Since mid-July, when the final nine players in the World Series of Poker Main Event was decided, poker fans have been waiting to see the resumption of action after a 117 day hiatus at the behest of television executives. On a grey and rainy Sunday morning this weekend their patience was rewarded as the November Nine and a full-house of railbirds and media reporters gathered at the Rio in Las Vegas.
Final tablers Peter Eastgate, Kelly Kim, Ivan Demidov, David "Chino" Rheem, Darus Suharto, Scott Montgomery, Ylon Schwartz, Craig Marquis and chip leader Dennis Phillips assembled at the Penn and Teller Theater within the hotel resort to find elaborate arrangements in place, with the table on a floodlit stage surrounded by television cameras and flanked by giant spectator screens.
They were preceded into the venue by a full-house of enthusiastic spectators who had stood in line for hours awaiting the 9.30am door opening, rooting for individual players. Those supporting Dennis Phillips were probably the most noticeable in both team clothing and noise level – the veteran player had booked some 350 seats for his followers, many from his home town of St. Louis.
Spotted among the spectators were Daniel Negreanu, Michael and Robert Mizrachi, Philippe Rouas, Greg Mueller, Phil Gordon, Cliff Josephy, and Barry Greenstein. Later in the day Phil Hellmuth pitched up, as did Hasan Habib, Amnon Filippi, Evelyn Ng, Maria Ho and Tiffany Michelle, who managed a creditable 17th place finish in the Main Event earlier this year.
Flanked by statuesque Vegas showgirls, 2007 WSOP champ Jerry Yang ramped up spectator excitement before tournament director Jack Effel bounded onstage to introduce WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack, who welcomed the nine finalists on to the stage to a rowdy reception. After a few kind words from Pollack and a sponsor, the chip bags were issued and once the chip counts were confirmed, Yang gave the traditional "Shuffle Up and Deal" call to wild applause.
By the first 15 minute break a radical change in the chip counts was already evident, as starting chip leader Dennis Phillips dropped to eighth place and the PokerStars Russian player Ivan Demidov roared into a convincing lead. There were still nine players in it to win it, with the chip counts looking like this:
Ivan Demidov 35,875,000
Peter Eastgate 19,995,000
Ylon Schwartz 19,015,000
Scott Montgomery 18,215,000
Darus Suharto 13,725,000
Craig Marquis 10,050,000
David "Chino" Rheem 9,300,000
Dennis Phillips 8,880,000
Kelly Kim 1,810,000
As the game progressed the fortunes of Ylon Schwartz improved to the extent that the chip lead fluctuated between him and Demidov, often with pots worth several millions at risk.
First player to go, on hand 52 and in ninth place, was Internet ace and Full Tilt player Craig Marquis, who left with a $900,670 paycheck after a multi-million dollar clash with fellow Full Tilt pro Scott Montgomery from Canada.
On the next hand – 53 – it was regular Full Tilt player Kelly Kim's time to head for the exit, eliminated in eighth place by Toronto accountant Darus Suharto and claiming the first of the seven-figure paychecks – $1,288,217 – for his time and trouble.
By hand 76 David Rheem, the soft-spoken but dangerous PokerStars pro, was in trouble and departed in seventh place after a clash with the youngest player at the table, Denmark's Peter Eastgate. Rheem pocketed a cool $1,772,650, leaving the remaining six players with the following chip counts showing Demidov holding a convincing lead:
Ivan Demidov 39,075,000
Peter Eastgate 28,425,000
Dennis Phillips 20,750,000
Ylon Schwartz 20,425,000
Scott Montgomery 18,150,000
Darus Suharto 9,400,000
The poker action was briefly suspended after the dinner break to accommodate the 7.15pm Hall of Fame inductions of Duane "Dewey" Tomko and Henry Orenstein, after which the big game resumed, only to see 39-year-old Toronto accountant Darus Suharto eliminated in sixth place in a Canadian-on-Canadian confrontation at hand 105 that saw Scott Montgomery emerge the winner. Suharto had the consolation of a sixth place prize purse worth $2,418,562.
Montgomery's jubilation was short-lived – by hand 119 he had himself been eliminated in fifth place for $3,096,768 by Peter Eastgate.
When InfoPowa went to press, hand 133 chip counts looked like this as the action continued:
Ivan Demidov: 54,775,000
Peter Eastgate: 40,925,000
Dennis Phillips: 25,450,000
Ylon Schwartz: 15,075,000