WSOP Main Event: The best of the November Nine (part 1)

It’s the poker world’s biggest final table and it’s played host to some of the most memorable hands with millions of dollars on the line – join us as we celebrate seven years of action from the November Nine at the Rio in Las Vegas

For the past seven years, action at the WSOP Main Event has been halted once the action gets down to nine players. Everyone is paid out ninth place money and then the wait begins – 120 or so days to contemplate how you’re going to spin your short stack up and avoid going home with no extra cash, or how you’re going to crush with your monster stack and write your name in the history books. Since 2008 we’ve witnessed some of the biggest names in the game trying to cement their legacy, some of the biggest meltdowns in the history of poker and some of the bravest moves you’ll ever see on the felt. Prepare to relive the November Nine’s finest, unluckiest and stupidest moments…

2008: Fancy play syndrome

When the November Nine was first announced in 2008 it split the poker world. The thought of waiting 120 or so days for the final table to play out seemed absurd, but it definitely shined a bright light on the nine lucky players. 2008 was a fascinating final table. Dennis Phillips – the oldest of the nine – went in as a narrow chip leader, but lost a pot to Ylon Schwartz early on before a huge hand erupted…

Ivan Demidov v Dennis Phillips

The table is nine-handed when the two biggest stacks, Demidov and Phillips butt heads. Phillips limps A-K♣ UTG and Demidov raises the button with A♣-Q♣. Phillips springs the trap, re-raising Demidov to a chunky 3.525m. The fearless Russian four-bets, popping it up to 8.225m. Suddenly Phillips is faced with the prospect of playing for stacks early on and his big slick starts shrinking.

It’s an odd move from Demidov. What hands does he think Phillips is limp-re-raising from UTG? A-K is at the absolute bottom of his range and even if he puts him exactly on that then he’s got to hope Phillips isn’t going to move all-in preflop.

Reluctantly Phillips announces a call. Big mistake. He wouldn’t play Aces or Kings like this leaving A-K and possibly Queens as his only two hands. The pot is a massive 17.2m and Phillips has handed the initiative to Demidov.

The flop of 8-T♣-J♠ gives Demidov a gutshot and it’s all he needs. After a weak lead from Phillips – 4.5m into 17m – Demidov moves all-in and when Phillips doesn’t snap he knows he’s got him. Phillips duly folds the best hand.

It’s a hugely risky move and Phillips is perhaps the only player at the table it would have worked against. Demidov took a commanding lead after this but Phillips rallied to finish third. Demidov finished runner-up to Peter Eastgate.

2009: World’s best is bust

The 2009 November Nine was all about Phil Ivey, the world’s best player. And a logger from Maryland – Darvin Moon – who started the final table as the chip leader. Ivey was short-stacked but if anyone could stage a comeback it was him. With seven players left though, the inevitable happened.

Phil Ivey v Darvin Moon

Ivey wakes up with A-K and, with his two biggest supporters watching nervously from the rail, moves all-in for just over ten big blinds. The action folds around to Darvin Moon who looks down at A-Q. He takes a moment to think and then announces a call.

If the hand holds Ivey leapfrogs Joe Cada in sixth place and, with 20 big blinds, has a chance to mount a serious challenge for the bracelet. Cards have no truck with big names though. The dealer fans the flop and a Queen hits sending Ivey to the rail. Moon went on to finish second to Joe Cada.

2010: World’s biggest blow-up?

If you want to win a poker tournament you need to be prepared to put it all on the line. Three players were left at the 2010 final table when one of the biggest Main Event pots of all time played out.

Jonathan Duhamel v Joseph Cheong

Joseph Cheong is chip leader with 95m to Duhamel’s 88m. Between them they have 83% of the chips in play. Cheong picks up A-7 in the small blind and raises only to see Duhamel play back at him. Knowing Duhamel can only commit with a monster, he four-bets. When Duhamel five-bets he shoves only to see Duhamel call with Queens. No Ace arrives to save him and Cheong is crippled. He’s railed shortly after.

Genius or madness? No one really knows, but the happiest player on the table was John Racener, who effectively picked up an extra $1.4m for sitting and doing nothing.

Click here for part 2 

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