World Series Main Event: One hour in the books

wsop2009_thn.gif "Welcome to the final table of the 2009 WSOP Main Event!"

Those words from WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack ushered us into what will surely be the next 12 hours of World Series final table play. Tonight we will play down to two players. First, we have nine sitting around the table and who have spent the first hour of play locked in a battle of attention and attrition.

This is the fifth time the PokerStars Blog has covered the final table of the WSOP and each year the pomp and circumstance has grown exponentially. Here's a sampling of the nearly 45-minute pre-game ceremony.

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  • At last year's final table, a majority of the crowd came to cheer on Team PokerStars Pro Dennis Phillips. He has since been dubbed Godfather of the Poker Rail. Today, each player's rail is following suit. They've shown up in matching shirts (and in some cases, scarves). Given the opportunity to decide which was loudest rail currently in the room, Phillips demurred. He did predict, however, "They're going to get louder."

  • Phillips offered only one piece of advice to the final table players: "Play well, be proud of your play, and have fun."

  • Reigning champion and Team PokerStars Pro Peter Eastgate was even more succinct when offering advice to the eventual winner. "'Be yourself."

  • The crowd honored the recently-departed Hans "Tuna" Lund. He's well-known in the poker community for coming in runner-up in 1990 WSOP Main Event which was once described as the most exciting heads-up battle in WSOP history.

    With that we heard from Jack Effel, Tournament Director (who, in an apparent lack of foresight in predicting the advent of the November Nine, got married on this day four years ago--"I love you, honey," he said to his very patient wife), with the player introductions.

    Here's the brief version:

    Darvin Moon: He's a 45-year old logger with 100 friends and relatives in audience. He also has a massive chip lead.

    James Akenhead: He's the former railroad conductor, turned poker player. He is the table's short stack. He could be the first British winner since 1990.

    Phil Ivey: He's Phil Ivey. There's not much more than needs to be said about that, is there? You've heard of him, right?

    Kevin Schaffel: He's is the oldest player at the final table at age 51 with 40 years playing experience. He brought 80 friends and family with him.

    Steven Begleiter: He's used to work on Wall Street at a company that...well, hasn't had a very good year (it rhymes with with "Hair Burns"). The man known as Begs won his WSOP his seat in a home game satellite.

    Eric Buchman He already has $2 million in career winnings, even though he's barely old enough to shave and probably still pays a lot for car insurance. He also sits second in chips today.

    Joe Cada: He's the youngest player at final table and, if he wins, will become the youngest ever WSOP Main Event winner.

    Antoine Saout: He's the man from France. If he wins, he will be the first-ever Frenchman to win WSOP Main Event.

    Jeff Shulman: He's the guy in the Phish shirt. His dad won the WSOP-E earlier this year. If the younger wins, the Schulmans will be second father-son combo to hold WSOP bracelets (the Brunsons are the others).

    Then, at long last, Peter Eastgate stood beside Doyle Brunson as offered the words everybody wanted to hear.

    "Shuffle up and deal."

    Here's a bit of the action from the first few trips around the table:

    The very earliest action was tentative: Jeff Schulman, Eric Buchman, Joe Cada (twice) and Steven Begleiter raised pre-flop on the first five hands and each took it down. The bet sizing was interesting though: Schulman's opening raise, from the button, was for a mighty 1,250,000. Buchman opened for 575,000; Cada for 620,000 and Begleiter 625,000. They were all as effective as the other.

    At this point the level went up, easing us into level 34, where the blinds are 150,000-300,000 (40,000). And that, obviously, changed the size of the opening raise as well. Kevin Schaffel decided to get involved, making it 750,000, and when Antoine Saout called from the big blind, we went to our first flop. It came A♠7♥Q♥ and after Saout checked, Schaffel bet 1,500,000 and that was good enough.

    Two players who had not been involved in the very early skirmishes then butted antlers. James Akenhead, the short stack, raised to 775,000 from under-the-gun, perhaps representing a lot of strength, especially since it was into the chip leader Darvin Moon's big blind. Moon felt in no way threatened though and he re-raised to 1,800,000 which persuaded an anguished Akenhead to fold.

    A three bet also took a small pot for Jeff Schulman. He asked Joe Cada for 2,325,000 after the youngster had raised to 750,000. That was too much. But Cada got some back from Phil Ivey when he raised to 750,000 on the next hand and Ivey defended his blind. The flop came K♥4♦3♦ and after Cada bet one million, Ivey folded.

    Arguably the most interesting hand of the hour came right on the stroke of 1.30pm and involved Moon, Ivey and Schaffel. Moon called from late position and Ivey made up Schaffel's blind. But Schaffel took his option to raise and made it 900,000. Moon sprung what seemed to be a trap and he announced a re-raise. It was 3,000,000 and that got them both out the way.

    The chip counts at the end of that level have barely changed. You can see them on the chip count page.

    *****

    We caught up with Daniel Negreanu just a few minutes ago. Here's what he had to say about the final table.


    Watch WSOP 2009 Nov9 Daniel Negreanu on PokerStars.tv
    Brad Willis
    @BradWillis in World Series of Poker