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February 27, 2015

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Long break awaits the ‘November Nine’

Nine millionaires will reconvene on the felt Nov. 7 to determine the champion


Associated Press

Players who made the final table of the World Series of Poker pose for a photograph at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Wednesday, July 15, 2009. They are from left, James Akenhead, Jeff Shulman, Phil Ivey, Antoine Saout, Darvin Moon, Joseph Cada, Steven Begleiter, Kevin Schaffel and Eric Buchman.

2009 WSOP Final Table

Players who made the final table of the World Series of Poker pose for a photograph at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Wednesday, July 15, 2009. They are from left, James Akenhead, Jeff Shulman, Phil Ivey, Antoine Saout, Darvin Moon, Joseph Cada, Steven Begleiter, Kevin Schaffel and Eric Buchman. Launch slideshow »

Final Table Chip Count

  • Darvin Moon — 58,930,000
  • Eric Buchman — 34,800,000
  • Steven Begleiter — 29,885,000
  • Jeff Shulman — 19,580,000
  • Joe Cada — 13,215,000
  • Kevin Schaffel — 12,390,000
  • Phil Ivey — 9,765,000
  • Antoine Saout - 9,500,000
  • James Akenhead — 6,800,000

Nine lucky poker players are about to take the sweetest four-month vacation in sports.

After nearly nine hours of play Wednesday, the World Series of Poker Main Event has come together with a diverse mix of several poker pros, a logger, a magazine editor and an investment banker.

The final table participants are Phil Ivey, Darvin Moon, James Akenhead, Kevin Schaffel, Steven Begleiter, Eric Buchman, Joe Cada, Antoine Saout and Jeff Shulman.

These nine players, now known as the "November Nine," will break from the action until Nov. 7 when they will return to play out the finale of the Main Event with a live, heads-up conclusion on ESPN at the Penn & Teller Theater inside the Rio on Nov. 10.

Everyone at the final table is guaranteed at least $1,263,602 with the winner snagging a gold bracelet and $8,546,435.

But not everyone is thrilled about the long layoff, which was instituted last year to boost television ratings.

Ivey, who is the most well-known member of the final table, said he wishes he could have played through the night to determine the champion.

"Nothing changes over the next four months other than I'll actually watch some poker on TV," Ivey said. "…It's a drawback because I'm kind of in a groove of playing with these guys. When they come back in November they might play differently."

The long break, however, might play to Ivey's strength as the top pro at the table.

Ivey will enter November's final table in sixth place with a stack of 9,765,000, but he has a lot of maneuvering to do in order to catch chip leader Darvin Moon who has a stack of 58,930,000 chips.

"They absolutely will play differently and I might talk to Phil between now and then because he is right to think that," said 2008 final table member Dennis Phillips. "I guarantee you people will come back and it will be like a whole new table. You will be amazed at how differently it will play."

Phillips is no stranger to the obstacles that can rise up at the November final table.

In the 2008 Main Event, Phillips spent four months as the chip leader before ultimately finishing in third place with a prize of more than $4 million.

Although he wishes he could have won the gold bracelet, Phillips does admit the long pause has its benefits.

"As a poker player I wasn't for it," Phillips said. "Me sitting at the table, I had good control of the table, I had the chip lead and I didn't want to quit. You had to pry me out of that chair. However, look at the alternative. I had 117 days to go around and build my brand and make plans for all of my friends to get out here. I did a lot of work for charities. In the long run, I hate to admit it, but it was a good break because I used it well."

Moon, who has more than 24 million chips more than anyone else at the table was thrilled to leave Las Vegas.

In fact, he was upset that he had to miss a day of work at a family-run logging company because of the late finish Wednesday.

"As soon as I get home, I'm going back to work in the woods and forgetting about poker for awhile" Moon said. "I was supposed to be back to work Friday, but I had to postpone my flight. I just wish I had brought my work boots here, because the shoes I brought are killing me."

While Moon, who prides himself on being a "humble, small-town man," might enjoy the retreat from the commotion of Las Vegas, others view the break as a keen marketing ploy to grow the game of poker.

"It was phenomenal last year," said ESPN poker broadcaster Lon McEachern. "It was way beyond my expectations and I think it was way beyond the expectations of anyone here at ESPN or the World Series of Poker… I think it was a great boost for poker, a great boost for those final nine players and any of those players coming after them."

With their chips bagged, tagged and locked away in the Rio vault, all Moon, Ivey, Akenhead, Schaffel, Begleiter, Buchman, Cada, Saout and Shulman can do is wait until November – and of course enjoy being millionaires.

Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].

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