In a week when much of the poker world’s attention has focused on the fate of Full Tilt Poker, you could be forgiven for thinking the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event has crept up on us. That line of thought would be very wrong. Depending on what sport you follow this is poker’s version of the World Series, Super Bowl, FA Cup Final, or World Strongest Man contest. An initial pool of 6,865 has been whittled down to nine that enter the Rio in Vegas. One man will leave with a tidy $8,711,956 and the chance to brag that they’re the best poker player in the world.
This year’s collection of personalities showcases the widest range of nationalities ever seen at a final table. With players from the Czech Republic, Belize, Germany and Ukraine all appearing for the first time, it’s a blessing that it’s to be shown almost-live on ESPN.com. Amongst the finalists, like last year, there’s only one former WSOP champion and the WSOP earnings of all nine don’t get near the top prize on offer. If you’re worried you might have trouble recognizing the finalists, we have the low down on the final nine.
Czech Republic’s first ever November Niner, Martin Staszko (@MartinStaszko) (40,100,000 chips), takes the lead into Sunday’s start – not something you necessarily want. Before Jonathan Duhamel took a 20m-chip lead into the final nine last year and won, the chip leader at the start had never won the bracelet. Staszko’s lead is anything far from an insurmountable one either. He doesn’t care much for Twitter and after discovering poker four and a half years ago, he has built a reputation on being incredibly hard to read, something born out of a 20-year chess career.
Belize’s sends its first November Niner in the shape of Badih Bounahra (@BobBounahra) (19,700,000). He has the distinction of being the only amateur left in the tournament and often turns up in a hat you might find on one of those tourist shops everyone hates when on vacation. Don’t let this distract you away from a player that is part owner of a poker room back home. He holds the title of being the oldest player left (49) and will use that wisdom to take the bracelet back home to central America.
Pius Heinz (@MastaP89) (16,425,000) comes into the final reckoning as the only German to set foot at the Rio’s main event. At 22 he’s one of a group of younger players attempting to teach their elders a thing or two about the new breed of live poker. Heinz recently created a website to increase his exposure that is already at fever pitch in the poker world.
The youngest of the youngsters, Anton Makiievskyi (13,825,000) is Ukraine’s only ever man to be sat at the WSOP final table. The 21-year-old is impressed enough just to have been to Vegas, let alone make the final table. The scientist began his poker odyssey four years ago and will hope the “youngest player” moniker doesn’t stunt his progress.
At only 22-years-old, the softly spoken Sam Holden (@Sam_Holden888) (12,375,000) is among a new breed of British players currently taking the poker world by storm. The East Sussex native flies the flag for a country that is second to only the USA in all-time poker tournament winnings. Confidence courses through the young man’s veins and he genuinely thinks he can take home the big one a year after turning pro.
Over the Irish Sea lies in wait a man that miles away from Holden in terms of poker heritage. Eoghan O’Dea (@EoghanODea) (33,925,000) becomes the only player that can say his dad has been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Since starting to take poker seriously at the age of 19 O’Dea has built a stellar reputation and it’s hard to work out whether he or dad Donnachia is more excited. Who are we kidding it’s definitely the 26-year-old whippersnapper.
Leading the homegrown three-headed monster of 26-year-olds is Las Vegas born and bred Matt Giannetti (@MattGiannetti) (24,750,000). A cash game specialist, its his first deep run in a tournament and he’ll be hoping it’s not like jumping off the high dive with a phobia of heights. With his support likely to be large this isn’t something that Giannetti will have to combat.
Another with stars and stripes coursing through his veins is Phil Collins (@USCphildo) (23,875,000). He found his feet in online play before progressing to the world of live poker and marrying his high school sweetheart along the way. His rail will be the largest of them all as he stands beside Giannetti residing in sin city. He’ll certainly be hoping there’s something in the air at this year’s main event.
Completing the US-cluster is the only man in the field to hold a WSOP bracelet Ben Lamb (@Benbalamb) (20,875,000). This Oklahoma native’s challenge could be the most dangerous of all as he currently leads the WSOP Player of the Year rankings and looks primed to take the crown. He would be the second American to win the tournament since it entered the November format and confirm he has been the best player on this year’s series.
This could be the final time WSOP decides to hold its finale in November meaning the winner will have bragging rights…forever. To follow the action live, you can check WSOP.com and ESPN for live streaming as well as following all the above on Twitter.