WSOP Main Event Day 8: Next stop November; Duhamel destroys
What had to happen has happened. We have a new November Nine. After 79 hours of play over 12 days, a field of 7,319 has been trimmed by 99.88 percent.
It means that on the weekend of 6-9 November, the following players will return to the Penn and Teller Theater at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas to determine the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion. Each and every one of them deserves their shot at history.
Jonathan Duhamel - 65,975,000
John Dolan - 46,250,000
Joseph Cheong - 23,520,000
John Racener - 19,050,000
Matthew Jarvis - 16,700,000
Filippo Candio - 16,400,000
Michael Mizrachi - 14,450,000
Soi Nguyen - 9,650,000
Jason Senti - 7,625,000
The figures beside their names are their chip counts, accumulated through those 36 levels of play. By a margin best described as "runaway", Johnathan Duhamel, a 23-year-old former finance student from Quebec, Canada, is the chip leader and will be the clear favourite to follow Joe Cada into the winners' enclosure come the end.
Duhamel described himself today as a "luckbox", but he is being far too humble. Although he was central to all the day's major talking points - dishing out much of the cruelty inherent in poker - he also played one of the most focused and balanced games we've ever seen. Shadow boxing during the breaks, else standing alone like a fighter gathering thoughts before a bout, he played every pot as though it was worth a million dollars - and in many ways they were.
"It just helps me focus," Duhamel said. "When I play, I just want to be in my head."
Duhamel wore a rash of PokerStars patches since day one, and he is as fitting a player as any to be graced by the red spade. After playing a bunch of EPTs, as per a new plan, the spade will adorn him again as he seeks that platinum bracelet of a World Series champion.
There's no room for complacency from Duhamel, however. Eight others are breathing if not down his neck, then from not far down the road.
PokerStars' other interests rest with Jason Senti, a professional poker player from Minnesota. Senti is a former electrical engineer who turned his hobby (poker) into his main source of income. He was one of the shortest stacks at the start of day seven, but doubled up against David Assouline and never looked back.
Brandon Steven, a philanthropic amateur from Wichita, Kansas, was another one to wear proudly the PokerStars patch. He went out in 10th, which was the final table bubble. But boy, Steven deserves every high-five he has gotten.
Steven runs a chain of health clubs and car dealerships and so was one of only a couple of amateurs mixing it with the big boys in search of a place among the November Nine. He is used to large sums of money - although most often he is giving it away. Steven was the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Man of the Year in 2007 after breaking their national fund-raising record, including making more than $100,000 in a charity poker tournament. The philanthropist saw some of the karma pay him off in spades. He took $635,011 for tenth, and the thanks of everybody in Las Vegas.
It's a long story - more than 17 hours on the final day - as to how we got to these nine, starting at noon when 27 players still had the highest hopes. Brad Willis picks up the story of day eight:
When Johnny Lodden and William Thorson started the Main Event, they did it under a cloud. If history was an indication, only one of them would do well. Never before had they both cashed in the same event. When day eight arrived for the final 27 players, the two Team PokerStars Pros were still alive. Thorson had a playable stack. Lodden was in worse shape. He needed an early double up or he was going to be in trouble.
Lodden found what he hoped would be his chance. All-in with pocket eights, he got into a race with Matt Affleck's A♣T♥. Lodden flopped well, but an ace fell on the turn. It would come down to the river. Only an eight could save him and the dealer didn't have one on top to give. For Lodden, the 2010 WSOP was over. He finished in 27th place.
With the floodgates prised open by Lodden, the players began to flow through them. Matthew Bucaric, Mads Wissing, Ronnie Bardah, and Robert Pisano vanished in short order, a set-up for a story none of us wanted to tell.
There was no talking about William Thorson in this year's Main Event without mentioning what happened to him in 2006. It was then the Swedish Team PokerStars Pro made a deep run in what still holds as the biggest-ever WSOP Main Event. It ended with a 13th place finish when he ran jacks into eventual winner Jamie Gold's kings. This year, Thorson seemed just as focused and intent on not making the same mistakes.
