Day 7 of the World Series of Poker Main Event is about to kick off, with only twenty-seven players out of an initial 6420 left to take the felt. For two thirds of those, the dream ends today. The remaining nine will have one heck of a sweat ahead of them, as action pauses for about four months before resuming for two days in November.
A lot of notables have fallen along the way, and not all of the exciting narratives we could have hoped for will come to pass. There’s still plenty of potential for drama, however, with both total amateurs and top-notch professionals represented among the final 27.
Here are the nine players I would like to see come back in November, and why.
Danny’s a no-brainer, sure to appear on almost anyone’s list. He’s a great player and a lot of fun at the table, but most of all, his appearance in the November Nine would be great for the popularity of poker. Very few top-notch poker players are household names these days, and the Main Event has become such a massive affair that the odds are actually quite small that any given year will produce a final table appearance by someone known to the average poker fan. A lot of recreational players have grown disillusioned with poker over the years and dropped out; seeing Daniel Negreanu playing for the greatest honor in poker would likely get a great many of those fans from the good old days to tune back in to watch it happen on ESPN and, from there, maybe to try their own luck once more.
if we’re going to have Daniel Negreanu at the final table, we have to have Jason Schwartz as well, given their recent interactions. In case you missed it, the story there is that Schwartz was seeking opponents to play high-stakes, heads-up Pot-Limit Omaha. Negreanu offered to give him a chance, so long as Schwartz was willing to clean up his life. Ultimately, the two agreed on a combination weight loss bet and heads-up PLO match. Although they were seated together yesterday, and will be again today, they’ve been staying out of one another’s way, so it would be nice to see them together at final table, where they’d eventually be forced to engage.
Aside from the Negreanu angle, however, it would be nice to see Schwartz really make something of himself. Although recognized as a great player by the online community, difficult circumstances and bad decisions have prevented him from achieving “success” as most people would define it. There’s no guarantee that any amount of money would help him get back on his feet and stay there, but it certainly couldn’t hurt.
Like Schwartz, Holz is representing for the online generation, but the two have their own contrasts as well. Where Schwartz embodies the dark side of the poker lifestyle, Holz gives off a harmless, nerdy vibe. He’s also a very talented player, of course, and so if he, Schwartz and Negreanu all made it through, it could end up being one of the most intense final tables on record.
Unfortunately, Holz has now lost the chance to fulfill his true destiny in the tournament, as his Twitter arch-rival Brian Hastings has already busted, without them ever having been seated together to my knowledge. Still, a Holz win would likely result in plenty of needling, so those of us enjoying the drama can at least look forward to a war of words, if not a war of chips.
We need someone to represent the old school as well, and who better than 72 year-old Pierre Neuville? Describing himself as a “passionate amateur,” he’s been satelliting his way into big-ticket events for years and has a whopping 19 WSOP cashes, yet only one final table and no bracelet to his name. He says he hopes he’ll still be playing in 25 years, but in the meantime, a main event final table would be a great addition to his lifetime achievements.
I had never heard about this guy until today, but after reading his interview on PokerNews, it’s hard not to want good things for him. A recreational player, he nearly left Vegas early after busting the WPT 500 and an online Main Event satellite; just before calling it quits, however, he ground out $1000 in a 1/3 cash game and decided to chance it on one final satellite. That one worked out for him, and now he’s within sight of a life-changing $7,680,021 payday, just the kind of story that inspires recreational players everywhere to take their own shot at living the dream.
Morgenstern is the only player left who’s been this deep in the Main Event before, having busted out in 20th just two years ago, in 2013. Although it’s hard to feel bad for someone for a $285,408 score, one can only imagine that coming that close to a Main Event final table only to come up short is pretty frustrating. I wouldn’t wish it on the same person twice, so here’s hoping he makes the November Nine this time around.
I can’t say I know much about any of these players, but I think that geographical diversity at a final table is good for the game. Last year’s Main Event final table included players from six different countries, and it’d be nice to beat that record. The vast majority of the final 27 players are American, as you’d expect given where the tournament is being held, but we already have Negreanu representing for Canada, Neuville for Belgium, and Holz and Morgenstern for Germany. Final table appearances by McDonald, Butteroni and Stern could bring in viewership from their respective home countries of the United Kingdom, Italy and Israel, and national pride is always good for getting the fans going.
Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.