Ladies and Gentlemen, Here are Your November Nine!

6 years ago
Here are Your November Nine
20 Jul

The biggest tournament on the poker calendar reached its summer climax a few days ago when the final table of the WSOP Main Event was set – nine skilful and, yes, lucky players due to return to the felt on October 30th to battle it out for the $8,000,000 first prize and the winners gold bracelet.

Usually known as the ‘November Nine’, this year’s big showdown has been brought forward because of the US Presidential elections, but it’s unlikely that anything other than poker will be on the minds of the nine men who fought their way through a field of 6737 players from 79 different nations to stake their claim for poker immortality.

Even seasoned journalists such as myself don’t recognise every name at the biggest table of the year, but to save you all the trouble of tracking down the histories of each man, I’ve done it for you! Some guys you may have heard of, some you probably won’t! So here we go with the 2016

Main Event Final Table Lowdown….

The 2016 edition of the November Nine and their respective seat assignments and chip counts are as follows:

The chip leader, who will take seat 5 when play recommences, is the one man left who you really ought to have heard of… an old-school online legend!

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Name: Cliff "JohnnyBax" Josephy

Age: 51

Nationality: USA

Live Tournament earnings: $2,641,620

Best Live Cash: $ 446,975

Chip Count: 74,600,000

Twitter: JohnnyBaxPoker

Hailing from Syosset, New York, Josephy may be the oldest remaining player in the field, but he is also the only one who has a WSOP gold bracelet to his name.

He actually boasts two bracelets – a $3k NLHE one from 2013 and a $1500 7-Card Stud from 2005 – and although he has over $800,000 in WSOP earnings over the years, his financial backing of 2009 Main Event winner Joe Cada was perhaps his most lucrative single WSOP move – until now that is!

With each player guaranteed – and having been paid already - $1million for their run so far, Josephy has jumped into the top150 all-time US tournament earners and if he can keep his chip lead to take down the event he’ll climb into the top 25!

Of course, live poker isn’t where Josephy made his name – rather his online pseudonym ‘Johnny Bax’ is how he has been best-known in poker circles. As state:

Cliff "JohnnyBax" Josephy is a name synonymous with online poker excellence. He stormed onto the scene in 2005, and became the #1 ranked online tournament player in the world in April '05, as he began dominating high-stakes tournament action on major sites.”

Cliff's rapid development as a poker player began when he was introduced to the game by fellow online poker legend Eric "sheets" Haber. He holds the record for longest reign at #1 worldwide, having held that distinction for over a year in 2005/2006.”

Online cashes of $4,120,232 which include a remarkably consistent 44 wins, 45 2nd places, and 45 thirds across many different sites, Cliff ‘JohhnyBax’ Josephy is overall the most experienced player at the final table.

Add to this his commanding chip lead and we could be seeing another ‘Joe McKeehen walk’ like last year!

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So who is Josephy’s nearest rival? Well chip-wise it is Qui Nguyen, the only Vegas-resident player to make it to the final table. If we are talking about experience, however, Qui has virtually none at this level aside from his big run last week!

Name: Qui Nguyen

Age: 39

Nationality: USA

Live Tournament earnings: $52,986

Best Live Cash: $ 9,029

Chip Count: 67,925,000

Twitter: Unknown

Now that I have this money, I hope I don’t play baccarat any more!”

His previous WSOP cashes d on’t even add up to the buy-in needed for the main event and a paltry $50K or so lifetime earnings puts Nguyen firmly into the ‘enthusiastic amateur’ category. However, sitting second in chips and having Josephy on his left come late-October, if the cards fall ok for Nguyen, he could still be a serious contender.

The smart money, however, is on Nguyen not really being up to the task of taking down the biggest prize in poker. Reaching the final table is a massive achievement by itself though and Nguyen is to be congratulated for keeping his head together as many more experienced players lost theirs when the going got sticky last week!

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Next up is a young but reasonably experienced Californian who will take seat 7 and a chipstack of almost 50million into play come October 30th at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Name: Gordon Vayo

Age: 27

Nationality: USA

Live Tournament earnings: $974,714

Best Live Cash: $ 314,535

Chip Count: 49,375,000

Twitter: GordonVayo

Ty guys so much for the love and support. Hasn't really sunk in yet but I guess I made the November 9...Overwhelmed by all the kind words.

