The final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event is quickly approaching, and the eyes of poker players around the world will turn to the action set to take place on October 30 and the subsequent days. One player will become the world champion and win $8 million, and that man also has the opportunity to become an ambassador for the game.
Some past WSOP Main Event champions have chosen not to take on the role of poker ambassador. It is every winner’s right to simply walk away with the money and end their time in the spotlight when the cameras shut off. But for others, it is a chance to shine a positive light on the game, to work within the industry to attract new players and become a positive role model.
What are the chances that the winner of this year’s Main Event will become an ambassador?
Where the November Nine Stand
The majority of the $10K buy-in NLHE Championship played out in July, when the field dwindled from 6,737 players to just nine. And of the $63,327,800, nine payouts remain with the largest one of $8 million set aside for the winner.
These nine players — sometimes called the November Nine — will return to the Rio in Las Vegas on October 30 to play further, with action scheduled for the next night and the heads-up match to play on November 1:
- 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 clearly the favorite at the table, not only as the chip leader but as the player with significantly more poker experience than his competitors. Nguyen is not far behind but is one of the players with the least amount of experience in tournaments. In fairness, everyone has a shot at the title, as anything can happen when the cards are dealt.
Best Potential Poker Ambassador
I should preface this choice by saying that I’ve never met any of the players at this WSOP final table in person. I have seen Josephy at the WSOP for many years, as I started covering the series in Las Vegas in 2006, but we never met.
With that said, my opinion is that Josephy would make the best poker ambassador. Should he win, he will likely do it with complete class and respect. He will be a humble champion who will value the accomplishment with the right mix of gratitude and dignity. Anything other than a win will also likely be treated with the same civility and class, as Josephy has demonstrated nothing less in years of watching him from afar in the poker world.
His years of experience in poker have allowed him to see the industry from the views of a variety of players, whether online or live, amateurs or pros. His successes have demonstrated that skill wins out over luck despite the factors of risk inherent in the game.
Josephy is also one of the few players who has remained respectful of everyone at the tables as well as the staff and media at poker tournaments, and he has never shown a hint of misogyny or prejudice. He also prioritizes his family over the game, taking every advantage of his career choices and subsequent achievements to spend as much time at home as possible.
A victory by Josephy in a few weeks will undoubtedly produce well-spoken interviews and a champion of which every poker player and fan can be proud.
Any of the other eight players have the potential to be the same kind of champion. Josephy tops my list, however, because of his track record and long history with the game. But whatever the result, my greatest wish is for a good game that provides a positive reflection on poker.