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24 October 2016
By Gary Trask
ESPN wrapped up its coverage of the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event last night, ending the dramatic and entertaining Will Kassouf Show and revealing this year's November Nine.
Now just nine players remain in the tournament that began back in July with a field of 6,737, so it's time to start thinking about the final table, which begins Sunday night, Oct. 30 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
This will mark the ninth year that the WSOP Main Event has paused play for more than three months between the time the final table was decided and play actually started up again. This year, the delay is one week shorter, thanks to the U.S. Presidential Election. And even though cards go in the air the day before Halloween, the winner will be crowned on Nov. 1, so we are still referring to this whole spectacle as the November Nine.
With eight November Nines in the books, we have a large enough sample size to dig deep into the results and come away with some interesting trends and tidbits. Will these tendencies help us pick this year's winner? That remains to be seen. But for now, here are 10 numbers to keep in mind as we near the start of the 2016 edition of the November Nine.
10. 118 – Number of combined WSOP cashes
While last year's final table was the first in the November Nine Era to have every player come in with at least one previous WSOP cash, this year's edition smashes the number of previous cashes with a combined 118.
Vayo is the youngest player at this year's final table, but he is far from the least experienced, since his career as a poker pro began when he was expelled by his high school principal a few weeks before he was scheduled to graduate. During his 10 years as a pro, Vayo has scored 26 WSOP cashes, followed by Kenny Hallaert (22), Jerry Wong (19), Vojtech Ruzicka and Cliff Josephy (17 each), and Griffin Benger (13). Michael Ruane has three and Qui Nguyen has one, while short-stacked Fernando Pons is the lone player at this year's final table without a previous WSOP cash.
Before this year, the November Nine final table with the most WSOP cashes was the class of 2013 with 86, led by J.C. Tran's 40. The 2009 group had 68, with 38 of them coming from Phil Ivey. Last year's final table had 58, which is now fourth-best.
Unfortunately for Vayo, previous success in the WSOP has not been a factor in deciding the Main Event champ during the November Nine Era. Five of the last eight bracelet Main Event winners had two or fewer previous WSOP cashes, and the player with the most previous cashes at the final table has finished fifth or worse five times. The best finish came when Ben Lamb took third in 2011.
9. 2 – Number of combined WSOP bracelets
Josephy, this year's chip leader, is the only player at the final table to already have a WSOP bracelet in his jewelry box, and he has two of them.
Surprisingly, it has been rare for November Niners to have won bracelets before making the Main Event final table. Josephy is only the ninth player of the 81 who has advanced to final table to have at least one bracelet. Those nine players combined for 17 bracelets, with Phil Ivey, a 2009 November Niner, responsible for seven of them.
Greg Merson, the 2012 champ, is the only previous bracelet winner to capture the Main Event during the November Nine Era.
8. 4 – Number of international players
The 2011 Main Event final table had the most diversity with seven different countries represented, compared to this year when we have four international players — Hallaert (Belgium), Ruzicka (Czech Republic), Benger (Canada) and Fernando Pons (Spain). Both Hallaert and Ruzicka have a chance to become the first player from their homeland to win the WSOP Main Event.
Four of the eight November Nine Main Event winners have been non-Americans: Peter Eastgate (Denmark) in 2008, Jonathan Duhamel (Canada) in 2010, Pius Heinz (Germany) in 2011 and Martin Jacobson (Sweden) in 2014. That's significant, since prior to 2008, 35 of the 38 winners were from the U.S.
7. 27 – Age of the youngest player
As mentioned above, at 27 years old Vayo is the "baby" at this year's table, and that means Joe Cada's record of being the youngest player to win the WSOP Main Event is safe for at least one more year.
Cada, who, coincidentally, was backed by Josephy when he won the 2009 Main Event a few days before his 22nd birthday, broke the record that was set the year before in the very first November Nine. That's when Denmark's Peter Eastgate took home the bracelet as a 22 year old, which bettered Phil Hellmuth's record of winning it as a 24 year old when he beat Johnny Chan heads-up in 1989.
6. 34.5 – Average age of the final table
When Neil Blumenfield (61 years old) and Pierre Neuville (72) made last year's final table, they helped the 2015 group clinch the title as the oldest in the November Nine Era with an average age of 35.3. With help from the 50-year-old Josephy, this year's final table is the second-oldest, with an average age of 34.5.
