4:30 a.m. ET: We have our November Nine, and yes, Phil Ivey is one of them. After an eight-level final-day marathon last year, it was quite shocking that the final table had been determined by 3 a.m. ET. The final 27 players showed up on perhaps the biggest day of their poker careers, and as they had for the entire main event, they played fast. By 6:40 p.m. ET, under four hours into play on Wednesday, only 18 remained. Antonio Esfandiari was eliminated in 24th place, and hopes of a double-superstar final table vanished. From that point, all eyes were on Phil Ivey, who was the short stack almost the entire day. Ivey battled and battled as the field got smaller, but he never faced an all-in moment during the final day.
Meanwhile, as the field of 18 became 10, Darvin Moon's stack increased, and it was only fitting that Moon finished the job just 45 minutes into the 10-handed final table. On the final hand, Eric Buchman raised, was called by Moon, and then was reraised by Jordan Smith. Buchman folded and Moon called, leading them heads-up to a flop of 8-4-2. Smith checked and Moon led out for $4 million. Smith, with a total of nearly $15 million, reraised all-in and was instantly called by Moon who had flopped top set. Smith showed A-A and sheepishly hoped for a miracle card to either hit the turn or river. The turn was a 5, giving Smith some additional outs. He needed either an ace for a better set or a three for a straight. However, Smith would be the biggest bubble boy of the year as the river was a 10 and Moon raked in the chips to give him a stack of $59 million when play begins in November.
Even though Phil Ivey is one of the short stacks, he's definitely the one the rest of the players are watching. After interviewing Ivey on Thursday's Poker Edge Podcast, it's clear that he's been waiting for this opportunity his entire life. He wasn't concerned about any of the other players at the final table, and he joked that he's going to change his cell phone and leave the country ... then he said he was serious. Since his poker face was on with that statement, who really knows what he meant, but that is the enigma of Ivey. No matter what his actual intentions are at this time, he will be the focus of the media and of poker fans everywhere as the days count down to November. Can he win the bracelet that nobody ever thought a pro could win again? We'll find out in November.
Gary Wise breaks down the final nine here, but here are my closing thoughts on the main event:
(1) The fact that Darvin Moon and Billy Kopp put so much money in the pot after they both flopped flushes surprises me. Neither of them had the nuts, yet both players were willing to take such a risk with so much at risk.
(2) I honestly cannot wait to see some hands when they start airing on ESPN later this summer. While the first show is July 28 and will cover the $40,000 no-limit hold 'em anniversary tournament, a few weeks later the main event will start to be broadcast, and we'll truly see the full journey of these players. Without a doubt, I'm leaving this year with more questions about hands played than ever before, and I know that TV will come through and show us everything we want to see.
(3) How will Phil Ivey actually act over the next few months? Will he really not talk to anyone? His best line of the night: "I might start watching poker on TV."
(4) Will Darvin Moon show up in November with an endorsement deal or no? He held out this long, but the online sites will definitely put up some large money to logo the chip leader.
(5) Out of all the players who were part of the final 10, I would never have predicted that it would be Jordan Smith who would go out 10th. With so many chips and being in such a great position entering the final table, never did I think the only other bracelet winner left would be the one on the rail.
(6) Two European players (Antoine Saout and James Akenhead) ... seems familiar ... oh wait, Peter Eastgate and Ivan Demidov. While Saout and Akenhead are the short stacks, both have had some tournament success, and with the blinds at $120,000/$240,000, each has some play left.
(7) It was great to see a friendship form between two of the November Nine: Steven Begleiter and Kevin Schaffel. The two met in June and will now spend the next four months sharing this experience.
(8) A great job by the staff here at the WSOP: The tournament ran well and appeased the players, with only one slipup on Day 1D. Nobody's perfect.
(9) While I didn't mention this specifically in earlier posts, Jeff Shulman didn't make any friends at the WSOP with some of his recent comments. As initially reported on Wicked Chops Poker, Shulman reportedly said that if he won, he'd "renounce the WSOP bracelet." When asked if that was true, he said, "If by renounce it you mean throw it in the garbage, then yes." Will he change his tune over the next four months? This is one story I'm interested in following until November.
(10) Finally, a big thank you goes out to everyone for following the blogs, podcasts, videos and all the content here on ESPN.com. Appreciate the comments, the questions and, of course, the corrections.
That's a wrap from Vegas. I can't wait until the final table in November.