The wait is almost over.
On Sunday morning, Nov. 9 – exactly 117 days after the November Nine was decided in July – the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event will resume play with the winner chasing history, as well as a $9.1 million paycheck.
Like any gambler, we have used the extra time to prepare ourselves for the action. While there won't be a seat at the final table for us when the cards go in the air at the Penn & Teller Theater, that doesn't mean we can't try and make a little extra spending money for enjoyment on the Strip by predicting how things will unfold. And thanks to the courageous folks at Bodog, Sportsbook.com and Paddy Power, there is a nice selection of proposition bets to choose from for the final table.
So without further ado, we present our Top-10 predictions for the final table. Play them at your own risk. But if they happen to work out, don't be afraid to look for us in the No Limit Lounge where you can show your appreciation by splurging for a few rounds of Milwaukee's Best Light.
10. The short-stacked Kelly Kim will not be the first player eliminated
The 31-year-old poker pro from California will begin play on Sunday severely limited with a stack of just 2,620,000. That's nearly eight million less than the next shortest stack of Craig Marquis (10,210,000) and a whopping 23.6 million less than chipleader Dennis Phillips. So there is good reason why he is the overwhelming choice to be the first player eliminated at both Bodog (even money) and Sportsbook.com (5-to-6). But keep in mind that "KK" held the smallest stack when there were 13 players remaining and is still alive today. We like his attitude and demeanor at the table and look for him to double up at some point in the early going and survive the first knock-out of the day.
9. Craig Marquis will be the first player eliminated.
We're getting 6-to-1 odds at Bodog on Marquis being the first to be bounced on Sunday and we love those odds. Marquis was the man who eliminated Main Event bubble boy Dean Hamrick in the wee hours of July 15 to turn the Final 10 of the Main Event into the November Nine. The 23-year-old college student from Arlington, Texas is the second-youngest player at the table and has been playing poker for less than two years. He entered 17 WSOP events this year and earned two cashes. Considering his youth and relative inexperience under the bright lights and the fact that he has enough chips to last approximately 40 big blinds, we see him as the player most likely to be willing to take a chance in the early stages and try to double up in the first few hours. At 6-to-1, we're betting that this strategy blows up in his face.
8. David "Chino" Rheem will be the second player eliminated.
David "Chino" Rheem
We're sticking our neck out here with this prediction. Even though Rheem's got the third-smallest stack heading into action, he has the fifth-lowest odds to become Main Event champ at Sportsbook.com at 6-to-1. But as great a player as Chino is, if there's one player that the 117-break hurt the most, it was him. He was the best-known player of the November Nine when it was decided back in July and because of that he's the guy most of the players at the table fear and the one who was probably studied the most during the last three months. Considering his "likability" and gregarious nature at the table, we're sure ESPN would like to see Chino make a deep run, but we're calling for an early exit for the Los Angeles-based poker pro.
7. Dennis Phillips will last longer than Ivan Demidov.
Bodog has four different "last longer" prop bets and this is the one that caught our eye. Demidov already carved out a piece of WSOP history for himself when he made the final table at the WSOP Europe Main Event in September when he became the first player to make both final tables in the same year. The 27-year-old Russian has the most momentum coming in, but we're banking on the theory that you can only run "hot" for so long at the poker table. On top of that, Phillips proved in the final few days of the Main Event in July that he clearly knows how to play the game with a big stack in front of him. Take the +105 odds and look for Phillips to outlast Demidov.
6. The chip leader going into heads-up play will not win the Main Event.
This is a prop bet offered on Bodog and we'll take the +200 odds that the short stack going into Monday night will prevail. We think this bet has a lot of value because we just don't see someone coming in and steamrolling his way to a huge chip lead. And as long as you have someone that's within striking distance on Monday night, having a chance to double your money is well worth the risk.
5. A Canadian to win the Main Event is a decent "value bet."
While our official selection to win the Main Event is not a Canadian, we think that as a "hedge bet" there is some real value in getting a 5-to-2 price at Sportsbook.com in the "Nationality of the Main Event Champion" prop bet
. We fully expect both Canadians in the field – Scott Montgomery and
– to make a deep run at the final table. Montgomery is a veteran pro with plenty of cashes on his resume and seems to have a knack for when to make a call, when to lay it down and when to try a bluff. Suharto considers himself a "donkey," but don't be fooled. He is a very skilled player who could be overlooked as the action unfolds.
4. The winning hand will be Three of a Kind.
No statistics or real rationale to back up this bet. It's just a hunch. But for the record, we see our winner hitting a set of nines on the flop to help him slow play his way to through the turn and river and into the WSOP history books.
3. The final four players will be Schwartz, Suharto, Eastgate and Phillips.
There's a lot to like about all four of these players. As mentioned in No. 6 of this list, we see Suharto's unassuming nature helping him sneak up on the field. He'll play his tight-aggressive style and push the action only when he knows he's got the best hand. That strategy will serve him well enough to get to the Final Four, but no further.
2. Heads-up will feature Eastgate vs. Schwartz.
After Suharto is eliminated from our Final Four, the next to go will be Dennis Phillips. In the seventh item of this list, we pointed out that you can only run "hot" for so long at the poker table and that's our biggest fear for the likable Phillips heading into the final table. But since he's got such a big stack and he's shown he knows how to handle it, we think Phillips will be able to make it to the final three before he and his now infamous St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap ride off into the sunset.
1. Peter Eastgate will be crowned 2008 Main Event champ.
We like Peter Eastgate a lot – and not just because he was the man responsible for bouncing the loathsome Tiffany Michelle from the Main Event.
The 2008 Main Event has already made history with its controversial 117-day break. It will be made even more memorable when this 22-year-old from Denmark breaks Phil Hellmuth's record as the youngest player to win the Main Event. (Hellmuth was 24 when he was crowned Main Event champ in 1989).
Eastgate, who studied economics in college before becoming a poker pro three years ago, is considered to be one of the top online professionals in the world. He was not afraid to square off against big names down the stretch in July as he not only knocked off Michelle, but was also responsible for the exit of Brandon Cantu, the Las Vegas pro who was the last player with a gold bracelet to be eliminated from the Main Event.
Our heads-up pairing would be an unusual one because it would feature Schwartz – one of the most experienced players – against Eastgate, one of the least experienced. But even still, if these two square off in heads-up action, Eastgate will have the edge.
Schwartz has 12 WSOP cashes on his resume, but failed to finish better than 15th in any of those events. He admitted to Casino City that he has played "reckless" in the late stages of tournaments. That's why we feel that against Eastgate in heads-up action, Schwartz will be in trouble. Eastgate has earned a reputation as a tremendous short-handed and heads-up player in high-stakes cash games online and would be in his element if he can make it this far.
Our best odds on the stone-faced Eastgate winning the Main Event are at Bodog where he sits at 5-to-1. We're happy to grab a chance to make five times our money on a player who will only become more and more dangerous the longer he hangs around.