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Top-10 first impressions of the WSOP Main Event final table10 November 2009
LAS VEGAS – Your faithful Casino City correspondents -- myself and Managing Editor Vin Narayanan -- spent more than 20 hours of our lives over the last three days watching and covering the historic 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event final table unfold, live and in person, at the Rio in Las Vegas. ESPN will take those hours of poker and turn them into what should be a wildly entertaining program that will air Tuesday night at 9 p.m. EST. But it will be impossible for the network to capture the entire experience.
So, for your benefit, here are some first impressions of what transpired, from Saturday at 1 p.m. through 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Vin and I will provide some more detailed and well-researched analysis in the coming days, but for now here's a look at how it all went down at the Penn & Teller Theater from the bleary eyes of a couple of guys who were there for the whole thing.
10. The crowd came prepared
Joe Cada's crew was the most visible with their bright yellow long-sleeve T-shirts. The Steve Begleiter, Kevin Schaffel and Darvin Moon fans also had custom-made garb for the event while Antoine Saout's cheering section brought a European flair to the proceedings with a French flag and the kind of chants normally reserved for a soccer game. And while Phil Ivey didn't have an actual cheering section, he did have the utmost respect of the entire crowd, which cheered his every move.
For the second straight year, the Penn & Teller Theater was charged up and electric. That's an amazing statement to make for a poker tournament.
9. Phil Ivey is truly The King with poker fans
Of course, Ivey may have lost some supporters in the media when he slipped out the back door after being eliminated without speaking the press, who were collectively left at the altar with notebooks and microphones in hand. But, no doubt, Ivey is still the most popular and most respected player to poker fans worldwide.
8. ESPN has plenty of material to work with
Most are expecting huge ratings for Tuesday night's telecast and I hope for ESPN that is the case, because those fans are in for a treat. I can't wait to see it, and I already saw it happen live.
7. The chip lead fluctuated like crazy
Darvin Moon, of course, began the day with 30 percent of the chips in play. He said during the entire break that if the other players wanted his chips they were going to have to come and get them, which made everyone think that he would play extremely tight and sit on his lead. But he got involved a lot more than anyone thought he would in the first few hours and made some misreads. Before long Eric Buchman, the seasoned pro who came into the day second in chips, took the lead.
Buchman controlled the lead for a while, but then former Wall Street executive Steve Begleiter got hot and grinded his way to the top. Meanwhile, Antoine Saout was playing brilliantly. He was the most consistent player at the table and for most of the last few hours he was the chipleader. That is until Joe Cada started to run hot. Make that blistering hot. He took the chip lead for the very first time when his pocket deuces cracked Saout's Queens with a 7-2-9 flop. The pot was worth more than 39 million and put Cada on top and crippled Saout. Less than an hour later, Saout was gone and we had our final two players. What a roller coaster. In the end, Moon left the theater with about the same amount of chips he started with. Cada ended up scooping up everyone else's.
6. Antoine Saout was the best player
5. Yes, Cada was "lucky," but…
But to say that the only reason Cada was back on Monday night for heads-up play was "luck" would be doing a disservice to what he actually accomplished. And I pray the ESPN coverage on Tuesday night doesn't make it appear that all he was doing all night was catching miracle cards. To be sitting on the grandest stage in poker and to go from a short stack of 2 million chips, all the way to the chip leader with 158 million chips is incomprehensible. It took a lot more than just luck. It took patience. It took guts. It took determination. And it took skill. So please don't be a fool like Phil Hellmuth and announce Cada as the luckiest Main Event champ ever. Cada further proved his poker chops on Monday night when, after giving up a huge chip lead, he grinded his way back to become Main Event champion. As usual, luck was involved, but it isn't the only reason Cada is on top of the poker world right now.
4. Jeff Shulman was the biggest 'non-factor'
3. Moon kept proving the critics wrong
Then, even after he made it to heads-up, nobody was giving him a fighting chance, citing the huge disadvantage he had to Cada in both chips and heads-up experience. Nearly everyone on media row was anticipated an early night with Cada steamrolling Moon.
But Moon proved everyone wrong – again. For a guy who claimed he had only played heads-up three times in the last two years, Moon did better than anyone expected and actually looked like he was going to pull off the upset at one point. In the end, he didn't, but hopefully he silenced some of his critics who all along refused to give him credit.
2. Cada bounced back from early KO punch
1. November Nine naysayers should be quieted
By adding in the four-month pause, the Main Event final table has become an unmitigated success. In addition to last year's impressive ratings for the final table telecast – ratings that will more than likely be even better this year – all Pollack has to do to prove his point is have someone look at the crowds that have packed the Penn & Teller Theater the last two years. Thousands upon thousands of fans have waited in line for hours and hours to get into the theater. And once they got inside they made the atmosphere electric.
Has the delay changed the dynamic of the actual poker being played? For sure. But it's difficult to argue with the attention the final table now receives. Poker purists better get used to the delay. It's here to stay.
Top-10 first impressions of the WSOP Main Event final table is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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