2011's November Nine
This week a final table was reached in the World Series of Poker main event, with every one of the finalists worthy of respect for outlasting 6,865 other hopefuls in just under 72 hours of tough competitive poker against the best players in the world.
When the final table reconvenes to decide a winner in November, these are the high earning players who will be chasing the really big prize – a main event bracelet and $8.71 million:
Martin Staszko: chip leader on 40,175,00 chips
Staszko (35) hails from Trinec in the Czech Republic, and is a professional poker and competitive chess player who achieved four cashes at the 2011 WSOP prior to the main event, earning himself around $20 000.
He’s already guaranteed to add at least $782,155 to his earnings simply by making the final table, and in doing so he has become the first Czech player to reach this level.
A former auto-plant worker, he's been playing professionally for the past year and has six live tourney cashes to his credit, the biggest previously an 11th-place finish at the 2010 EPT Deauville Main Event for $50,000. He is also an active online player, where he is mostly known by his handle "filfedra", and has achieved around $100 000 in cashes. His live tournament earnings prior to the main event this year totalled $84,846.
Regarded as something of a wild card who sprinted to the front late in the main event, Staszko's stack was down to 12 000 chips when the money bubble broke, and folded numerous hands to stay in the game; but when he started building momentum his rise to the chip leader position was nothing short of spectacular, playing aggressive, smart poker.
Eoghan O’Dea (33,925,000)
26-year-old Dubliner Eoghan O’Dea is the son of famous poker player Donnacha ‘The Don' O’Dea, and follows in his father's footsteps in earning a place at this year's final table (Donnacha finished sixth in the 1983 WSOP Main Event and 9th in the 1991 Main Event.)
Eoghan is a skilled and experienced online and live tournament player who learned the game as a teenager, and started making waves three years ago when he won the iPoker ECOOP III for $315 000. He won the first live tournament he ever entered, and since then has gone on to build up impressive career winnings in tourneys to around $740 000, notably from a second placings in two tournaments – the WPT Marrakech ($378,227) and the Ladbrokes Million VII ($260 000).
Playing mainly as ‘Intruder123' on the internet, he has achieved earnings in excess of $300 000 and is respected with the nickname ‘The Silent Assassin'.
Matt Giannetti (24,750,000)
Originally from Austin, Texas, Matt Giannetti graduated from the University of Texas before moving into professional poker in 2006 and moving to Las Vegas.
He is a very competent and aggressive high stakes NLHE player in both live and online tournaments, where he plays under the handle ‘hazard21'.
On Wednesday this week he doubled his chip stack twice with all-in plays holding pocket jacks, illustrating his aggression and instincts.
A regular at WSOP tourneys, he started appearing around 2006 and has cashed at eleven World Series events, his best prior to 2011 being for $66,544 in a $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event in 2009, although he has played in the main event before and cashed for $22,266. His record also shows a $65 000 win in the 2006 WPT Championship, where he finished at 35th. In all he has achieved live tournament career earnings of around $500 000.
Phil Collins (23,875,000)
Phil Collins is a 26-year-old poker pro from South Carolina who has been making money at the game for the past six years, both in live tourneys and on the internet, where he is known as “USCphildo”.
He studied business administration at his home state's university, at the same time honing his poker skills and playing on the internet and with friends in live games.
After graduating in 2007 his online career blossomed, and he has built up impressive career earnings of almost $3.5 million, playing mostly at PokerStars and Full Tilt. He has also started to make inroads into the live tournament scene, earning around $150 000 so far, which is already eclipsed by his pay check for making the final table in the main event this year.
Ben Lamb (20,875,000)
If there's one name that was prominent in the 2011 World Series of Poker, it was that of "Benba" Ben Lamb, who enjoyed an extraordinarily good run at poker's most prestigious live event this year, and ended up as WSOP's Player of the Year
Originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Lamb (26) now lives in Las Vegas, where he plays professionally, mainly as a PLO ace and cash game specialist.
He has cashed four times in preliminary WSOP events this year including three final tables, one a bracelet win, and has accumulated over $1.3 million in cashes at this year's WSOP alone. In 2010 he finished deep in three WSOP events.
No stranger to the main event, he managed a 14th placing in the 2009 edition.
In an impressive live tourney career he has amassed over $2.5 million in 34 cashes that include six first place finishes, and as an online crusher he has earned a total of almost $1,132,000.
Six years ago Lamb quit his studies at Trinity University in San Antonio to concentrate on his poker career, moving to Las Vegas.
Badih Bounahra (19,700,000)
Badih Bounahra is a relatively unknown player, but one who is clearly dangerous, surfacing as a formidable foe in the latter stages of this year's main event.
He is also, at 49 years, by far the ‘oldest' player at the final table.
Hailing from Belize, where he owns and operates a card room and runs a wholesale and grocery business, Bounahra has a handful of small cashes with just over $72,766 in lifetime live earnings to his credit.
He cashed in the 2008 WSOP $2,000 No-Limit Hold’em event for $7,582, finishing in 51st position in his only WSOP cash on record. That could change once the final winner id decided, with a main prize of $8.71 million; in the meantime he is guaranteed a take-home of $782,115 for getting as far as he has.
In other live events, he has played the Aruba Classic and other tourneys, cashing on five occasions and amassing some $34,548 in all.
Pius Heinz (16,425,000)
Another accomplished young internet poker player, Pius Heinz (22) is known on the internet as MastaP89 and comes from Germany, where he is a student in Cologne.
He has achieved success online in events such as Full Tilt's Sunday Mulligan ($61 000) and PokerStars' $150,000 guaranteed ($29 000).
This led to him having a crack at live tournament action this year, which has so far gone well for him; he has managed to cash once this WSOP, making the final table for a $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Event and finishing at 7th for $83,286.
He has also now achieved the distinction of being the first German ever to make a WSOP main event final table.
Anton Makievskyi (13,825,000)
Anton Makievskyi is another relatively unknown player from the Ukraine, who also surfaced late in the main event with little evidence of live tournament experience or cashes.
The 21-year-old took the railbirds' breath away during the tournament when he took down a spectacularly large 20 million-chip pot at the end of Day 6 to become chip leader at that point.
Not much is known about Makievskyi, but it believed he honed his skills on the internet and hails from Dnipropetrousk, although he is now a student in Kiev.
He could enter the records as the youngest winner of the main event. Eastgate cracked that at age 22 in 2008, a record immediately beaten in 2009 by Joe Cada at 21 years old.
Samuel Holden (13,825,000)
Samuel Holden (22) is the last Brit active in this year's main event and will be aiming for the top prize and a WSOP bracelet, although he is currently the low stack.
His home town is Canterbury and he is adept at both online poker under the nom-de-plume "SamDMND" and in the live tourney world in the UK, where he has achieved three cashes in UKIPT events, the largest $5,785.
His biggest online cash was a 5th-place finish in PokerStars' Sunday Million for $54,390, bringing his total online winnings to $285,614 across a wide range of internet poker sites.
Holden learned how to play as a student at Kent University, playing home games and at a poker society before moving into internet poker and doing so well that became a full-time player after graduating with a degree in foresnic science in 2010.
He's the low stack at the table, but is guaranteed at least $782,155 even if he is the first man elininated in November.