During these past two weeks, he barely put a foot wrong. Though his stack had grown shorter than he would've liked, he still had well enough chips to threaten a final table appearance. But that all changed. When John Dolan opened to 375,000 and got calls from Brandon Steven and John Racener, Thorson decided to squeeze all-in from the blinds with J♦T♦. It was disaster. Racener was trapping with pocket kings and made the call. Though Thorson flopped a flush draw, he didn't get there.
A man with four-year-old demons to slay was gone in 22nd place - but much happier about his play. "Last time it took me two years to get over it, this time it took me two minutes," said Thorson.
After a brutal start to the day for the European players, Italy's Fillipo Candio went runner-runner to crack Joseph Cheong's aces and take over the chip lead. That started a short rush in which Redmond Lee and Patrick Eskandar were eliminated and took us below the 20-player mark.
All eyes fell on PokerStars' longest-lasting qualifier, Michiel Slijpkens. At only 21 years and four months old, he had a chance of setting a new record for the youngest World Series of Poker champion, beating Joe Cada's current mark. But Cada will cling onto the record: Slijpkens' pocket jacks lost a race to John Racener's king-queen and the young man from Holland disappeared in 19th place.
Scott Clements and David Baker were the next to go, taking us to dinner break and 90 minutes to reflect on what might be. As we left the Amazon Room, we introduced you to the players within reach of the WSOP final table. None of us could know who would make it, or what hell might befall the players we'd been covering for two weeks.
When the players returned from dinner, we looked to Matt Affleck for inspiration. We had no sooner put words to page than he suffered a beat that spawned sympathy in the hearts of the most jaded poker veterans. All-in on the turn with aces against Duhamel's jacks, Affleck had to dodge ten outs to avoid Duhamel hitting a set or open-ended straight. The pot was the biggest of the tournament yet and would almost guarantee the winner a spot among the November Nine.
Affleck leaned forward on the table. Even the most casual observer could see the abject fear in his eyes. After a deep run in 2009 in which he ultimately finished in 80th place, Affleck played this tournament with a clear need for redemption. He was within one card of a destiny he and many others believed he deserved. The eight that fell on the river knocked Affleck over. His head fell into his hands and when it emerged, the emotion on his face touched nearly every heart in the room.
It was impossible to feel anything but crushed - and Affleck's long drawn-out departure from the Amazon Room was almost unbearable to witness. "What are you gonna do?" Affleck said some hours later. "I played the best poker of my life."
Affleck's elimination was the first in a quick series. Within only a few minutes, Hassan Habib, Duy Le, and Adam Levy were gone. With only eleven players remaining, the Amazon Room grew tense. After more than 7,000 bust-outs over two weeks, it was only going to take two more eliminations to take us to the end.
The first of them was Pascal LeFrancois, slain by Joseph Cheong. Then it was that man Steven. He was a short stack, and then doubled up. He was the short stack again, then double it up again. He would not say die.
Eventually he found big slick and took it up against Matt Jarvis's pocket queens. The 10-handed battle had lasted for more than five hours, but the end game was in sight. The flop was blank, the turn was dry. The river missed Steven too and we had our November Nine.
In all, 839 PokerStars players competed in the 2010 WSOP Main Event. Of those, 146 cashed for more than a collective $15 million so far. Now, we move on to the November Nine where the money isn't just big. It's life-changing.
And so now we suspend our coverage of the WSOP. We will return in a few months to crown a champion. Many thanks to our colleagues at the German, Swedish, Dutch and Spanish blogs. We also could not have done this job without the help of our crack statistician, Excel maven, and undercover operative Mad Harper. Thanks also to our partner Joe Giron who not only has chauffeured us around town, but provided the best photographic coverage of this event
for the past several years ever. Finally, to the people who run the WSOP, thanks again for your hard work and letting us be here.
With that, congrats to all who made the final table. We'll see you in November.
All photography from Las Vegas on PokerStars Blog is (c) Joe Giron/Joe Giron Photography.