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2010 WSOP November Nine Part 1
07 November 2010

7310 Down, 8 to Go

It's been 3.5 months since Brandon Steven bubbled the November Nine, but it feels like just yesterday. We've seen them on ESPN, on magazine covers, and on the web. Now it's finally time to see who will win it all.

Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi greets fans in line at the Penn & Teller Theater. Nice bracelet!

Filippo Candio signs an autograph. Same sweatshirt, new blazer.

Ready to Rumble

Seeing the November Nine live is the only way to get the full experience. ESPN does a good job covering the hand-for-hand action and the up close and personal player stories. But the energy in the Penn & Teller Theater can't be captured in two dimensions.

The place was packed to the rafters. The main floor, mezzanine, and balcony were jammed with fans cheering for their favorites, many of them wearing t-shirts handed out by the players. Red "Go Grinder" shirts, black Racener "RCNR" shirts, and Montreal Canadiens jerseys were everywhere.

The players were introduced one at a time like UFC fighters entering the ring, each with their own hot ring girl holding up their seat number. This is probably as much hype as a real poker event can safely withstand, and the WSOP and Rio staff do a great job. Tournament Director Jack Effel is incredibly good at engaging the players, their entourages, and the fans as well as describing the card-by-card action. We couldn't ask for more, but we got it. In the form of several extremely dramatic chip swings and bustouts.

Shuffle up and deal! Nice vest, Jack.

Cuong "Soi" Nguyen was the first to go, and if you had asked us, we would have predicted it. He was pretty much the token random guy at the table, a self-admitted amateur player, and 8th in chips at the start of play. In his last hand, he shoved with AK, Senti called with QQ, a king hit the flop and that was it. Chalk up another one for Big Slick.

The remaining players turned their sights on Jason Senti, who started dead last and was forced to shove frequently. But no! Matthew Jarvis was the next to go. Team Canada's ranks were reduced 50% when Grinder busted Jarvis on an incredibly dramatic hand. It started as a classic race: Jarvis shoved with 99, Grinder pondered and called with AQ. The flop had Jarvis drawing nearly dead when the dealer spread QQ8, giving Grinder trip queens. Jarvis needed to bink a 9.

And he did! The 9 on the turn gave Jarvis 9s full of queens, so Grinder was drawing dead to the case queen, an 8, or an ace. And, right on cue, an ace hit the river, Grinder had made queens full of aces, and the room erupted. Grinder's on-stage entourage and supporters in the crowd were one of the loudest contingents in the room, but even they were drowned out as everyone in the Penn & Teller Theater simultaneously yelled. (But we were a little sad to see Jarvis' very pretty sister leave.)

Matthew Jarvis talks with ESPN after his intense bustout hand

7-handed play as seen from the balcony

Big Slick Strikes Again (and Again)

Ace king played a big role in the action, as you might expect. Jason Senti, who did well to chip up as others busted out, finally met his end at the hands of Big Slick. He shoved with AK preflop, Cheong called with 10-10, and the flop came KKQ. It looked really good for Senti, as he was a 91% favorite to win. The turn brought a jack, giving Cheong an open-ended straight redraw. Senti was still an 86% favorite, but Cheong could win on the river with either of the two remaining tens (for tens full) or a 9 or an ace (for a king-high or ace-high straight).

Boom! A 9 came out to complete Cheong's king-high straight, and the room exploded again. There are many ways to lose a hand, but losing when your opponent catches running cards is one of the most painful.

Jason Senti gives Cheong the industry standard two-pat hug after his brutal Big Slick bustout hand

Big Slick struck again when Racener shoved preflop with AK and Grinder called with A8. What? Grinder thought long and hard and it looked like he was going to fold. But he didn't, Racener spiked a king on the turn, and Grinder doubled him up.

Grinder's Run Ends

Dolan busted in 6th when he tried to steal with Q5, ran into Duhamel's 44, and lost the race. Grinder busted in 5th when he shoved after flopping top pair of queens with Q8 but couldn't beat Duhamel's AA. Grinder's large on-stage entourage of Mizrachi family members and friends left, and Racener's RCNR-shirted crew took their places.

