WSOP Main Event: The best of the November Nine (part 2)


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2011: Lamb to the slaughter

Ben Lamb was the hottest tournament player in the world going into the 2011 Main Event. He’d already cashed four times at the WSOP that summer, winning his first bracelet and recording a runner-up finish along with an 8th and a 12th in the other three.

He ended Days 1 and 2 as the Main Event chip leader and once he made the final table he was crowned the 2011 WSOP Player of the Year.

Down to three-handed play and Pius Heinz was the dominant chip leader with over 100m in chips. Lamb had 50m and Martin Staszko had 40m. Play was paused at this point and the three players came back the next day to crown the champion. Bruce Buffer got the action underway and immediately Lamb went to war…

Ben Lamb v Martin Staszko

Pius Heinz folds the first hand and Ben Lamb raises to 3m with K-J. Martin Staszko has pocket Sevens and three-bets to 7.5m. Ben Lamb isn’t for folding and shoves over the top. Staszko doesn’t take a second to make the call and his pair holds up.

Lamb is crippled and a few hands later he loses the rest of his chips to Staszko with Q-6 against Jacks. After five hands, his dream is over.

Lamb was interviewed straight after and said he has no regrets. ‘It was a great experience’, he said. ‘All my friends and family are here and we’re going to go out and have a great night tonight. I’ll be alright in about 20 or 30 minutes. I’m just in shock from the emotional high to the low.’

‘I thought he’d have some A-6s and A-7s he’d fold,’ Lamb continued. ‘I think any Ace actually he’d raise and then fold most of them. I wanted to come in aggressive.’

Lamb certainly managed that and although the hand might appear spewy out of context, Esfandiari called it ‘standard’ on commentary.

2012: He called?

There was no November Nine in 2012. Because of the US Presidential elections the final tabled played out at the end of October and, on paper at least, it was the least interesting for a number of years. There was one pretty incredible story playing out though. Greg Merson, who had already won the prestigious $10k Six-Max event earlier in the summer, was looking to seal the most unlikely of poker comebacks.

‘The lowest point of my life was detoxing from Roxycontin in a Vegas hotel room on December 10, 2011,’ said Merson in an interview with PokerPlayer. ‘I’m a recovering drug addict. Poker has saved me… I didn’t get clean just to make money. I got clean because I had almost no hope in life anymore.’

The 2012 final table was the longest in WSOP history and after over 400 hands Merson got heads-up against Jesse Sylvia, who had hired Vanessa Selbst as his coach.

Greg Merson v Jesse Sylvia

Merson raises to 4m with K-5 and Sylvia raises to 9.5m. Antonio Esfandiari thinks he spots a tell and says that Sylvia is weak. Merson announces that he’s all-in.

Sylvia goes into the tank and the commentators try to guess what he’s got. Esfandiari is asked if he would call if he had K-J and Esfandiari says he might just find a call if it was suited but he wouldn’t like it and that he’d probably fold.

Eventually Sylvia makes the call and flips Q♠-J♠. Against Merson’s exact hand he’s in pretty decent shape with 45% equity. Without knowing this though it’s a strange call for all your chips with over $3m between first and second places.

His coach, Vanessa Selbst, looks stunned on the rail and mouths ‘He called?’ Incredulously as the hands are revealed. The board bricks for Sylvia and Merson completes the comeback.

2013: The sickness

JC Tran was the latest poker superstar to make the November Nine and, unlike Phil Ivey, he went into the final table as chip leader. David ‘Raptor’ Benefield, one of the original online superstars, also made the November Nine after an extended break from the game.

Neither would go on to win the bracelet though – that honour fell to Ryan Riess. Jay Farber was the runner-up, helped along by picking up Aces to Marc-Etienne McLaughlin’s Kings. It’s a cooler in any tournament, but at the Main Event final table it’s just sick.

Jay Farber v Marc-Etienne McLaughlin

With six players left McLaughlin raises to 1.6m and Farber three-bets to 3.8m. McLaughlin pumps it up to 8.7m and Farber’s chest starts pumping. Farber raises to 19.4m, McLaughlin moves all-in and Farber snaps creating a 79m pot – 40% of the chips in play.

2014: ‘Not f♣king finishing 9th again’

Making the November Nine is an incredible achievement. Making it in back-to-back years is unthinkable, but after Mark Newhouse busted in ninth in 2013, he had a shot at redemption. In 2013 he was one of the short stacks, but in 2014 he was third in chips and set for a solid tilt at the title.

When he bought in he tweeted the following: ‘Just bought into the main event day 1c. Not fucking finishing 9th again.’ Oh Mark…

Mark Newhouse v Will Tonking

Jorryt Van Hoof raises to 1.1m and Newhouse calls with Tens on the button. Tonking three-bets to 3.75m with Queens, Hoof folds and Newhouse makes the call. Tonking bets the flop and Newhouse bets the turn, taking them to the 2-4-J-4-J river. Tonking checks and Newhouse moves all-in. Tonking tank-calls and Newhouse finishes ninth again.


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