One tournament stands above all others in the minds of poker players — the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. The winner of the Main Event is considered poker’s World Champion for the following year, and the chance to win poker’s most coveted bracelet is something that attracts both the biggest names in the game as well as casual players from across the globe.
This year’s Main Event attracted a total of 6,420 players for its three Day 1 starting flights. All of those $10,000 bricks of cash ended up building a prize pool that topped $60 million, with $7,680,021 up top for first place. With seven days of play in the books, just nine players now remain in contention for the title.
As befits the most prestigious tournament of the year (not to mention the biggest final table most of the final nine have ever played), the structure for the Main Event is unique. Instead of coming back tomorrow to finish the tournament out on Day 8, the final nine players won’t reconvene again until November to decide the winner. In the meantime, the “November Nine” have a chance to hone their skills, as well as do media appearances and public relations for WSOP.
When play began on Day 7, 27 players were still looking hopefully at the bracelet and the $7 million payday. Among those final 27 was a Canadian player who needs no introduction to even a casual poker fan. Team PokerStars Pro Daniel “KidPoker” Negreanu is, quite simply, one of the most accomplished players in the history of the game. Eighty-one previous cashes at WSOP events along with six bracelets are only the start of his resume. As the only player in history to win the WSOP Player of the Year title twice, Negreanu’s legacy in the game is secure regardless of his finish in this Main Event.
Negreanu began the day ninth in chips with 8,495,000. Sitting atop the chip counts to start the day was Thomas “Butters” Kearney with 14,400,000. Mozheng Guan was second going into the day, and the only other player with more than 14 million chips. Day 5 chip leader Pierre Neuville started Day 7 in 15th spot. Bracelet holder Max Steinberg just barely managed to make it to Day 7 in 24th spot.
More than 13 hours after they sat down for Day 7, the November Nine was decided. Along the way, Day 4 chip leader Joseph McKeehen managed to build a truly massive stack, amassing more than 63 million chips by day’s end. His next closest rival is Israel’s Zvi Stern with less than half that much. Neuville, the chip leader from Day 5, managed to bag a fourth place stack of just over 21 million, while Max Steinberg, who came into the day with just 3,290,000 parlayed that into a fifth place stack of 20 million. The full seat draw and chip counts for the November Nine are below.
Unfortunately for Canadian fans, as well as for Negreanu himself, Canada’s last hope wasn’t quite able to make it through the day. With the WSOP Main Event title one of the few poker accolades not already on his resume, Negreanu rode out ups and downs through the day, unable to really get any momentum. He was able to build his stack beyond the nine million he started the day with at one point, but fell below his start-of-day count and ground out his small stack until late in the day.
He survived a race about eight hours into Day 7 when he got called by Joseph McKeehen in the big blind after shoving his 10 big blinds (2,790,000) from middle position. Negreanu’s fours were able to hold up against McKeehen’s to give him nearly six million chips.
The big hand never came for Negreanu, but he managed to nurse his smaller stack for several more hours, ranging between five and nine million until the final, fateful hand. More than 12 and a half hours after the day began, Negreanu decided to defend his big blind to a raise to 800,000 from McKeehen. McKeehen bet 700,000 on the flop of and Negreanu shoved for his remaining 5,825,000. McKeehen called, and when the cards were tabled, Negreanu was marginally ahead with top pair on his , but needed to fade a lot of outs against McKeehen’s flush and straight draws with . On the turn card, Negreanu remained ahead, but with another two threes to fade. The on the river sealed his fate, however, as McKeehen hit his straight. Negreanu finished in 11th place for $526,778, narrowly missing his first November Nine appearance.
Remarkably, this ties Negreanu for his previous best Main Event result. He also finished 11th in 2001.
The “honour” of the final table bubble spot went to German player Alexander Turyansky. It took only 22 hands after Negreanu was eliminated for the final table to be set. Turyansky open-raised to 850,000 from middle position only to see Joe McKeehen three-bet to 2,050,000 from the big blind. Turyansky shoved his stack of 8,800,000 and McKeehen quickly called, setting up a flip for Turyansky’s life. McKeehen was marginally ahead with his queens against Turyansky’s big slick, but Turyansky was unable to improve, exiting the tournament just before the November Nine and winning $756,897.
Play is now suspended until November when the final nine will return to battle it out for poker’s most important prize.
Details courtesy of the WSOP Live Blog.