— gordon veilleux (@GordonVayo) July 20, 2016

No stranger to the bright lights of Vegas, Vayo has cashed 26 times at the WSOP including a 2nd spot 2 years ago in the $3K 6-handed NLHE event, good for his biggest cash prior to this week.

This summer alone he cashed 8 times in the 21 bracelet events he entered and will likely be one of Josephy’s biggest rivals come the final table.

Vayo, like Josephy, has plenty of experience online too – taking down some $1.5m under the name ‘holla@yoboy’ in the late-noughties. His run last week secured him a $1million payday, just over doubling his lifetime live earnings – and it’s likely that Vayo will make a play for the bracelet and the $8million rather than be content with a money-jump.

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Sitting on Vayo’s left will be Belgian poker player Kenny Hallaert, another player who has plenty of experience of the tournament scene –although as with most, the money he is playing for now is massive compared to even his biggest previous payday at EPT Deauville back in 2011.

Name: Kenny Hallaert

Age: 34

Nationality: Belgium

Live Tournament earnings: $1,317,530

Best Live Cash: $ 210,962

Chip Count: 43,325,000

Twitter: @SpaceyFCB

November Niner selfie!

— Kenny Hallaert (@SpaceyFCB) July 19, 2016

Hallaert is well-known on the European scene and in Belgium in particular, not only because of his poker skills (he currently sits 5th in the Belgian all-time money list) but also because he runs the Belgian Poker Challenge, which is a small tour covering the towns of Namur and Spa.

With 22 previous WSOP cashes, Vegas has been good to Hallaert, $367,855 in winnings including a 5th place worth $182,348 in the inaugural WSOP Colossus event last summer. Come October he will start the final table 4th in chips and should certainly be considered a challenger for the gold bracelet.

He will certainly be hoping to improve on his fellow countryman Pierre Neuville’s 7th place finish at last year’s final table.

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Slotted in-between 2 of the favourites will be the young New Jersey player Michael Ruane, who’s biggest adventure in pokerland before this week was his well-documented custody, courtesy of the Bahamian police, when he and a friend failed to declare $26,000 on their return from the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure!

Name: Michael Ruane

Age: 28

Nationality: USA

Live Tournament earnings: $44,962

Best Live Cash: $17,244

Chip Count: 31,600,000

Twitter: @myycuhlruane

@muhrayydruane Mawy! Next round of steaks are on me. Next like 87 rounds to be more exact #millionarefeek

— Monica Geller-Bing (@myycuhlruane) July 20, 2016

Although he is a poker professional by trade, Ruane has never seen money the likes of which he has now guaranteed himself, Nor has he ever played at the level of many of his fellow final-tablers. He will doubtless find the ESPN-televised event to be a huge, though welcome, shock!

However, he has a healthy-enough chipstack and if he can avoid being run over by the Josephy-Vayo double-act, then stranger things have happened in the history of the WSOP Main Event. My money, however, is on an early bath for the Hoboken player.

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Seat 2 will feature a talented Czech player, Vojtech Ruzicka, who will be hoping to repeat the success of his countryman Martin Staszko from 2011 who finished runner-up.

Name: Vojtech Ruzicka

Age: 30

Nationality: Czech Republic

Live Tournament earnings: $1,149,027

Best Live Cash: $426,907

Chip Count: 27,300,000

Twitter: @ Vojta_R

Congratulations from the entire team of the Kings Casino! Fingers crossed! You are already the absolute winner!”

Ruzicka had a pretty impressive 2011 himself, racking up over $1million with a $710,000 scoop in the WCOOP being the highlight!

His winnings from this year will see his lifetime earnings double and he is in fine form having cashed a further 3 times at the WSOP this summer. Experienced and less likely than many to be swayed by the massive cash prizes on offer, a good early run at the final table could well see Ruzicka figure when things get tight.

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Up next is perhaps the biggest danger from among the lower-chips stacked players, the Canadian pro Griffin Benger.

