BY RUSS SCOTT
OCTOBER 28, 2008
The “November Nine”, from left: Ylon Schwartz, Darus Suharto, Kelly Kim, Craig Marquis, Scott Montgomery, Peter Eastgate, Ivan Demidov, David Rheem, and Dennis Phillips.
WHO WILL BE THE 2008 WSOP CHAMP? WE’LL KNOW SOON
Who will win this year’s World Series of Poker main event and pocket more than $9 million? The wait is almost over.
The nine finalists were determined in the wee hours of July 15, but to boost interest for television viewing, the final table was paused until Nov. 9 to mesh with ESPN’s 18 hours of main-event coverage that started Sept. 2.
In an unprecedented prime-time special, ESPN will air the final table on Nov. 11, just hours after play concludes very early that morning at the Rio in Las Vegas. Unless they seek out the results online, viewers won’t know who won until they watch that night. A final table preview show airs Nov. 4.
The main event began July 3 with 6,844 players and a total prize pool of $64.3 million, the second largest in history. Half of that money, more than $32 million, awaits the finalists with cash awards ranging from $900,670 for ninth place to $9,119,517 for the champ — plus interest earned from July!
Here’s a look at the “November Nine” and their chip counts:
* Dennis Phillips, 53, Cottage Hill, Ill. — 26,295,000
Phillips, account manager for a commercial trucking company in St. Louis, is the old man at the table but don’t be fooled. He built his chip stack partly with well-timed aggression and showed no fear. His four-year poker resume is thin, but not his charitable heart. Phillips will donate a percentage of his winnings to fight cancer and multiple sclerosis. His brother has MS.
* Ivan Demidov, 27, Moscow, Russia — 24,400,000
Demidov has played professionally (mostly online) less than three years. Before the main event, his winnings in just three cashes totaled $65,081, but he enters final-table play with major momentum. On Oct. 2 he placed third, for $664,781, in the WSOP-Europe championship event in London, making him the first player ever to make both WSOP main event final tables in the same year.
* Scott Montgomery, 26, Perth, Ontario, Canada — 19,690,000
Another pro peaking at the perfect time, Montgomery’s live tournament cashes this year total $409,315, including three other WSOP cashes and a final-table showing at the Bellagio’s World Poker Tour event. He describes his super-aggressive style as “psychotic” but under control. A survey of pros rated him as the most skilled player at the table and their favorite to win the bracelet.
* Peter Eastgate, 22, Odense, Denmark — 18,375,000
Eastgate has been compared to the “Great Dane”, Gus Hansen, despite just three years of pro experience, mostly online. His live tournament winnings total $93,195 in three events, all in Europe. In a bit of a twist, he would be the youngest ever to win this event and it was Eastgate who knocked out Tiffany Michelle, who would have been the first woman champion.
* Ylon Schwartz, 38, Brooklyn, N.Y. — 12,525,000
Based on experience, Schwartz has a shot. He has 30 live tournament cashes totaling $255,851 dating back to 1998, including seven final tables. His best finish was third place, but he has more WSOP cashes (12) than anyone in the field. We’ll find out if hustling chess games for money in New York City parks prepared him for this.
* Darus Suharto, 39, Toronto, Ontario, Canada — 12,520,000
The Indonesian-born Suharto played poker for fun until the 2006 WSOP main event. He finished a respectable 448th against a record field (8,773) for $26,389 and his only live tournament cash. He’s an accountant with an MBA from Indiana University. Suharto calls himself a “donkey” at the poker table, but his chip stack won’t last long if he plays like one on Nov. 9.
* David Rheem, 28, Los Angeles, Calif. — 10,230,000
Ten-year-pro Rheem has earned about $700,000 in live tournaments, including a runner-up finish in a WSOP event in 2006 for $327,981. Trespassing and stolen property charges against him in Florida reportedly have been cleared up, and he’ll enter the final table as one of the favorites. His super-aggressive play could take him deep or bust him early.
* Craig Marquis, 23, Arlington, Texas — 10,210,000
Another high-stakes online specialist, Marquis took a break from studies at the University of Texas-Arlington to play poker. In less than two years he has recorded three cashes — all in WSOP events — for $35,759. He played in 17 WSOP events this year and only cashed once, for $5,596. Like Eastgate, Marquis could become the youngest champ ever.
* Kelly Kim, 31, Whittier, Calif. — 2,620,000
With the most live-tournament cashes in the field (38) dating back to 2001, the Korea-born Kim has the experience to overcome his super-short stack. An early double-up or two will be crucial. Kim worked as a business analyst before turning pro and winning $362,424 so far. He will have many fans rooting for him as the underdog.
So who will win? Let’s go with Phillips or Demidov, with Rheem as a dark horse contender. Meanwhile, I just hope the WSOP didn’t invest that $32 million in the stock market!
Next week: LuckyDog interviews Dennis Phillips!
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2008 RUSS SCOTT
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