Tuesday, July 21, 2009 | 5:56 p.m.
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
- Long break awaits the ‘November Nine’ (7-16-2009)
- Humble logger could become a true people’s champion (7-16-2009)
- Final table set for World Series of Poker (7-15-2009)
- Unique announcers and massive crew combine for memorable ESPN broadcasts (7-15-2009)
- Women make strong showing in Main Event (7-14-2009)
- Poker players relax with massage at table (7-11-2009)
- ESPN’s feature table provides as much publicity as profitability (7-8-2009)
- Oldest player exits World Series of Poker (7-7-2009)
- Hundreds of poker players turned away from main event (7-6-2009)
- Poker pro Annie Duke doesn’t like her nickname (7-1-2009)
- Bach pulls out marathon HORSE victory (7-1-2009)
- Behind the scenes, tournament has stable of 850 dealers (6-6-2009)
For 50 days this summer Las Vegas enjoyed a front row seat to the largest and most prestigious poker event in the world.
Now, just one week from today, ESPN will share that poker jewel with an international audience as it begins a number of weekly broadcasts of the World Series of Poker.
ESPN plans to air 24 hours of the No Limit Texas Hold 'em Main Event coverage plus two more hours for the live final table in November at the Rio every Tuesday night starting July 28.
In addition to the Main Event, ESPN is also airing special broadcasts of the $40,000 No Limit Hold 'em tournament, the WSOP Champions Invitational and the Ante Up for Africa Celebrity-Charity Event.
"This is the most excited I've ever been for a season of the World Series of Poker," said ESPN coordinating producer Jamie Horowitz during a teleconference Tuesday. "Not just because we get to kick it off with new events that we've never televised before … but what is most fun is the Main Event and we are doing a record number of hours this year."
Last year, ESPN aired 18 hours of the Main Event, which at the time was still an enormous amount of television coverage.
When Chris Moneymaker won the first ESPN-televised Main Event in 2003, the network only showed six hours of the tournament.
"The most common comment we hear from fans is that they want to watch more of the Main Event," Horowitz said.
After deciding to allocate a record amount of airtime to the Main Event this year, ESPN flopped a royal flush of a final table ripe with compelling story lines.
The chip leader, Darvin Moon, is a logger from Maryland representing the true rags-to-riches angle. If he holds on to his chip lead, he will walk away with more than $8.5 million.
Yet Moon will share the same table as legendary poker pro Phil Ivey, who has won seven WSOP gold bracelets in his career.
"Each final table is like a snowflake," ESPN poker broadcaster Norman Chad said. "They're all different and I love them all. This one is terrific for me because if you have the greatest player in the world and you have a logger whose whole business is lumber at the same table, that's as good as it gets. Phil Ivey and Darvin Moon are the main event in a nutshell."
Beyond those two, though, there are many other compelling personalities at the feature table.
In last place is James Akenhead, a 28-year-old rising star in the poker world from England, who will sit next to established poker pro Eric Buchman, French amateur Antoine Saout and the oldest player at the final table, Kevin Schaffel.
Investment banker Steven Begleiter, might draw the ire of some fans as he was a senior executive at Bear Stearns before the financial giant's collapse.
But Jeff Shulman might play the villain role at least in the eyes of Harrah's. Shulman is the editor of Cardplayer Magazine and has stated that he will throw away the gold bracelet if it he wins it, because he loathes Harrah's for partnering with Cardplayer's competitor Bluff Magazine.
"The key to good poker television is good storytelling," Horowitz said.
Joseph Cada, a 21-year-old from Shelby Township, Mich., is the youth ambassador at the final table.
Cada, who dropped out of college to play poker professionally, is currently in fifth place. If he can pull of the miracle and win, he would become the youngest Main Event champion in history, surpassing Peter Eastgate's victory at 22.
"The youth are really disrupting things in the poker world," ESPN poker broadcaster Lon McEachern said. "…We've seen it coming for a number of years, the style is more aggressive and more bold. Joe, I'm sure, is a young player who's willing to take those risks… It's the young guys who are really driving poker right now."
Although the Main Event final table is sure to fuel poker's rise in the broadcast ratings, some poker enthusiasts are upset that ESPN decided to pull the plug on televising the $50,000 HORSE event.
ESPN defended its decision Tuesday, citing a lack of fan support for the event.
"We've enjoyed televising HORSE in the past and it's very possible we will do so again in the future," Horowitz said. "This year we decided to test out a different type of schedule. We won't pass judgment until after the November final table."
Carnival lasts all year at the Rio. With a float occasionally passing overhead and dropping beads while feathered dancers fire up the gamblers below, the Rio tries to keep its 120,000-square foot casino jumping with excitement. Special Brazilian mixed-drinks are also served throughout the casino. The hotel suites tend to be larger than similar priced rooms on the Strip and many offer excellent views with floor to ceiling windows.
The Rio offers some quality shows like "Penn & Teller" and "Chippendales." Many come to the Rio for the nightlife at the VooDoo Lounge, located on the 51st floor, or McFadden's Irish Pub on the casino level.
Others come for a bit relaxation at the Rio Spa or pool area and still others come to shop at the hotel's 60,000 square feet of shops. In each of these endeavors, the Rio attempts to make the experience a bit more fun and spontaneous.
The Rio also offers guests a variety of dining choices from all-American food at the All-American Bar & Grille to Gaylord India Restaurant for something a little spicier and even Carnival World Buffet for the indecisive.
Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].