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November Nine 2011 - 9 to 3
06 November 2011

Together again. The 2011 WSOP November Nine prepare for battle.

The boys are back in town

Time flies. It doesn't seem like three and a half months since John Hewitt bubbled in 10th place. But a lot can happen between July and November, including coaching and plenty of practice and review. We couldn't help but think that each player was doing exactly what he was supposed to do at all times. It felt almost like they had all received coaching from the same person and followed those instructions to the letter.

Big stacks kept pressure on the short stacks and avoided playing big pots against each other. Medium stacks bluffed each other and avoided doubling up the short stacks. Short stacks picked a spot and moved in, especially if their big blind was raised. The players might have all taken the same course on game theory in the interim.

Still, there were plenty of dramatic hands, fateful river cards, and an enormous amount of audience involvement. That's why we come back for the November Nine. We could have seen hole cards on 15-minute delay broadcast. But the ambience, the sense of involvement, and watching history happen right in front of you simply can't be experienced by watching video on a screen.

View from the mezzanine of the Penn & Teller Theater

Sam Holden - 9th place

He had been short stacked for much of the Main Event play down to the final nine, and he fought the good fight. But he never managed to find the cards to double up with. At one point we tweeted that he simply couldn't give up any more big blinds without a fight. He needed to get chips or die trying, and sure enough, the next time he was in BB, Martin raised from EP, and Sam shoved. Martin then pretended to think for half a minute before folding. (This 1-bullet bluffing style seems to be Martin's modus operandi: raise, then fold to a 3-bet.)

Finally, Sam found a hand he might have doubled with. Ben raised with AKo, Sam 3-bet shoved with AJs and Ben snap-called. Ben's king was the king of clubs, he hit the nut club flush on the turn, and that was it for Sam. No additional payout for him, since all nine players had already received 9th place price money.

Anton Makiievskyi - 8th place

The first Ukrainian to make the WSOP Main Event final table, Anton Makiievskyi was this year's youngest at 21. But Joe Cada's record will stand for at least another year. Anton played a good game, but he started the day with the 2nd shortest stack and never managed to double up. We like his style, the sneering indifference he projects.

Anton picked a fairly weak holding to move in with, the KQo, and he found himself in a classic race against Pius Heinz' 99. The KJJ flop gave Anton the lead, but Pius spiked the 2-outer on the turn to make 9s full of jacks. Anton still had outs to make a bigger boat, but the turn and river bricked and he was out in 8th place.

Badih "Bob" Bounahra - 7th place

Bob Bounahra was the first Belize resident to make the WSOP final table, and although he is an avid poker player, he was by far the least experienced of the November Nine. He managed to avoid making any huge mistakes, but against this field he would need a whole lot of run-good to survive. That run-good found its way to another player. More on that later.

He had started the day in 6th chip position, but Pius Heinz had vaulted past him to lead for much of the day. Bob did well, as an amateur, to stay in as long as he did. He managed to make his unlit cigar last for about 5 hours. But his chips dwindled, he squeezed an ace and shoved with A5o. Martin called with A9o, and won the battle of the weak aces with an all-brick board.

We were a little sad to see Bob's well-dressed and very large group of fans leave. They all had Team Belize hats, long-sleeve shirts, and Belizian flags. And many of them were very attractive young ladies. Oh well, good luck to all of them.

Ben Lamb hits a 3-outer on the river to double up through Eoghan O'Dea

Ben Lamb just keeps on running good

It's tough enough to play against a guy as good as 2011 WSOP Player of the Year Ben Lamb. But it's even tougher when a player as good as Ben Lamb runs good. And Ben had both of those qualities throughout most of this year's Main Event.

Ben had started mid-pack and managed to steal quite a few pots uncontested. He busted Sam Holden, then doubled up Phil Collins when Phil's QJo caught up and made a flush against Ben's AQo. His stack dwindled, then he doubled with Q8o through Eoghan's A9o when he spiked an 8 on the river. But Ben's biggest hand, by far, came later in the match. More on that later.

