The table is set and we know who’s coming to dinner, but now what? We speculate.
The 2016 World Series of Poker is officially packed up and put away until October 30. The summer was chock full of tournaments and bracelet winners, and the $10K NLHE World Championship found its November Nine final table. And with the Main Event on hold until the television broadcasts catch up, there are three months to take guesses at what might happen when the nine players regroup at the Rio in Las Vegas and play for the $8 million first place prize and gold bracelet.
After seven full days of poker action in the Main Event, play ended near midnight on July 18 with the November Nine. Those players already have their seating assignments and chip stacks, but the next three months will determine what they truly bring to the table to have an edge.
These are the players who will take seats on October 30:
- Cliff Josephy (New York, USA) – 74,500,000
- Qui Nguyen (Nevada, USA) – 67,925,000
- Gordon Vayo (California, USA) – 49,375,000
- Kenny Hallaert (Hansbeke, Belgium) – 43,325,000
- Michael Ruane (New Jersey, USA) – 31,600,000
- Vojtech Ruzicka (Prague, Czech Republic) – 27,300,000
- Griffin Benger (Ontario, Canada) – 26,175,000
- Jerry Wong (New York, USA) – 10,175,000
- Fernando Pons (Palma, Spain) – 6,150,000
Josephy is the oldest of the group at the age of 50, and he also has the most experience in poker by a wide margin. Known online for years as “JohnnyBax,” he was one of the top online poker players in the world and part of a duo with Eric “Sheets” Haber that backed hundreds of other poker players. His live and online experience, along with his ability to read others, analyze the game, and manage it all, clearly makes him the favorite at the table. And he has the chip lead.
Benger is a favorite of the group because of his experience as a gamer and poker player. The latter has garnered several million in live poker tournament winnings and millions more online where he has played for years as “Flush_Entity.” The biggest benefit for Benger is his stint earlier this year as a commentator for the Global Poker League, where he watched several months of online poker and analyzed it for audiences. He admits to having learned a great deal from that experience, which helped him in the Main Event thus far.
Vayo and Hallaert are next in line as far as experience, with Ruzicka and Ruane close behind. Hallaert may have the edge of this group due to his many years as a tournament director. All of them have quite a few years of history with the game, but most of it has been online. Vayo is the youngest at the entire table at only 27, so he will have the most work to do as far as staying focused and calm.
Jerry Wong is a bit of a wild card. He has played poker for a number of years and has experience in live and online tournaments. However, he has been relatively quiet about the entire Main Event experience and did not participate in WSOP interviews with media outlets like PokerNews on July 19. The years of play are on his side, but little is known about him away from the tables.
The real wild card of the November Nine is Fernando Pons. The Spaniard is the only one who plays on a recreational basis and holds a regular full-time job as an account executive. He has little in the way of live poker earnings, and his online poker history has yet to be uncovered. He won his way to the WSOP Main Event via a €30 online satellite on 888poker, where he visited Las Vegas for the first time, to go along with his first-time WSOP experience. He is also the shortest stack at the table.
A look at the 2016 Main Event November Nine, heading to the Penn & Teller Theatre October 30 – https://t.co/BSVlo6cNLH— WSOP (@WSOP) July 19, 2016
Will There Be Any WSOP Surprises?
The only real surprise in structure or rules in the Main Event was a change on Day 7. There was quite a bit of stalling by a few of the players surrounding the prize pool escalation. An executive decision was made with 11 players remaining to disallow players’ ability to call the clock on each other. Instead, the tournament staff would enforce time constraints as needed.
Will this lead to a time clock of any kind at the final table, especially considering the many complaints received from the 2015 November Nine with regard to tanking by two of the players? In all likelihood, there will not be a clock. To implement such a game-changer midway through a tournament – and at such a crucial point like the final table – is unprecedented. And it is unlikely.
The final table will likely play out exactly as it did last year and in previous years. There will be several countries represented with players hailing from Canada, Belgium, Spain, and the Czech Republic, in addition to the others from the United States. This may offer a more lively atmosphere at the theater, but nothing else will change.
The only possibility for something surprising in the coming months depends on the WSOP itself and its ability or desire to market the November Nine. Several of the players have interesting stories that could play well in the media, but it is up to the WSOP to actively market them to mainstream media, as well as the players themselves to want to be in that spotlight.