The November Nine Begins

Delaying the Final Table to November

Throughout its history, the World Series of Poker had always been a continuous event, where the tournament would continue without interruption until a winner was decided. In 2008 though, the decision was made to delay the action at the final table for several months, and instead of having the champion declared in July, the final was put off until November. Thus, the group that survived became known as the November Nine.

This had the effect of changing the dynamic of the final table considerably. Instead of just being thrust into it, players were now paid the ninth place money of almost a million, and now had almost 4 months to prepare for the big event. This was particularly significant given that the event was now chock full of amateur players, who now had both plenty of money and plenty of time to seriously work on their game. With so much money on the line, it would definitely be well worth their while to do so.

One of the main reasons for this delay was to accommodate the needs of ESPN, the event’s main broadcaster. The idea was to not only allow a lot more hype to be built up leading up to the final table, it also allowed them to broadcast highlights from the earlier play in the main event on a regular basis, spreading it all out throughout the rest of the summer and most of the fall. It also permitted them to broadcast the action from the final table much closer to the conclusion of the event, and in fact the live event took place on Nov 9, with it broadcast only 2 days later.

Although the nature of the action in live play was much too slow for the tastes of the broad audience they were looking to target, and they required that it be shown in highlight format as in other years, the tournament was now being played according to their own schedule, and this certainly made it much easier to schedule things closer to the actual end of play. This also allowed them to put together a one hour preview slot prior to the two hour highlight show from the final table action, something that would not have been possible if not for the layoff.

So the November Nine become set on, fittingly, November 9th. With an extremely small stack, which amounted to only about 2% of the total amount of chips on the table, Kelly Kim was hoping to survive long enough to outlast one of the other players and improve on his expected 9th place finish. The other players at the table were seemingly not having any of this though, as they seemed to be waiting for Kim to exit and bump up all their payouts by a spot.

Amazingly, Kim managed to survive for a full three hours and was overjoyed to see Craig Marquis, who started the final table in eighth place with 10.2 million chips to Kim’s mere 2.6 million, go out ahead of him. Kim’s patience and skill ended up earning him an extra $388,000. Marquis was hoping to become the first Texan to win the main event since Bill Smith accomplished the feat 23 years earlier. In a game once dominated by Texans, with the game of choice at the WSOP finale even being called Texas Hold’em, things sure had changed.

Marquis was quoted as stating that he regretted going out ahead of Kim, but he was playing to win and not just survive. Kim on the other hand was clearly playing to survive, and survive he did. Kim’s time did come eventually though, and he bowed out in 8th place. The next player to go out was David “Chino” Rheem, from Los Angeles, who sat down in 7th place when the action began and exited in the same spot

So the bottom 3 at the beginning of play had all departed. This left Dennis Phillips of St, Louis, the chip leader going in, Ivan Demidov of Russia who started second, Scott Montgomery of Canada who started third, Peter Eastgate of Denmark, starting fourth, Ylon Schwartz of New York City, starting fifth, and Darius Suharto, also from Canada, starting sixth. Suharto was looking to follow in the footsteps of Chris Moneymaker and become yet another full time accountant to win the world championship. He unfortunately fell short and went out in 6th. In spite of his big cash, over 2.4 million, he went back to his accounting job in Toronto once the event was finished.

Fellow Canadian Scott Montgomery was next to go, and fate certainly wasn’t on his side in his final hand. There was only one card in the deck that he would lose to, and if any other card but this one hit, he’d still be alive and in a lot better shape. The fateful card incredibly hit the table though and Montgomery was gone. Rather than be furious at this horrible bad beat, he remained a gentleman and announced that he would do better next time. He did manage to take home over three million dollars to ease his pain.

This now left Phillips, Demidov, Eastgate, and Schwartz as the final four left standing, or in this case, sitting. Schwartz, a former chess pro, declared that if he won the championship he would run away and get lost like Andy in the Shawshank Redemption. As it turned out, that was a decision he didn’t have to make, as he was unable to crack the top 3. Still though, over $3.7 million was certainly enough to hide away in Mexico if he wished. He was followed by Phillips, who began the final table as the chip leader, but watched them dwindle away, and now they were all gone. He still pocketed over $4.5 million, so he couldn’t have been too disappointed.

So now it was heads up between 27 year old Ivan Demidov, who was looking to become the first Russian champion of poker, and 22 year old Peter Eastgate, who was both looking to become the first winner of the WSOP main event from Denmark, and also the youngest player ever to win. That record was currently held by Phil Hellmuth, at 24 years of age, and the record had lasted almost 20 years.

Demidov had the lead initially, but Eastgate’s relentless aggression ended up proving too much for him. In the final hand, Demidov got all his chips in with 2 pair, normally an extremely strong hand in heads up play. Eastgate had hit a runner runner straight though and walked away with the title. Demidov was very gracious in defeat and also had almost $6 million as his consolation prize. Eastgate’s over $9.1 million was the second highest payout in poker history.