Eoghan ODea bids farewell to his WSOP Main Event competitors

Eoghan O'Dea - 6th place

Eoghan had started play in 2nd chip position, but lost several key hands and couldn't come back. He was arguably one of the best and most highly regarded players at the table, but final table play is the living definition of small sample variance. Ben's double-up through Eoghan dropped Eoghan to low man, and almost immediately after that, Eoghan busted with K6 vs. Martin's 88.

Phil Collins gives Ben a farewell bro hug

Phil Collins - 5th place

One of the favorites coming in to November Nine play, Phil played well but took some hits and never managed to dominate. He became short stacked and moved in with A7o, and there was Pius with his pocket nines again. Pius even spiked another nine on the turn again. Phil had even more outs than Anton had on his bustout hand against Pius, since the turn gave Phil redraws to a flush and open-ended straights. All of which he missed.

It needs to be said that Phil's rooting section in the mezzanine was by far the most annoying group of people in the Penn & Teller theater. They went out of their way to scream out stupid things in the middle of hands, they used the F-bomb more than once, and they were drinking heavily as well. Rio's security team dispatched a detail to that part of the mezzanine early and often. Two of them were escorted out, but they were allowed back after an hour or so. They did get a little quieter as they wore themselves out over time. But it was still a relief to see (and hear) them leave.

Ben Lamb turns the nut flush to double up. Again!

Matt Giannetti - 4th place

He was 100% focused, he looked like an FBI agent on vacation, and he had a real shot at winning this thing. But he fell victim to Ben's run-good. Not just once, but twice. The first time, Matt had the best of it all-in with his JJ up against Ben's Ah7h. Pretty good situation to be in, really. Except that Ben turned the nut flush, the board wasn't paired, and Matt was drawing dead on the river. Ben doubled through, putting him out of danger chip-wise. And the hand left Matt crippled, with less than than 7 big blinds.

Matt's final hand gave new meaning to the phrase "no sweat." As in getting flopped stone dead, no outs, get up and leave. Matt shoved his last few million with A3o, Ben woke up with KK and snap-called. Ben no doubt was internally doing the no-ace dance until the flop. The day's play effectively ended when Ben flopped quad kings. Good game Matt, better luck next time.

Matt Giannetti meets Kara Scott the hard way. After busting.

We need to talk about Martin

Martin Staszko's style of play was a weird mix of bet-folding and run-good. Yes, Ben benefited most from the luck factor today. But Martin was right up there with him, doubling up when he needed to with A8 when he flopped trip 8s against Pius' 66. Martin started the day with the chip lead but soon lost it, regained the lead later, then lost it again. He ended the day's play with 42 million, just 2 million more than he started the day with.

By far the oddest thing about his play is his signature bet-folding and raise-folding. He'd raise preflop, then fold to a 3-bet. He'd bet the flop, then fold to a raise. He'd do this over and over, and it definitely cost him many chips. As we said earlier, at one point Martin raised from early position to attack short-stacked Sam Holden's big blind. But it was exactly what Doyle Brunson would call a "post oak bluff." Too small. It was just the standard minraise plus change at this particular table.

Sam 3-bet shoved, Martin acted like he was thinking for a moment, then mucked. Yes, there's the danger of moving in from EP and having a big stack wake up with aces behind you. But the the bigger stacks are all essentially silently colluding against the short stacks. They'd be happy to see someone, anyone, raise the short stack's BB all-in.

Add Martin's history of frequent bet-folding to the calculation, and his near-minraise has a much lower fear factor, even from early position. Didn't scare Sam. And later, the same move didn't scare the other players either. It cost Martin many millions, and he will begin 3-handed play with the fewest chips.

Why so serious?

In just under 11 hours of elapsed time, we were done. The overall impression during the day's play was of calm calculation punctuated by double-up crowd dives and gracious bustouts. There was very little talking, and only Bob Bounahra played much to the audience. In fact, the audience themselves provided a lot of the entertainment. Last year's November Nine day 1 play seems like a frat party in comparison.

Tune in on Tuesday

Play resumes at 5:30PM Las Vegas time on Tuesday November 8th. We'll be there, tweeting as ever. We can't wait to see this year's Main Event Champion put his new bracelet on for the first time...

Next: Your 2011 WSOP Main Event Champion!...

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