Name: Griffin Benger

Age: 31

Nationality: Canada

Live Tournament earnings: $2,395,406

Best Live Cash: $1,000,000

Chip Count: 26,175,000

Twitter: GriffinBenger

9 left

— Griffin (@GriffinBenger) July 19, 2016

Unlike his colleagues in the ‘October/November Nine’, Benger is the only one to have made a $1million cash previously, taking down the 2014 Shark Tank session in London. He also did me a huge favour by knocking out William Kassouf towards the end of the summer jamboree!

Compared to most at the final table, Benger has a colourful poker bio having swapped a ‘career’ in CounterStrike for the green baize some 10 years ago. Not long afterwards, he was ranked number 1 in the world for online poker under the pseudonym ‘Flush_Entity’ and apart from his $1million Shark Tank victory he managed to take down the $10K High Roller at EPT9 in Berlin for a $half-million+ score.

He has also mixed his old love of sports journalism into his poker mix by commentating on the Global Poker League, and if he can somehow drag his chip count back into the thick of things come October, we will doubtless be seeing a lot more of Benger in the future!

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Sitting in seat 9 at the final table will be Brooklyn’s Jerry Wong, a man who has been out of the poker limelight in live tournaments for a while, but who has the pedigree to play his short-stack as well as anyone else at the table.

Name: Jerry Wong

Age: 34

Nationality: USA

Live Tournament earnings: $1,318,402

Best Live Cash: $725,000

Chip Count: 10,175,000

Twitter: @HumLun

We did it

— Jerry Wong (@HumLun) July 19, 2016

When Wong took 3rd spot at the 2013 PCA in the Bahamas for $725,000, he looked set to join the big boys of live poker, but it was online where he has made his biggest mark, having compiled over $3million under the name Hummylun.

His expexperience means he certainly won’t crack under the pressure of the cameras, but he’ll need a bit of good fortune to fight his way back into contention for more than the minor spots.

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Rounding off our new ‘November Nine’ is the least experienced, the shortest-stacked, and probably the happiest of all our contenders!

Name: Fernando Pons Garcia

Age: 37

Nationality: Spain

Live Tournament earnings: $10,589

Best Live Cash: $4,059

Chip Count: 6,150,000

Twitter: @nandito1312

November Nine!!!! Mi sueño hecho realidad. Gracias a todos por los apoyos. Esto es brutaaalllllllllll!!!!

— fernando pons (@nandito1312) July 19, 2016

Having never played the WSOP before, let alone the Main Event, Pons Garcia can boast prior poker earnings which make most players balances look handsome by comparison!

However, the Palma-resident player has made the score of a lifetime, exchanging his €30 satellite buy-in for a million dollar payday! Whether he drags himself out of 9th place in chips or not, his full-time career with a retail chain may well be swapped for a more permanent role in poker.

So there we have it – nine very fortunate men who have the chance to engrave their names in poker history for all time! Before we go, let’s take a closer look at what they will be playing for when they rock up to the Rio on October 30th.

According to WSOP official website, the prize money for the remaining nine spots is as follows*:

  • 1st: $8,000,000
  • 2nd: $4,658,452
  • 3rd: $3,451,175
  • 4th: $2,574,808
  • 5th: $1,934,579
  • 6th: $1,463,906
  • 7th: $1,250,000
  • 8th: $1,100,000
  • 9th: $1,000,000

* The final nine players each received ninth-place prize money upon reaching the final table the remainder of the prize pool will be placed in an interest-bearing account to be added to the prize pool on a percentage basis for the final eight finishers.

In addition, the players will be vying for the Main Event bracelet itself likely to be worth around $500,000.

When play resumes October 30, the players will pick up with 32 minutes and 50 seconds remaining in Level 35. The antes will be 75,000 and blinds will stand at 250,000 and 500,000.

Comprehensive WSOP Main Event television coverage will begin airing Sunday, September 11 at 8:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2. Coverage will continue in two-hour blocks each Sunday at 8:30 p.m. until October 2 when it moves to ESPN at 8:30 pm with 2 ½ hour blocks and continues in that regular Sunday slot culminating with a three-night primetime Main Event Final Table live coverage October 30 -- November 1, 2016.

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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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