Nine

They’re down to the final table at the World Series of Poker’s Main Event tournament, and a couple of familiar faces are still in the mix.

My poker hero, Phil Ivey — a.k.a. The Tiger Woods of Poker — sits in seventh place. Phil has been on quite a roll at the WSOP this year, adding two victories in earlier tournaments to bring his career bracelet total to seven. Despite holding one of the shorter stacks at the Main Event final table, Phil will be the player to watch when the tournament finishes in November.

Also earning one of the coveted seats is Card Player Magazine publisher Jeff Shulman, making his second appearance at a Main Event final table. Shulman finished seventh back in 2000, the year Chris “Jesus” Ferguson won all the chips and the gold bracelet. Jeff will be in fourth place when play resumes.

As has become the norm at the WSOP, the chip leader is an unknown — Darvin Moon, who’s said to be a lumberjack from Maryland. (I don’t know whether there’s any validity to the rumor that Moon puts on women’s clothing and hangs around in bars.)

The complete final table, with current chip counts, looks like this:

1. Darvin Moon – 58,930,000
2. Eric Buchman – 34,800,000
3. Steven Begleiter – 29,885,000
4. Jeff Shulman – 19,580,000
5. Joseph Cada – 13,215,000
6. Kevin Schaffel – 12,390,000
7. Phil Ivey – 9,765,000
8. Antoine Saout – 9,500,000
9. James Akenhead – 6,800,000

I’m still not sold on the gimmick, begun last year, of stopping the Main Event when the final table is set, and continuing play in November. I understand the logic — it affords four months to build suspense and public awareness, and gives ESPN a big event to broadcast during the fall ratings sweeps — but it just seems stupid to halt a tournament in mid-game and take 16 weeks off before resuming. It would be like baseball holding the divisional playoffs and league championship series in October, then not playing the World Series until the following spring. All of the momentum — for both participants and spectators — is gone.

But that’s yet another reason why I’m not in charge.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to spend four months listening to the onrushing footsteps of Phil Ivey. Then again, considering that every member of the November Nine is guaranteed a minimum $1.2 million payday…

…I think I’d get over it.

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