Tuesday, November 03, 2009

2009 WSOP Main Event Still Incomplete (But Not for Long)

IncompleteBack in college, I was never one of those students who was much inclined to take an “Incomplete” for a course. Always preferred to get the sucker done and move on to the next round of classes without having a last assignment hanging over my head.

I do recall one occasion when I had to take an “I” after I’d screwed up a final paper (doing it on the wrong topic), and thus was given an “Incomplete” by the professor so as to give me a chance for a redo. Being the relatively conscientious student I was, I submitted the new paper early the next semester, but the procrastinating prof. ended up taking a year-and-a-half to take care of the grade. (No shinola.)

Wasn’t that big of a deal, but I recall sometimes thinking it wasn’t too cool to have that “I” following me like that. That “I” wasn’t me!

The idea of having to take an “Incomplete” came back to me again this weekend as I noted we’re now less than a week away from the final table of the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event. Finally, finally, finally we'll get to see who will be this year’s champ.

I continue to dislike the delay in principle, but will admit to having gotten caught up in the hype a bit more this time around. Indeed, I am starting to realize how much I’ll miss being at the Rio this weekend to see the thing through, something I didn’t feel much at all last year.

I’ve had the tremendous opportunity the last two summers to live in Las Vegas and help cover the World Series of Poker. Have written at length here about my experiences (here’s a compilation of the 2008 reports, and here’s one from 2009). This past summer I was able to stick around right up to the end of play there on Day 8, a wild, adrenaline-fueled day and night punctuated by jaw-dropping hands that sent the huge, boisterous crowd of onlookers in the Amazon into hysterics time and again.

We all thought that last day was going to go deep into the next morning. If you recall, players began this year’s Main Event with triple stacks of 30,000 chips, meaning that by the time we reached this latter stage of the tourney, most all the players had mountains of chips sitting before them. The average stack for the 27 players returning on Day 8 was more than 7.2 million. A stack of that size amounted to more than 70 big blinds when play resumed early that Wednesday afternoon.

Boom, Boom, Boom!I had a flight scheduled for Thursday morning at 8:15 a.m., and thus had even brought my bags to the Amazon Room, anticipating the possibility of having to go straight from the Rio to McCarran should play stretch into the early morning. As it happened, the players were moving chips much, much faster than anyone had expected they would. By the dinner break they were already down to 14, and soon after we returned a couple more bustouts happened, meaning there was still daylight outside when just a dozen remained. Then -- as I assume most of us will watch tonight on ESPN -- it was “boom, boom, boom” and the final nine were set.
Seat 1: Darvin Moon (1st, 58,930,000)
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)
Amid the roar of hundreds, Robbie Thompson bellowed out the names of the nine who’d made it, his self-aware, step-right-up baritone neatly heightening the drama as we all came to the realization that the summer’s last hand of poker had been played. A genuinely climactic moment, it was.

I got to sleep in the hotel one last time that night. Then a cab to the airport. Then home. Like everyone else who’d spent the last seven-plus weeks in Vegas, I was more than ready.

Like I say, last year once November rolled around I really didn’t experience much of a pull Vegas-ward once the sucker finally got going again. From the standpoint of a fan, I didn’t have much of an emotional investment in any of the final nine. And from a reporter’s P.O.V., I guess my relative newness to the business of covering the WSOP prevented me from feeling presumptuous enough to think that I had any special insight to provide regarding the tourney’s completion.

This year is different, though. I know these guys much, much better than was the case last year, both from having been there covering them right to the end and from having sought out the stories and interviews with them during these intervening months. No, I’m not talking about those nonsensical, space-filler type articles out there that purport to profile the players but in truth offer very little. Rather, I’m referring to the more studied coverage in which reporters smartly tell the stories of the final nine and handicap their chances.

Just to point you to a few good examples, Card Player has a couple of “Meet the November Nine” articles that do a nice, comprehensive job of introducing the players -- Part I and Part II. And Stephen Murphy has further added to CP’s coverage with quality profiles of each player. A little tricky to negotiate the CP archives, but I’m seeing seven of those profiles posted thus far -- Akenhead, Begleiter, Buchman, Cada, Ivey, Saout, Schaffel. (I think the other two are coming to the website soon, if they haven’t already -- will add links to those when I see ’em.)

I’m also digging what ESPN is doing both on their new, web-based show “Inside Deal,” and on the Poker Edge podcast. Several of the nine players have appeared as guests on the Inside Deal thus far, including Begleiter, Buchman, Cada, Ivey, Moon, and Schaffel. (Click the names to get to their respective episodes.) And those six plus Shulman have all appeared on the Poker Edge podcast as well.

Finally, I’ve recommended before the analyses of all nine players’ chances by Spaceman and Riggstad over on AlCantHang’s “Poker from the Rail” blog. Those commentaries can be found in three separate posts -- Part 1 (Moon, Buchman, Begleiter), Part 2 (Shulman, Cada, Schaffel), and Part 3 (Ivey, Saout, Akenhead).

Check out all those links and you’ll be about as well-informed as you can be regarding the 2009 November Nine, I’d imagine.

Of course, there is no way to know everything -- in other words, our knowledge of these guys is necessarily going to be incomplete, no matter how much we read, hear, and watch. But our knowledge of how the November Nine made out at the 2009 WSOP Main Event will be completed soon enough.

Yep, one last assignment for these guys. Then we’ll see what kind of grade they earned.

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Anonymous Josh said...

Plus this year Ivey got the cover of ESPN the Magazine. They've really picked the coverage up this year.

11/03/2009 9:53 AM  

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