One more stat regarding age: The average age of the Main Event champ since the November Nine was created is 23.6. The previous 38 champs had an average age of 40.8.
5. 6,675,000 – Chip difference between first and second place
Josephy's stack of 74,600,000 chips is 6,675,000 better than second place Nguyen's 67,925,000.
Not a very big lead when you consider last year's eventual champ, the enigmatic Joe McKeehen, enjoyed the largest lead going into a November Nine final table with a 33,300,000 chip advantage over Zvi Stern. The previous biggest chip lead before last year came in 2009, when Darvin Moon's stack was 24 million higher than Eric Bachman's. McKeehen's dominating edge skewed the average chip lead during the November Nine Era, which was 8.8 million before last year.
The smallest edge we've ever seen came in 2014, when Jorryt van Hoof had just a 5.6 million chip advantage over Felix Stephensen.
4. 68,450,000 – Chip difference between first and ninth place
Pons will enter the Penn & Teller Theater on Sunday night with a stack that's more than 68.4 million smaller than Josephy, while eighth-place Wong is 64.425 behind and seventh-place Benger trails by 48.425 million.
The good news for those short-stacked gentlemen — and anyone else who falls way behind once the final table gets under way — is that comebacks of epic proportions are not inconceivable.
Cada trailed Moon by a staggering 46.715 million chips when the 2009 final table got underway, and he found a way to climb that mountain and win the bracelet. In the years in which the chip leader has not prevailed over the last eight years, the average chip deficit the eventual champion has overcome is more than 21.5 million.
Next to Cada, the second-largest comeback came in 2001 when Heinz trailed by 23.75 million and overtook Martin Staszko, followed by Jacobson in 2014 when he stormed back from a 23.475 million deficit.
And if the short stacks need more motivation and hope, they need to look no further than last year, when Josh Beckley entered the final table with just 29 big blinds and a staggering 51.3 million chips behind McKeehen. Beckley made his way to heads-up where he finished second, cashing in for $4.5 million.
3. 0 – Number of times the second-leading chip stack has won the Main Event
This is bad news for Nguyen. Not only has the player with the second-best chip stack entering the final table never won the Main Event during the November Nine Era, only two of those players have even made it to heads-up play: Felix Stephensen in 2014 and Ivan Demidov in 2008.
In fact, the second-best stack has managed to finish fifth or worse four times in the last eight years.
2. 6 – The number of times the chip leader entering heads-up play has prevailed
Since 2008, once we get to heads-up play at the final table, comebacks have been rare. Only Riess in 2013 and Heinz in 2011 have found a way to win the Main Event after entering heads-up play with the second-smallest stack.
Last year, during his wire-to-wire Main Event final table victory, McKeehen had 157,800,000 chips at the start of heads up, completely dominating Beckley, whose stack was 34,850,000. With just 35 big blinds remaining, Beckley could only to manage to hang around for 13 hands before McKeehen put him away and captured the 2015 Main Event bracelet.
1. 25% – Percentage of chip leaders entering the final table to win the Main Event
McKeehen's commanding victory at last year's Main Event marked just the second time the chip leader had prevailed during the November Nine format. The other time it happened was in 2010, when Jonathan Duhamel parlayed the 19.1-million chip advantage he enjoyed going into the final table to win the bracelet.
The six chip leaders that coughed up their advantage have at least hung around long enough to be a factor. Moon (2009), Staszko (2011) and Jesse Sylvia (2012) all finished second, while Dennis Phillips (2008) and van Hoof (2014) took third.
The biggest chip leader disappointment? That came in 2013 when JC Tran could only manage a fifth-place finish, barely doubling his initial ninth-place payout. Tran came into that final table as not only the chip leader, but the man with the most WSOP cashes at the table, with 40, and the most bracelets, with two. But as we pointed out above, none of that seems to matter at a November Nine final table.
When we asked Josephy about the seemingly tough luck his previous chip leaders have experienced at the final table, he didn't want to hear it.
"That's meaningless," he said. "It wouldn’t matter to me if the chip leader won every single final table or lost every one. It has no bearing on what happens this year."
This article is part of Casino City's series of WSOP November Nine profiles. Other articles include:
Top 10 numbers you need to know from the 2016 WSOP Main Event final table is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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