After 111 days of waiting, the nine remaining players in the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event will at last be dealt hands again about 12 hours from now as this year's version of the "November Nine" has finally arrived. From 6,352 players who began the $10,000 buy-in tournament back in July these nine survived, and each is hoping to survive a couple of days further to claim the most coveted title in all of poker, the WSOP Main Event bracelet, and the $8,361,570 first prize.
J.C. Tran returns to the chip lead tonight with an even 38 million, the last of his chips coming on the very last hand of play during the summer when he ousted 2001 WSOP Main Event champion Carlos Mortensen in 10th place.
Meanwhile a pack of four players will begin with stacks in the 25-29 million-chip range, with another sitting just under 20 million and three more coming back to relatively short stacks. Here's a look at where things stand to start play tonight:
1st: J.C. Tran -- 38,000,000
2nd: Amir Lehavot -- 29,700,000
3rd: Marc-Etienne McLaughlin -- 26,525,000
4th: Jay Farber -- 25,975,000
5th: Ryan Reiss -- 25,875,000
6th: Sylvain Loosli -- 19,600,000
7th: Michiel Brummelhuis -- 11,275,000
8th: Mark Newhouse -- 7,350,000
9th: David Benefield -- 6,375,000
Play will be resuming with a little over 40 minutes to go in Level 35, where the blinds are 200,000/400,000 with an ante of 50,000. That means ninth-place David Benefield will begin play with about 16 big blinds, and as it happens the first hand will find him posting a big blind right off the top. Meanwhile chip leader Tran begins with a deep stack of 95 big blinds.
The schedule calls for play to begin this afternoon at 4:45 p.m. Pacific time in the Penn & Teller Theater in the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Players will play down from nine to three or perhaps two players tonight, depending on how long things take. Then whoever remains will return on Tuesday when play will start back up at 5:45 p.m. PT and they'll play down to a winner.
As was the case last year, those in the with access to ESPN's primary networks will be able to watch every single hand of the final table, with ESPN2 picking up the coverage at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET tonight and carrying it through to the stoppage of play, then ESPN showing the finale on Tuesday starting at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET. Those outside of the United States will be able to view the same coverage on WSOP.com starting at 1 a.m. GMT tonight, then at 2 a.m. GMT tomorrow.
The "virtually live" coverage will be showing the action on a 15-minute delay and will feature hole cards, but only after a hand has completed with only the cards of players still involved in the hand revealed.
Last year followed a similar schedule, with the play down from nine to three players on the first night finishing in around seven hours, taking 135 hands total. But on the following night it would take another 264 hands for Greg Merson finally to outlast Jesse Sylvia (runner-up) and Jake Balsiger (third place), which made for a lengthy 12-hour final session.
For those thinking about staying up late to watch, here are a few notes about each of the remaining players:
J.C. Tran -- 38,000,000 (1st)
Tran brings both the biggest chip stack and the longest résumé of poker tournament success to the final table, having earned two WSOP bracelets, a World Poker Tour title, and an incredible $9.5 million worth of tourney earnings in a career lasting just about a decade. The 36-year-old poker pro steadily accumulated chips throughout the seven days of play in July, entering the final Day 7 fourth in chips out of the final 27 and then adding further to lead at night's end. Tran lives in Sacramento, California, has a B.A. in Business Management Information Systems, is married, and has one two-year-old son and a daughter due this month.
Amir Lehavot -- 29,700,000 (2nd)
Besides Tran, Lehavot is the only other WSOP bracelet holder at this year's November Nine final table, having earned his in a $10,000 pot-limit hold'em event in 2011. Born in Israel and currently living in Florida, the poker pro is the oldest player among this year's November Nine at age 38. Lehavot started Day 7 in the middle of the pack with 27 left and in fact slipped back to less than 2 million at one point before enjoying a big rush later in the night to finish in second position. Married with one child, Lehavot has a Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering.
