First you want to vomit.

That’s the honest initial physical response–that slight push in the belly, a rising gorge that, if you weren’t a man, you’d just puke all over the felt, a final expulsion of all the pure disgust left among the bile.

At least, that’s how we imagined it when PokerStars qualifier Kevin Schaffel said of his aces getting cracked by kings, “I wanted to throw up.”

There are relatively few people in the world who know what Schaffel just experienced. In the 40 year history of the World Series of Poker, only eight people a year have walked away from the final table and into the blackness that is another year without a WSOP Main Event bracelet.

Even smaller is the group of people who have walked away in this new era of WSOP Main Events. Only in the last two years have the media throngs grown such that it’s easier to be George Clooney at Cannes than a final table player at the WSOP.

The crowd in the lobby of the Penn and Teller theater knew about Schaffel’s elimination the very second he did–and maybe even sooner. Closed circuit television is showing this contest on dozens of screens around the theater, lobby, and hallways. Alongside the bar on the first floor, fans of every player crushed toward the monitors as the pair of kings picked up a third and fourth to go along. The cheers, groans, and sighs were no more than three part harmony of the age old tune, “Glad It Wasn’t Me.”

Then came the crush of media. Representatives of every outlet played nice at first, pretending as though they were going to cooperate when Schaffel finally arrived. Handshakes and smiles were the order of the day until the Schaffel fans’ cheers rose up in the room. The sickness was about to begin.

That’s where the long walk must have be the nicest for a guy like Schaffel. As he strode into the room–defeated but not broken–his friends and family cheered with all their might. Cameras flashed. Hugs embraced him. He was a hero who lacked the finest laurels.

If it ended there, it wouldn’t be so bad. Alas, there was still one more job to do, and it was not likely one Schaffel expected to enjoy. It’s akin to giving a public address about your dead dog before you’ve even buried him.

The media man took Schaffel’s arm and led him into the pit. There were the media, microphones and cameras in hand. The formerly friendly press elbowed each other, pushed hips into buttocks, swung sharp voice recorders like swords, and played a game of Every Vulture for Himself.

“You can ask me anything except about poker,” Schaffel joked. “Ask me what I’m going to do tomorrow but nothing about poker.”


And this is where a man faces the final test of his mettle. After losing in such a brutal way, could Schaffel keep it together? Could he field the endless banal questions without snapping himself in two pieces and spraying his blood all over the interviewers?

Indeed he could. Schaffel was gracious as always and answered the questions with a smile. It was a rueful smile, but a smile nonetheless.

There is no training manual on how to make that long walk to the rail, but if you need an example of how to do it proudly, you can look to Kevin Schaffel.

Watch WSOP 2009 Nov9 Kevin Schaffel exit on

And the action from the hour:

Gossip, gossip, chatter, chatter. The biggest pot from the past hour has got poker analysts and railbirds alike chirping away. “How could he fold?” is the question on most of their lips. You decide for yourself.

Darvin Moon and Steven Begleiter had around six million in the pot pre-flop and the three cards off the deck were: 3♠4♠2♦. Moon checked, Begleiter bet 5,350,000 and Moon now finds a re-raise, making it 15 million. Begleiter is not scared and moves all in for a total of about 21 million, ie six million more. Most people, including everyone in the press box, are expecting an insta-call, but Moon opts to fold, yielding the pot of close to 40 million to Begleiter.


Darvin Moon

That hand took Moon out of the chip lead for the first time since about July 13. The new man at the top of the tree is Eric Buchman, with close to 52 million. Begleiter has 44 million and Moon 42 million.


Eric Buchman

The short stack at that point was Phil Ivey, with 8,550,000. But he added a few more following what would previously have been described as Dwell of the hour. Jeff Shulman raised from the button and Ivey shoved from the big blind. Shulman dwelled for what was at least five minutes before eventually letting it go. Ivey picked up another million but remains close to Joe Cada and, now, Shulman as the three short stacks.

The blinds and antes have been raised as we have now entered level 36, where they’re playing 250,000-500,000 (ante 5,000). There will be a two hour dinner break at 7pm, meaning you should return here at 9.30pm for our next update. It’s pretty much non-stop from then until there are only two of them left.


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