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Phil Ivey Makes the 2009 WSOP November Nine

Ali in Zaire, Phelps in Beijing, Hendrix at Woodstock, and now Ivey in Vegas

By Fernie Martinez, 1:31PM, Thu. Jul. 16, 2009

Phil Ivey
Phil Ivey
Photo courtesy of www.philivey.com

Coming off of an already impressive performance at this years World Series of Poker, Phil Ivey has battled through a field of 6,494 players to reach the final table of the 2009 Main Event. Having already won two bracelets this year, Ivey entered Day 8 in fourth chip position. After struggling throughout the day and losing half of his stack, he was able to fight through and secure a place among the final nine. Every player remaining is guaranteed to win at least $1.2 million, with first place receiving $8.5 million. The much-anticipated action is now set to conclude in November.

Last year, in an attempt to increase a dwindling poker interest, the World Series of Poker decided to experiment with the format of the Main Event. Rather than play out the tournament as it had the previous 38 years, the WSOP introduced a four-month hiatus between the bulk of the tournament and the final table. Last year, eight days of physical, mental, and emotional stamina did produce a world champion. Instead the players played down to the final table then took months off before resuming play in the fall. The group was aptly christened the “November Nine.”

The primary reason for the change was to help the players at the final table secure endorsement deals not unlike NASCAR racers. ESPN also hoped to increase ratings by having the tournament conclude in a nearly live format rather than a four-month tape delay where the results were known beforehand. But in the end, no recognizable face or “television personality” emerged from the field in 2008. As a result ESPN’s ratings showed no increase. The decision was then made to reduce television coverage from about a dozen events in years past to only four this year. Furthermore, with the exception of the typical gambling website, the players failed to receive any additional endorsements. One player even resorted to try to sell himself as a sitting billboard to the highest bidder on eBay. Nonetheless, the WSOP decided to stick with the format again this year.

And now it seems as though the WSOP, ESPN, and the poker community as a whole have struck gold. This is undoubtedly the best thing to happen to the game since Chris Moneymaker’s “anyone-can-win” victory fueled the poker boom. Despite his indifference toward the media spotlight, Ivey is still one of the most marketable names in poker. He is widely considered to be the game’s best all-around player. At 33, he is the youngest player to win seven bracelets and is on pace to break virtually every WSOP record on the books. He is already fourth on the all-time tournament money list and is a regular at the “Big Game” at the Bellagio where poker’s best play for nosebleed stakes.

Come November, endorsement deals will be struck and ESPN’s ratings will be through the roof. It will be quite a treat to see the game’s biggest talent, in his prime, perform on the most prestigious stage; Ali in Zaire, Phelps in Beijing, Hendrix at Woodstock, and now Ivey in Vegas. Let’s shuffle up and deal!

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