WSOP 2011 – meet the November Nine [Editorial]
Friday, 22 July 2011
With the elimination of John Hewitt in 10th place at the 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event, he took a consolation prize of $607,882 for joining poker’s least-popular club: those of 10th place finishers in the Main Event. He joins former bubble boys Dean Hamrick and Jordan Smith in the lists of those who came oh-so-close to the brief immortality afforded to the nine final tablists at the WSOP Main Event.
This year our November Nine is led by Martin Staszko of the Czech Republic, who has almost a fifth of the chips in play with over 40m. Our nine players have an average stack of 42 big blinds to come back to after four months with even the shortest stack not in Harrington’s “red zone”; Samuel Holden has a little under 25 big blinds sitting in ninth place.
This year the November Nine shows off poker’s amazing diversity with seven countries represented at the final table – England, Ireland, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Germany, Belize and the USA. Despite a great five-bracelet performance this year, Canada will not be repeating the process of crowning poker’s champion.
Martin Staszko is chip leader of the final table with a stack of 40,175,000. At 35, he is the second-oldest player at the final table. He gave up a career in the automotive industry to play poker for a living and this marks his fifth cash of the 2011 WSOP. The previous best cash was a 39th-place finish in a $1,500 Omaha 8 event so he’s made this his best. Prior to the 2011 WSOP he had a couple of close calls with final tables finishing 10th at the Unibet Open Prague and 11th at EPT Deauville. Online, he plays as “filfedra” and just this year won SCOOP Event #5 on PokerStars for almost $100,000.
Eoghan O’Dea is coming in second place with 33,925,000. A student in his mid-twenties, he learned poker from watching Late Night Poker – and also having a dad who was the first player in the European Poker Hall of Fame and has final tabled the Main Event twice probably helps. Donnacha O’Dea has over $1.1m in live tournament cashes but with this final table Eoghan has surpassed him. His previous results for this year alone include three WSOP cashes and a third place in a $1,000 Aussie Millions event. In 2008/9 he took runner-up in both the Sky Sports Poker Million VII ($260,000) and WPT Marrakech ($388,532).
Matt Giannetti is one of two US players at the final table and one of few US players who seems to have done alright out of Black Friday. A University of Texas graduate, he began playing poker in 2006 and is a full-time pro in Las Vegas. Prior to the November Nine he had made a name for himself in the high limit cash games on the Strip and had accumulated over $500k in cashes for live tournaments. He has two previous WSOP final tables – a fourth place in a $2,500 PLO event from 2009 and a fifth place in the $5,000 NL Shootout in 2008. He has 24,750,000 of the 205,950,000 in play.
Phil Collins is super-fun to write about because we get to make Phil Collins references. “USCPhildo” has earned over $3.3m playing online and counts both fellow November Niner Ben Lamb and tournament crusher supreme Jason Mercier amongst his friends. And take a look at him now (sorry) – he built up a big chip lead in the final days before having to settle for arriving at the final table in fourth place with 23,875,000. Previously he has had no major results outside of a few cashes in the live poker scene.
Ben Lamb is one of the November Niners I predicted in a previous blog – the Online Grinder on a HUGE Heater, though huge enough only to get him 20,875,000. “Benba” was well-known and duly respected online but it wasn’t until this summer that the whole poker world took notice of him. First he finished runner-up to his friend Sam Stein in the $3,000 Omaha event before going on to win the $10,000 Omaha Championship outright. That put him close to seven figures for the series, in addition to the rumoured million plus he won in cash games. Gunning for the Player of the Year ahead of Phil Hellmuth, he final tabled the $50,000 Players’ Championship and made a deep run in the $10,000 6-max NL event before overtaking Hellmuth by making it past 138th place in the Main Event. He has won well over $2m at the 2011 WSOP even if he were to bust in ninth place.
Badih Bounahra is another I predicted, albeit I said “US businessman” rather than “Belize businessman”. The oldest player at the final table by more than a decade, 49-year-old Bounahra has a string of tournament cashes behind him despite his amateur status. He is the closest we have to another Darvin Moon, though I imagine he’s more like Dennis Phillips – actually pretty damn good at poker. Orginally from Lebanon, he runs a private poker room in Belize City. He also has other businesses and a chip stack of 19,700,000.
Pius Heinz is not a humble tin of baked beans but a German poker player who makes this final table his second live cash – previously he final tabled a $1,500 NL event this same year for over $80k. You can’t have that much rungood in large-field NL events. It’s not allowed. The second youngest player at the table, the 22-year-old German plays online as “mastap89” and has online titles including the Full Tilt Poker Sunday Mulligan. Hope he cashed it out.
Anton Makiievskiy was the first player to break 30m chips but thanks to some big pots going the wrong way he is the second-shortest stack at the table with just 13,825,000 to his name. At 21 he has few live cashes to speak of and if he plays online, we’ve struggled to find his alias. The presumption is that he’s a mid-stakes no-name grinder who will not have no name for much longer.
Samuel Holden provides the Brits with our hope and he was even courteous enough to remember that we like rooting for the underdog and thus made sure not to accumulate too many chips. Beneath a mop of hair lies a keen poker mind that has won him $11,000 in live cashes... and a further $300,000 online where he plays on Full Tilt and PokerStars under the names SamDMND and S4MDMND. He has 12,375,000.