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The 2015 November Nine kicked off Sunday night from the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV. Joe McKeehen led a talented group of players into action at the Penn & Teller theater and three players were eliminated over the course of five hours of play.

Some of the action on Sunday went as expected with the short stacks hitting the rail but one fan favorite failed to reach Day 2. Joe McKeehen and Neil Blumenfield impressed on Sunday with the chip leader not sitting with nearly half the chips in play.

Hanging with the best dealers around backstage during the WSOP #November9

A photo posted by Daniel Negreanu (@dnegspoker) on

Two Hands – Chan Out

There have been years where it’s taken four hours or more to knock out a single player. That didn’t happen this year as Patrick Chan became the quickest elimination in the history of the November Nine. His elimination came on just the second hand of play.

Joe McKeehen was to Chan’s direct right and raised enough to put Chan all-in. Chan made the call with Ks-Qc and found himself behind against Ad-4h. The board blanked both players and Chan was out in 9th.

You cannot fault Chan’s choice to call with K-Q as he had only 15 blinds to start with. Unfortunately, he just couldn’t get there.

Butteroni Folded to 8th

Where Chan got his stack in almost immediately, Federico Butteroni looked like he was trying to fold his way up the pay ladder. The only problem with that is that he folded every single hand but two over the course of the first three hours.

Butteroni was down to just six big blinds when he decided to move all-in over the top of a raise from Joe McKeehen. His hand was crushed as he held Ah-Jc against the As-Ks of McKeehen. The board missed both players and Butteroni was out in 8th.

Many of us can identify with wanting to wait until we have a big hand before shoving with a short stack. But in this case, Butteroni failed to make any reasonable attempt to climb out of the hole. While we didn’t see all of his cards, he could have tried to make a move long before getting down to just six big blinds. The opportunities were there, but he just failed to take them.

Neuville Playing Too Tight to Compete

Despite Daniel Negreanu’s claim that Pierre Neuville was just unlucky at the final table, it seemed to me that in a lot of spots that he was either playing scared or incredibly too tight for this final table.

Phil Hellmuth made a great point regarding the big pot he lost against Neil Blumenfield. Blumenfield had been very active pre-flop and Ac-Kh would have been a great spot for a three-bet. A three-bet in this spot may have forced Blumenfield to release the fours, especially considering Neuville’s image to that point. Instead, Neuville calls and Neuville got incredibly unlucky.

After that beat, Neuville seemed to shut it down completely and didn’t get into a single pot until he shoved in his final hand. By that point, he was going to be called by one of the bigger stacks. McKeehen looked him up and caught lucky to knock him out.

Some players get to the November Nine and the pressure becomes too much to overcome. One has to wonder if this is what happened to Neuville. A great run to the final table followed by a lackluster performance during the November Nine resulted in a 7th place finish.

Blumenfield and McKeehen Impressive

Neil Blumenfield and Joe McKeehen both impressed me during the final table. McKeehen played the big stack the “old school” way in the early hours and slowly built his stack. As the night continued and players started looking forward to Day 2 of the November Nine, he loosened up and played much more aggressively. This resulted in a 28 million-chip gain on Sunday to extend his chip lead.

Blumenfield impressed me from the beginning with his aggression and hovered between second and third all day. He increased his chip count by 10 million and is in good shape doing into the second day. Blumenfield didn’t sit back and wait for big hands and made several impressive three-bets during the night. I stated last week that I believe that Blumenfield had nothing to lose and he’s been playing like it. I look forward to see what he will do on Day 2.

Can We Take A Little More Time Please?

The pace of play by a couple of pros has been a bit annoying. Zvi Stern, Pierre Neuville and even Neil Blumenfield continually took longer than needed pre-flop to act. It is understandable if you’re facing a raise or have a big borderline decision but taking more than a couple four or five seconds before making a decision on every hand is annoying and makes the game tough to watch for casual players.

Phil Hellmuth advocated for officials to say something to players and I agree. If the WSOP isn’t going to adopt a shot clock, do something to speed up the pace a bit when it is clear a player is just Hollywooding.

It’s McKeehen’s Tournament to Lose

With 47% of the chips in play, the WSOP Main Event is Joe McKeehen’s to lose. He will come back with 91.45 million chips and in great shape to become just the second November Nine chip leader to win the Main Event.

Zvi Stern and Neil Blumenfield are second and third respectively with 32.4 and 31.5 million. Max Steinberg has 16 million or 26 big blinds when play resumes. Josh Beckley and Tom Cannuli are the short stacks with 10.87 and 10.42 million respectively. Both will need to be active early or face the same fate as Chan, Butteroni and Neuville.

Action resumes Monday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and will continue until there are just three players remaining. Odds are that Joe McKeehen will be in the final three, but who will join him? Check back tomorrow to find out.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.