that because he’s the only member of the November Nine who follows me on Twitter (haha). See for yourself in this interview with “Begs” on episode 10 of ESPN’s “Inside Deal.”
We’ve been seeing a lot of Jeff Shulman (in fourth) on ESPN over the last couple of weeks, and continue to talk about his criticisms of Harrah’s and potential “villain” role at the final table. And, of course, the victory by Barry Shulman, Jeff’s father, at the Main Event at the World Series of Poker Europe last week adds yet another interesting plot development to Jeff’s WSOP ME run. I mentioned last week that Gary Wise conducted a lengthy interview with Shulman and wrote it up over on the ESPN Poker Club. In the interview the publisher, president, and COO of Card Player discusses the Main Event, Harrah’s, and his having taken on Phil Hellmuth as a coach.
Like several of the November Nine, Joe Cada (in fifth) has been interviewed over on Phil Gordon’s podcast (another ESPN production), The Poker Edge. The 21-year-old came off as surprisingly together in the interview, even when pressed about his sponsorship deals (which he didn’t really want to discuss, it seemed). “Are the November Nine going to be logoed up more significantly than they have been in the past?” asked Gordon, adding that while last year’s players were seen to represent online poker sites and some charities, “we haven’t seen any real mainstream brands.” Cada said no, he had not.
Kevin Schaffel (in sixth) was among the chip leaders at the EPT London Main Event before busting out in 19th place. The final table of that event, featuring last year’s WSOP Main Event winner Peter Eastgate, has just begun. Follow the coverage on PokerNews here and/or watch the action on the terrific EPT Live webcast here.
Rounding out the November Nine, Phil Ivey (in seventh) has enjoyed his usual prominence in the poker world over the last few months, although in terms of “mainstream media” I suppose we can only point to his brief cameo on the first episode of NBC’s “Face the Ace.” And the table’s short stacks, Antoine Saout (in eighth) and James Akenhead (in ninth) both got a bit of attention by making the final table of the WSOP Europe Main Event, where Saout finished seventh and Akenhead ninth.
As I say, I do feel like I’m a bit more aware of these guys that I was of last year’s November Nine at this time last year. And I am a little more interested in seeing how it all plays out than was the case last time around, too.
Still looking for that “mainstream media attention,” though. Perhaps we will ultimately see one or more of these guys pop up on the talk shows or elsewhere. Don’t necessarily expect to see Darvin Moon on Jay Leno’s new prime time show, though. Something tells me he might have left the cell phone at home so as to concentrate more fully on the deer.