Meet the November Nine

by Carson Cashman

We are only days away from the exciting conclusion to the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event. The nine finalists, known as the "November Nine", have had months to prepare for their final table appearances. Some of the finalists will be making their first WSOP final table appearance. Others, such as well-known professional Phil Ivey, have been darlings of the poker world for years. Here are the November Nine, in order of chips:

Darvin Moon (58,930,000) - At first glance, Darvin Moon does not impress. A search of WSOP finishes reveals this final table appearance to be Moon's first. However, Darvin has an absolutely commanding chip lead with about 30% of the chips in play. Moon won his entry to the WSOP in a $130 satellite at the Wheeling Island Casino in West Virginia. Although Moon is an unknown in the poker world, he seems competent at playing an aggressive big stack as he was eating away at smaller stacks during his run up to the final table. Darvin Moon spends his professional time as a logger. We'll see if he can keep chopping away at the smaller stacks on November 7th when the final table commences.

Eric Buchman (34,800,000) - Buchman is one of the more-experienced finalists at the 2009 WSOP Main Event final table. Eric has been playing and cashing in live tournaments for years. He has numerous WSOP cashes as well as many cashes in World Poker Tour events. Perhaps most importantly, Buchman won an 800 player tournament at the Foxwoods Casino in 2004. Of course it is hard to compare an 800 player event with the Main Event of the World Series of Poker, but Buchman certainly has enough tournament experience to take the bracelet.

Steven Begleiter (29,885,000) - An interview with Begleiter on the official WSOP website reveals a family man who has been thrust into the limelight. Like Darvin Moon, Begleiter is an unknown who climbed his way to a final table appearance. Begleiter has spent his professional life in the financial sector, working until recently as an executive for Bear Stearns. He describes his interest in poker as a hobby.

Jeff Shulman (19,580,000) - Jeff Shulman's name is well known among poker players. He is the editor and president of Card Player Magazine, the preeminent poker publication in the world. Shulman has a long history of cashing in WSOP events, and has seen his way to the Main Event final table before in 2000. Shulman made comments indicating he would throw away the bracelet if he won the event as a protest to the way Harrah's has been running the event. Some other publications speculated that Shulman was angry that Harrah's canceled a media deal with Card Player in favor of rival Bluff magazine. Shulman published a response to these criticisms in Card Player. Shulman certainly has the know-how to win the bracelet, but who knows what he'll do with it if he wins!

Joseph Cada (13,215,000) - At 21 years of age, Joseph Cada is the youngest player at this year's final table. Cada has been playing poker for years and has several large online cashes to show for it. He took down over $100,000 recently by winning a PokerStars second chance tournament. "The Kid", as the media has taken to calling him, is certainly an interesting player to watch. He also has several smaller WSOP cashes to his credit this year.

Kevin Schaffel (12,390,000) - At 51 years of age, Kevin Schaffel is the oldest player at the final table this year. He has several WSOP cashes, including a 42nd place finish in the 2005 WSOP Main Event. Schaffel hasn't missed a step since the final table was set on July 15th. He placed 2nd in the World Poker Tour Legends of Poker event for $471,670 in August. Between that win and the upcoming Main Event payout, Schaffel has had a very successful year of poker.

Phil Ivey (9,765,000) - Although poker legend Phil Ivey is one of the smallest stacks at the final table, his experience and prowess at tournament poker have made him the favorite to win the event in many people's eyes. This is astonishing considering that Ivey only has about 5% of the chips in play. Ivey does have over $10 million in lifetime tournament winnings, and has already picked up two bracelets this year. It certainly would surprise no one if Ivey managed to take home the bracelet this year. His level of play and skill at reading players is probably enough to keep the other finalists up at night. I know I'd be rooting for his quick demise if I were one of the finalists.

Antoine Saout (9,500,000) - Antoine Saout is a 25-year-old poker player from France. He won his seat to the Main Event in a $50 satellite on EverestPoker. Saout had to play to the left of Phil Ivey for the final three days leading up to the final table, a position most poker players would not envy. Nevertheless, he survived the ordeal and is in the running for the $8.5 million first place prize.

James Akenhead (6,800,000) - This year's final table short stack, James Akenhead, hails from London, England. Last year, he finished runner-up in a WSOP $1500 no-limit holdem event for a $520K prize. Akenhead will have his work cut out for him if he wants to move up the ranks this year. Expect to see him make a move fairly early once the final table commences, as his short stack will be a constant target to chip monsters like Darvin Moon and Eric Buchman.

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