Tuesday, July 15, 2014

November Nine Not New to Newhouse

Before the bubble burst in the World Series of Poker Main Event when there were still 746 players left, I wrote a Day 4 preview in which I included a few “Regarding the Record Books” items collected in a short section near the end.

The obvious item to include in that category was Ronnie Bardah going for his fifth straight year of cashing in the ME, something he’d manage to accomplish that day. Bardah broke a tie with a half-dozen other players to establish a new record all on his own.

Allen Cunningham entered the day with 314,000 chips -- the average was a little under 269,000 -- and with only 53 eliminations to go until the money looked like he’d probably be picking up his seventh career ME cash and thus move into a tie for fifth on the all-time list. So Im mentioned that. He didn’t get it.

Finally, I noted how Mark Newhouse was the sole remaining November Niner from a year ago still alive in the event, tossing in that if he somehow made it back to the final table it would be the first time in 10 years anyone ever pulled off the feat. Dan Harrington, of course, finished third in 2003 (when 839 played) and fourth in 2004 (when 2,576 did), marking the last time it had been done.

Really, though, that was a stretch even to mention before Day 4. “There’s a long way to go,” I added by way of disclaimer, noting that Newhouse still had four days of poker to survive to make it there.

The Chapel Hill, North Carolina native entered that Day 4 in 131st of 746 -- a bit better than Cunningham’s position, but by no means in an especially advantageous spot to assure a deep run. By day’s end there’d be 291 left and he was 27th in the counts. Then after Day 5 he’d pushed into the chip lead with 79 remaining, and the idea of a return trip to the final table began occurring to many.

He would start Day 7 in 11th position of 27, which made referring to the possibility much more reasonable in yesterday’s preview. Then he did it, finishing last night third in chips of the final nine.

So far in two consecutive Main Events Newhouse has outlasted 13,017 players -- a lot more than Harrington did during his back-to-back final tables, not to take away from the accomplishment of “Action Dan.” Was thinking at first that had to be a record, then I remembered Dennis Phillips took third in 2008 (out of 6,844) then 45th in 2009 (out of 6,494), meaning Phillips outran 13,290 others during those two years.

Something kind of incredible, though, about final tabling this tourney in consecutive years.

People on the forums are rightly bringing up Mike’s old line from Rounders, the one he says with agitation to Jo when defending poker as a skill game. “Why do you think the same five guys make it to the final table of the World Series of Poker every year?” he asks. “What, are they the luckiest guys in Las Vegas?”

The line was more applicable in 1998 than today, although even then the fields for the WSOP Main Event were getting big enough that you weren’t seeing too many return trips to the final table by players. That’s why Harrington’s was so special, as was Mike Matusow’s in 2005 (after having gotten there in 2001) and the near-miss of 2001 champion Carlos Mortensen last year when he finished 10th.

Those quoting the line with reference to Newhouse are doing so ironically. With so many playing, it’s absurd to think the same guys are going to get back to the WSOP ME final table “every year.”

But somehow Newhouse is there again. Part of another November Nine. And another four-month delay during which he’ll be earning a lot more attention this time than he did last year.

There are some stories in this final nine -- the foosball champion, the Dutch leader with some big online scores and stories, the first Brazilian ever to make a WSOP ME final table, a couple who’ve never cashed at the WSOP at all and a few others with only a few small scores in prelims before.

But Newhouse’s return will be the main thread in the narrative from here to November, there’s no doubt. As it should be.

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