The key hand for Grinder wasn't his bustout hand, but an earlier hand that knocked him out of the chip lead. Racener 3-bet shoved over Grinder's preflop raise. Grinder thought for several minutes, clearly torn between the need to preserve his chips and the lure of busting a truly tough opponent. He called, showed A8, and Racener showed AK. Big Slick vs. Ace Baby (more on Ace Baby later). Racener hit his man on the turn to double up, and Grinder dropped to third in chips.

Frank Cassela became the sole WSOP 2010 Player of the Year on Grinder's bustout. Had Grinder won the Main Event, he and Cassela would have been tied as co-Players of the Year. But even after a disappointing November Nine appearance, Grinder has had a fantastic 2010 WSOP. He won the prestigious David 'Chip' Reese Memorial Trophy in the $50K Poker Players Championship and went extremely deep in the Main Event. Congratulations to Michael Mizrachi.

John Dolan ran his Q5 into Duhamel's 44 and lost the race. Out in 6th place.

Michael Mizrachi busts in 5th after running into Duhamel's aces. Still a great year for The Grinder.

Money presentation with 4 players left. Looks like $8.9 million but each brick has $1s on the inside.

Ace Baby Syndrome

Ace king decided many of the November Nine players' fates, but when there are only four left, any ace is probably the best hand. A3 was good for Cheong when he busted Candio in 4th place. Candio's KQ was in big trouble when an ace flopped, and Cheong ended up with a wheel on the river. Candio's fans had been relatively quiet as his stack dwindled, but everyone in the theater gave him a round of warm applause. And he returned it, applauding the audience for their support.

With three players left, Cheong and Duhamel each had over 90 million, and Racener was left with less than 30 million. And while 30 million sounds like a lot, being 1,000 times the size of the starting stacks on day 1, it isn't much when the blinds are 200k / 600k / 1.2 million. So, standard practice for the big stacks would be to take turns stealing the short stack's blinds, and otherwise keeping pressure on the short stack while avoiding doubling him up. In a perfect world, Racener would finish third and Cheong and Duhamel would fight for the title when heads-up play begins on Monday.

Didn't happen. This isn't a perfect world, and Ace Baby Syndrome seemed to have inflicted Cheong. He took a big hit when he lost a pot to (what else?) Duhamel's AK and gave Duhamel the chip lead. Then, later, instead of folding A7 and waiting for a better spot, he 6-bet shoved preflop after a raising war with Duhamel. Duhamel called and flipped up QQ, a 2-to-1 favorite.

The Battle of the Hoodies was on, and the crowd yelled "Ace! Ace! Ace!" But it didn't come. Cheong had lost the biggest pot in World Series of Poker history, and was crippled with barely 4 million chips. Duhamel became the superstack with more than 177 million, and Racener was thanking the poker gods for this incredible stroke of luck. Cheong managed to start a rally, doubling up several times to about 17 million. But he finally busted in third place with Q-10 against, ironically, the A2 of Duhamel.

This particular WSOP Main Event final table is bound to go down in history not only because of the dramatic flop, turn, and river cards on many of the hands. Some of the players' decisions, which could be easily be considered blowups, will no doubt haunt them. Grinder's call with A8 and Cheong's 6-bet shove with A7 will likely be debated for quite some time.

Filippo Candio applauds the audience on his way out in 4th place

Third place finisher Joseph Cheong congratulates Duhamel after losing the biggest pot in WSOP history

Joseph Cheong explains himself to the always adorable Lizzy Harrison

Final Showdown on Monday Night

So it's down to the final two, Jonathan Duhamel and John Racener. Duhamel will start heads-up play with a massive 189 million to 31 million chip advantage over Racener. It's 7317 down with one to go, and we'll be there.

Next: 2010 WSOP Main Event Heads-Up Play...

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