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The Other Eight: Rating the final table field

novembernine.jpgThe November Niners look chummy here, but they'll be in full-on combat mode this weekend when they fight for poker's biggest prize. L to R: James Akenhead, Jeff Shulman, Phil Ivey, Antoine Saout, Darvin Moon, Joe Cada, Steve Begleiter, Kevin Schaffel, Eric Buchman.


There are, of course, eight other players at the World Series Of Poker Main Event final table in addition to that Darvin Moon guy.

In case you haven't been following the action and storylines on ESPN or elsewhere, here's a rundown of the rest of the field, with WSOP chip counts, Bodog's odds for each player to win the Main Event and scouting reports/observations from ESPN's poker announcers Norman Chad and Lon McEachern.

Each player is already guaranteed at least $1.26 million; top prize of $8.5 million goes to the player with all the chips at the end of the tournament. (Moon currently has about a third of the chips in play.)

Eric Buchman, New York poker pro, 34,800,000 chips, 3:1 odds to win
"Early in Main Event, he was a non-factor," McEachern says. "We saw him go all-in and had to catch lucky to stick around. But with almost 35 million chips, this is the guy that I think has the best chance to win. He is just a quality player with a number of strong finishes on his poker resume. He has a great even-tempered attitude, never gets too high, never gets too low. He's sitting pretty in second place. He's got some short stacks off to his left that he can maybe take advantage of. I would fear Eric Buchman if I were the other eight players."

Steven Begleiter, former head of corporate strategy for Bear Stearns, 29,885,000 chips, 11:2 odds to win
"Probably the lightning rod player at the table," Chad says. "Most of the poker community has a bigger opinion on him than anybody else, partly because of his Wall Street background, party because of the hands he played that we saw in which he got pretty lucky. He had a lot of gamble in him. He was fortunate to win in some situations in which he should have lost. He knows how to play big chips. He's the second oldest player at the table, at 47."

Jeff Shulman, president of Card Player Media, 19,580,000 chips, 4:1 odds to win
"He doesn't have a lot of results, but he certainly knows the game," McEachern says. "He learned from past mistakes. He made the final table of the Main Event in 2000, the year Chris Ferguson won it. He's said he was not ready for that experience. That was the first World Series event he played, and he had his lunch handed to him. He looks back on that as a great learning time. Obviously, in his role as editor of Card Player, he's steeped in the game. He talks to the players; he plays the game. It was his time again this year. Obviously, very solid. He's going to be a very dangerous force."

(Phil Ivey, James Akenhead and more after the jump.)

Joe Cada, 21-year-old poker pro from Michigan, 13,215,000 chips, 10:1 odds to win; would be the youngest ever Main Event champion
"He's the poster boy for the youth of this event," Chad says. "What's impressive besides his play is you see so many people who come into a poker room for the first time who are used to [playing on] the internet, and other than having a lot of poker skills, they don't have a lot of people skills. He's quietly personable at the table. You root for him because of the way he handles himself....."

Kevin Schaffel, newly retired businessman-turned-poker pro from Florida, 12,390,000 chips, 12:1 odds to win
"He's a guy who's been playing a lot of poker," McEachern says. "He'll travel out of Florida to visit L.A. and Vegas to play cash games. He's not a flash in the pan. He's the oldest player at the table, at 51. He's been playing longer than anyone else [at the final table], I'd imagine. He's a guy who's had some good results. He finished second at a World Poker Tour event in L.A. I talked to Mike Sexton, the WPT announcer, and he was really impressed with his skills at that final table. I think he's got a great attitude going into this -- whatever happens will give me more time to play golf."

Phil Ivey, Las Vegas poker pro, 9,765,000 chips, 7:2 odds to win
"Poker players can agree on nothing," Chad says. "If they're at a crosswalk and the signal says to walk, they'll start arguing whether they should walk or not. The fact that they do agree on Phil Ivey [as the world's best player] is a rare circumstance. I agree with them, with good reason. It's not like he's found some secret to playing that nobody else knows. He just does all the little things a little better than everybody else. ... He's got mathematical skills that are similar to other people, but they're just a little better. He's got instincts that are similar to other people, but they're just a little bit better. He doesn't go on tilt like other players often do. He just put all these things together, and then he's got some sixth sense which all the good poker players have. But he has like a sixth--and-a half sense, where he has the ability to read situations better than the next person. Everyone agrees he is the best."

Antoine Saout, French poker pro, 9,500,000 chips, 13:1 odds to win; would be the first Frenchman to win a Main Event
"We know the least about Antoine for obvious reasons: He has never played in America before now," Chad says. "He didn't even start playing poker until a couple of years ago. He dropped out of engineering school, started playing some tournaments in Europe with a couple of results, and then he came over here. When you talk to the other players, they say he hasn't had a hair out of place. They haven't seen him do anything really stupid. He's played pretty snug and smart poker. He had a great bluff down the stretch against Steve Begleiter for that very reason. Begleiter gave a whole speech about how he'd seen Antoine play for several days 'and I haven't seen him ever make a bet without a big hand.' And this was the one time Antoine made a bet without a big hand. That's the reason he made it to the November Nine. He went all in with nothing; if he'd been called, he would've been out."

James Akenhead, British poker pro, 6,800,000 chips, 15:1 odds to win
"Another accomplished 20-something player," Chad says. "He made a World Series final table last year [in a $1,500 buy-in no limit Texas hold 'em tournament], got to heads up and was the best player, but didn't win because of the luck of the tournament draw. Selectively aggressive. He has the least chance of winning, only because he has the least amount of chips right now. He needs to get lucky sometime in the first hour or two, then he can play poker. He certainly has more experience and more skills than half the players on the table. I wouldn't be surprised to see him when it gets down to two or three players."

By J. Freedom du Lac  |  November 5, 2009; 2:05 PM ET
 
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