Marc-Etienne McLaughlin -- 26,525,000 (3rd)
McLaughlin comes to this year's final table having made his third deep WSOP Main Event run in five years after finishing 30th in 2009 and 86th in 2011. Born in Montreal and currently living in Brossard, McLaughlin is friends with fellow Québécois Jonathan Duhamel, winner of the 2010 WSOP Main Event. McLaughlin has had chips throughout the Main Event thus far, even leading to end Day 5. A self-employed entrepreneur with various business interests, the 25-year-old is single with a successful poker-playing girlfirend, Laurence Grodin, who took third herself in a WSOP event in 2009. McLaughlin lists ping pong and soccer among his interests, and is also a tattoo artist who interestingly has no tattoos himself.
Jay Farber -- 25,975,000 (4th)
While McLaughlin is not a full-time player, Farber is actually the only one among the nine final tablists who cannot be classified as a poker pro. A VIP Host living and working in Las Vegas, the 29-year-old was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in California, and this marks his first ever WSOP cash after having tried the Main Event three times previously. Farber managed to more-than-triple his starting stack on Day 1 and remained above average for most of the tournament back in July. Single with a B.A. in Business, Farber will likely have one of the more boisterous rails at the final table thanks to his many friends in the poker community and his connections with Vegas night life.
Ryan Riess -- 25,875,000 (5th)
Reiss is another player whose supporters will surely be heard tonight chanting "Riess the Beast" as they did back in July. The 23-year-old from Michigan is the youngest player at the final table, and while he may not be well known to most he's a familiar face to those of us who have covered the WSOP Circuit where he played a lot over the past year, a highlight coming a little over a year ago when he finished second in the WSOP-C Hammond Main Event for nearly $240,000. Short-stacked to enter Day 7 -- he was 20th of 27 -- he remained low on chips for most of that final day until pushing back up just over the average stack (21.17 million) before play concluded. Riess is single and has a B.A. in Business.
Sylvain Loosli -- 19,600,000 (6th)
Loosli hopes to become the first WSOP Main Event champion from France, as the 26-year-old hails from Toulon although currently makes London his home where he rooms with fellow Frenchman Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier. Loosli had never even cashed in a WSOP event prior to the 2013 Main Event, although his background is more online than live where he's earned more than $1 million lifetime, mostly in cash games. He enjoyed a big surge on Day 6 to enter the final day of play with the chip lead, and for a time had a big lead on Day 7 with a stack of more than 30 million before settling into sixth position. Loosli is single and has a Masters in Business.
Michiel Brummelhuis -- 11,275,000 (7th)
Brummelhuis is the first player from the Netherlands ever to make a WSOP Main Event final table, a development that greatly excited my Dutch tourney reporting colleagues. Previously Marcel Luske recorded the highest-ever finish for a Netherlander when he took 10th in 2004. The 32-year-old poker pro from Amsterdam is single and has a handful of WSOP cashes to his credit and over $1.4 million in career tourney winnings. After maintaining an above-average stack during the first three days of play this summer had a big push on Day 4 to sit among the chip leaders once the money bubble burst. He then fell short on Day 7 but experienced some good fortune -- including hitting a runner-runner straight once to survive -- to keep chips and make the final nine.
Mark Newhouse -- 7,350,000 (8th)
Newhouse is one of a few "names" at the final table -- i.e., players those of us who have followed tournament poker over the last decade had known about previously -- thanks to his victory in 2009 at the World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open to earn a more than $1.5 million first prize. Originally from North Carolina, the 28-year-old professional player is single and now lives in California. Newhouse experienced some major swings on Day 7, enduring as an extreme short stack for a while, then enjoying the chip lead briefly before becoming short and surviving some all-ins late to make the final table.
David Benefield -- 6,375,000 (9th)
Speaking of nursing a short stack, David Benefield -- known as "Raptor" online -- did so with great success on Day 7 as well after starting the day dead last in chips (27th of 27) and managing to keep enough chips to make the final nine. After years as a full-time pro, the 27-year-old recently took time off to go back to school where he's studying political science and Chinese. Benefield is single, was born in Texas, and now lives in New York City. Benefield was featured not long ago in Ship It Holla, Ballas by Jonathan Grotenstein and Storms Reback (reviewed here).
Finally, here's what they're playing for:
Join Betfair Poker Now.