Print and Go Back ESPN.com: 2009 [Print without images]

Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Updated: September 16, 10:32 AM ET
Nine players, but only one bracelet

By Andrew Feldman
ESPN.com

Only nine players remain in contention for the most prestigious title in poker: world champion. In July, 6,494 players began their main event journeys with hopes of sitting behind a pile of cash and posing for photos with a new bracelet on their wrists. Nine players still have that dream, but their journey was put on hold in July to resume on Nov. 7 in Las Vegas.

The final table of the main event is full of talent. Although some might not recognize the chips leader, Darvin Moon, many will see a very familiar face in Phil Ivey, regarded by most as the best poker player in the world. With solid professionals and skilled amateurs, the final table will offer some of the most exciting poker of the year. But the question remains, who do you think will take it down?

Welcome to Poker Pick 'em, a new fantasy game from ESPN.com. The game is simple: Pick the outcomes of 20 matchups regarding the 2009 main event final table. Do you think Moon can hold onto his chips lead and finish in the top three? Will Ivey overcome his current chips deficit to win the title? How many players will wear sunglasses to start the final table? Which European will last longer? These questions might be easy for some, but if not, I'm here to help. Here's a look at each of the nine players and what they'll bring to the table in November.

Darvin Moon: The chips leader is the most inexperienced player at the final table, but with 30 percent of the chips in play, this logger from Maryland has the upper hand and can use those chips to put pressure on his opponents. More on Moon: Story | Poker Edge | Inside Deal

Eric Buchman: Sitting in second place is the New Yorker with 10 WSOP cashes, including a previous second-place finish. He has the experience that Darvin doesn't and the chips that clearly put him in a solid position to win. His ability to keep calm is a great asset to have for the final table, and many believe he is actually the man to beat. More on Buchman: Inside Deal | Poker Edge »

Steven Begleiter: The former Bear Stearns executive won his seat through a poker league in Chappaqua, N.Y., and everyone in that league is coming out to Vegas to cheer "Begs! Begs! Begs!" to victory. Shortly after the main event, Begleiter finished ninth at a World Poker Tour stop, and although he isn't in poker for the long run, his dream of becoming the world champion is ready to become reality. More on Begleiter: The Poker Edge » | Inside Deal | Bullish on Begleiter

Jeff Shulman: With controversy surrounding his comments about "throwing the bracelet in the trash," Shulman has been the focus of many since the November Nine was set. The editor of Card Player magazine has been here before, making the final table in 2000 and finishing in seventh place. He has hired Phil Hellmuth to coach him in preparation for the final table. More on Shulman: Is Shulman the villain?

Joe Cada: The 21-year-old professional poker player has a chance to break Peter Eastgate's record as being the youngest to win the main event. Since the break, Cada had some online success, winning a World Championship of Online Poker second-chance event for $120,000. Fellow professional poker player Joe Sebok picked Cada as the one to win it all. More on Cada: The Poker Edge »

Kevin Schaffel: As the oldest member of the table, Schaffel has enjoyed every step of his main event experience. Weeks after the main event, he finished second to Prahlad Friedman at the Legends of Poker tournament and took home another $471,670 in winnings. He's on a roll and proved that reaching the main event final table is anything but a fluke. Schaffel has had three main event cashes, including a 42nd-place finish in 2004. More on Schaffel: The Poker Edge » | The summer of Schaffel

Phil Ivey: Hands down, Ivey is the most feared player heading into the final table. The seven-time WSOP bracelet winner said Day 8 (when the final table was reached) was a "bad day," even though he managed to outlast the rest of the field. Even in seventh place, he has plenty of play to make something happen. Needless to say, all eyes will be on Ivey in November, wondering whether the greatest player in the game can finally win the greatest tournament of the year. More on Ivey: The Poker Edge » | Inside Deal | 4 days, 3 nights and $1 million

Antoine Saout: The young Frenchman doesn't have much tournament experience as he began to play professionally only last year, but doubting his abilities would be a major mistake. Since the break, Saout finished 13th in a Spanish Poker Tour event and maintained the chips lead for a few days on the Partouche Poker Tour. Oh, did I neglect to mention that he made the final table in the World Series of Poker Europe main event?

James Akenhead: The short stack is looking to push, but the London pro most definitely will take his time and pick his spots well. He's been called one of the best up-and-coming players in the game, and even in ninth place, he still can make things happen if he's able to double up just once. Akenhead also made the final table in the WSOP Europe main event in one of the toughest fields of the year. More on Akenhead: Short stack has big plans

Obviously, there's a whole lot more on each of these players than what's written above, so check out ESPN.com's poker section for complete coverage on each of the nine as the main event final table approaches. Don't forget that a trip to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas is up for grabs, so make your selections count, and best of luck!

You can watch all the action of the main event final table unfold on Nov. 10 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN, or follow the poker blog for updates.