The November Nine Ranked in Terms of Best to Worst for Poker
The WSOP Main Event finally resumes this Saturday after a four-month long hiatus. These four months give poker fans a nice opportunity to find out what each player is about and determine how good, bad or indifferent a victory by them would be for the poker world. In this article, we've ranked the nine players from most to least in terms of how much the poker world should be rooting for them to win:
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#1: Darvin Moon (30.2% of the chips in play)
If you don't know anything about the 45 year old chip-leader of the Main Event, check out this piece the Washington Times did on him. Moon has all the "regular guy" likability characteristics of Chris Moneymaker, only more pronounced. He's never played online poker. He doesn't use a credit card. He doesn't have an email address. He had never been on a commercial flight prior to his journey to Vegas for this year's WSOP. Best of all, he's completely humble about the sick run of cards he received en route to this final table. A Darvin Moon victory could trigger a mini-Moneymaker effect, especially if the dream scenario of Moon beating Phil Ivey heads-up to win the World Championship occurs.
#2: Phil Ivey (5%)
All eyes will be on Phil Ivey when play resumes on Saturday. He is now unquestionably the most important poker player in the world. His face is currently on the cover of ESPN the Magazine. A Main Event win by Ivey would propel poker into the mainstream like it has never been before. There is almost nothing unlikable about Ivey. As if being the best player in the world wasn't enough, Ivey gives off an aura that make people stop and stare when he walks into the room. Ballerness is measured in units of Phil Ivey. A Main Event win would spread Ivey's God-like status to new corners of society and that is great for poker.
#3: Joe Cada (6.8%)
Twenty-one year old Joe Cada could be a great ambassador for poker. A win would make him the youngest player to win the Main Event. Generally, the idea of some young kid winning the Main Event isn't ideal for poker, but in Cada's case, it might not be so bad. He seems to always be wearing a smile which does a lot for his likability. Moreover, he's got a lot of charisma; he told us in an interview that "anything less than first will be an extreme disappointment." Having just 6.8% of the chips in play would prevent most from having such a competitive spirit, but in Cada's case, he's ready to seize the moment. Cada is like Peter Eastgate only with more of a personality.
#4: Jeff Shulman (10%)
Shulman, the President of Card Player Magazine, is pretty much the median player at this final table with regards to how good or bad his victory would be. The only player besides Ivey who had some notoriety prior to this tournament, Shulman is pretty good on paper but pretty drab on television. He has been at this final table before in 2000 when he finished 7th.
There are two things that would make a Shulman victory somewhat positive for poker. First, his father Barry won the WSOP Europe Main Event last month. A father-son duo as reigning champions of the two WSOP Main Events would be a pretty good story I suppose. Second, Shulman has enlisted the services of Phil Hellmuth to coach him for this final table. Like him or not, Hellmuth is great for poker. He is everything Shulman is not: a brash character that stirs excitement about the game. As Shulman's coach, he'll undoubtedly be taking some of the spotlight away from these nine players at the final table.
#5: James Akenhead (3.5%)
This soft-spoken Briton has a couple things going for him when one considers what an Akenhead World Championship would mean for poker. Most importantly, he's British. There's never been a British World Champion. A victory by Akenhead would launch a bit of a buzz around England. The more poker media coverage, the better. Also, Akenhead arrives at this final table as the short stack. Therefore, he isn't being given much of a thought by anyone. To rally from having just 3.5% of the chips to 100% of the chips would be a pretty cool story.
#6: Steven Begleiter (15.3%)
This former Bear Stearns executive doesn't come across as particularly likable, but at least he comes across as something. On ESPN's coverage of the WSOP, Begleiter has been featured a fair amount and frankly comes across as kind of a douchebag. When he sucks out on a player, he celebrates obnoxiously. His fans obnoxiously chant his name when he wins a pot. Mix in the fact that he had a pretty direct role in the Bear Stearns collapse, which caused many their life fortune, and Begleiter is about as close to a villain as you're going to get at this final table.
#7: Antoine Saout (4.9%)
Pretty much the only thing that Saout has going for him is that he's French. This is the World Series of Poker, so to that extent, there's something to be said for having winners from a wide array of nations. Beyond that, a Saout victory would be pretty uninspiring. At least Peter Eastgate was really young and played incredibly well. Saout is neither really young nor does he seem to play particularly sharp.
#8: Kevin Schaffel (6.4%)
At the time this article was published, ESPN's coverage of the WSOP has showed players reach the final 18 (they play down to 9 in Tuesday's coverage). And yet, Schaffel has seen virtually zero airtime. That's because he's boring. At 51, he's the oldest player at this final table. His story is pretty generic: wife, kids, amateur player who took his shot. Yawn! About the only good thing you could say about Schaffel is that if he wins, at least he'll carry himself in a way that makes him a decent ambassador for the game.
#9: Eric Buchman (17.9%)
Eric Buchman is well-positioned to make this final table the biggest buzzkill poker has ever seen. He sits quietly second in chips and some, including this author, think he should be considered the favorite to win this event. He might not have a Moon-sized stack, but with over $1,000,000 in lifetime tournament winnings, he's got quite a lot of experience. The problem is that there's nothing inherently likable about him. He's not particularly good looking or well-spoken. He's not young, he's not old. He's just a generic-looking 30 year old poker player who could make people refer to this final table as "the year Ivey was there," not "the year Buchman won."