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When the World Series of Poker Main Event reconvened at the Rio in Las Vegas on October 30, there were nine players – the November Nine. They brought friends and family members to the Penn & Teller Theater to see the biggest and most anticipated final table of the year, as each of them was playing for the $8 million first-place prize and gold bracelet.

On that first night of their return, four players were eliminated from the action over the course of six hours. All of it was broadcast on a 30-minute delay on ESPN, and poker fans from around the world watched as five players made it through that night and kept their WSOP dreams alive.

How Five Managed to Survive

The WSOP $10K No Limit Hold’em Championship began in July with 6,737 players and finished with the November Nine. Each of them was guaranteed $1 million, which was the prize money for ninth place, and they went home with that reward. And on October 30, they returned to the Rio to play for more than $25 million that was still in the coffers, with interest, of course.

Short-stacked Fernando Pons was the first to depart after just ten hands, and Cliff Josephy was the benefactor. Jerry Wong managed to double his chip stack, and he fought hard to overcome his short-stacked status, but Vojtech Ruzicka ultimately sent him home. Griffin Benger had a tough time, as it took nearly 60 hands for him to win his first one. But his stack continued to diminish until he finally busted to Gordon Vayo in seventh place.

WSOP 2016 main event braceletIn a surprise move, ESPN and the WSOP decided to continue play, and as they did, Kenny Hallaert lost ground from his original fourth-place spot on the leaderboard. Ruane had trouble keeping chips, too, but it was Hallaert who put all of his chips at risk on the 97th hand of the night against chip leader Qui Nguyen. Hallaert lost the hand and departed in sixth place.

Play then stopped with these chip counts and payouts:

  1. Qui Nguyen (Nevada, USA) – 128,625,000
  2. Cliff Josephy (New York, USA) – 63,850,000
  3. Vojtech Ruzicka (Prague, Czech Republic) – 62,250,000
  4. Gordon Vayo (California, USA) – 58,200,000
  5. Michael Ruane (New Jersey, USA) – 23,700,000

6th place:  Kenny Hallaert (Hansbeke, Belgium) – $1,464,258

7th place:  Griffin Benger (Ontario, Canada) – $1,250,190

8th place:  Jerry Wong (New York, USA) – $1,100,076

9th place:  Fernando Pons (Palma, Spain) – $1,000,000

Starting Main Event Day 9…

The five remaining players took to the stage once again, ready for action and with the plan of playing down to just two or three. The pace and action would determine how long they would be at the table on the evening of October 31.

Action was on tap from the first hand of the night. And on the fourth, short-stacked Ruane made his move. After Nguyen raised from the button, Ruane pushed all-in from the big blind with pocket eights. Nguyen showed sixes, and Ruane’s hand held for the double-up.

Three hands later, Vayo raised on the button, and Ruzicka reraised it up to 8.15 million from the small blind. Vayo called, and the flop came Qc-8d-3c. Ruzicka bet, and Vayo called. The turn of 7h prompted another bet from Ruzicka, and Vayo again called. The 5s on the river led to Ruzicka moving all-in for 27.85 million. Vayo immediately called all-in and showed pocket eights for the set. Ruzicka had As-Kd, losing the hand and all of his chips but 850K, which was less than one big blind.

On the next hand, Ruzicka pushed those chips in, and Nguyen raised to 5 million from the small blind. Josephy folded, and Nguyen showed Ah-Qh, which dominated the Ad-7s of Ruzicka. The board came 6-5-4-4-2 and eliminated Ruzicka in a surprising fifth place.

With that, Vayo soared into the chip lead for the first time at the final table. But soon after, Nguyen got very aggressive in a pre-flop raising war and took it down, climbing back into the lead. Vayo quickly took it back, though, with a big chip win from Josephy, leaving the latter with little more than 50 million.

The two shortest stacks then battled in a significant pot that went to Josephy to bring him back over the 70 million chip mark. Ruane, on the other hand, was left with 28 million. On the other end of the leaderboard, Vayo and Nguyen continued to dominate, though Nguyen was most consistently in the top spot.

After nearly 40 hands of play, the tournament staff paused the action to remove the 25K-denomination chips from the table. The chip counts at that time were:

  • Qui Nguyen – 142,000,000
  • Gordon Vayo – 117,600,000
  • Cliff Josephy – 56,70,000
  • Michael Ruane – 20,300,000

In the next dozen or so hands, Nguyen only soared higher and eclipsed the 160 million chip mark.

Meanwhile, Ruane dipped below 20 million, a dangerously low spot with blinds at 600K/1.2M and a 200K ante. Finally, with just 15.7 million, he moved all-in with Kh-Qh from the small blind after Nguyen raised under the gun. Nguyen called and showed Ah-Js, and the board delivered 9s-9h-2s-Jc-8d. That sent Ruane out in fourth place.

Play continued for about another 20 minutes until nearly 70 hands had been completed. Nguyen maintained a substantial lead over his two opponents, and Josephy finished the night with the shortest of the three stacks.

Action will resume in less than 24 hours, at 9:00pm ET, at which point they will play until one person is the new WSOP Main Event champion.

Payouts on Second Night of Final Table

4th place:  Michael Ruane (New Jersey, USA) – $2,576,003

5th place:  Vojtech Ruzicka (Prague, Czech Republic) – $1,935,288

Payouts on First Night of Final Table

6th place:  Kenny Hallaert (Hansbeke, Belgium) – $1,464,258

7th place:  Griffin Benger (Ontario, Canada) – $1,250,190

8th place:  Jerry Wong (New York, USA) – $1,100,076

9th place:  Fernando Pons (Palma, Spain) – $1,000,000

Remaining Chip Counts and Payouts

  1. Qui Nguyen (Nevada, USA) – 197,600,000
  2. Cliff Josephy (New York, USA) – 89,000,000
  3. Gordon Vayo (California, USA) – 50,000,000

1st place:  $8,005,310

2nd place:  $4,661,228

3rd place:  $3,453,035

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.