Can't make it to Las Vegas this weekend to catch the final table of the WSOP Main Event? Have no fear, ESPN has you covered. The sports cable channel will be covering every hand as we go from the November Nine down to the 2015 ME Champ live-ish. The final table will be shown with hole cards on a thirty minute delay starting this Sunday, November 8, at 5:30P/8:30E and continuing through Tuesday night. Longtime poker commentators Lon McEachern and Norman Chad will be providing play-by-play first on the flagship station ESPN, and then starting at 8:00P/11:00E coverage will switch to the secondary station, ESPN2.
While the November Nine does not include one of the biggest names in poker, 11th place finisher Daniel Negreanu, the final table does not lack for interesting stories and great players and it should be entertaining to experienced players as well as those relatively new to the game.
The chip leader going into the final table is 24-year-old poker pro Joseph McKeehen. With a third of the chips in play, and the two shortest stacks to his immediate left, McKeehen will likely continue the aggressive, table-controlling behavior we saw on Day 7. What has McKeehen done in his off-time, waiting for November to roll around? Just crush live tournaments. He recently took down the 2015 Wynn Fall Classic Main Event, taking home just a fraction of what he's already won just for making the final table. And if you think that it's a one-time fluke to outlast over 6,000 players to get to a final table, McKeehen did this last year when he came in second in the $1,500 Monster Stack which boasted a field of 7,862.
Two of the most interesting stories for those of us in the AARP demographic is the presence of not one but two older players at the final table. 61-year-old Neil Blumenfield far surpassed his 285th finish in the 2012 Main Event this year to make the November Nine. Known by those who've been watching the Main Event coverage for his jaunty sartorial choices, Blumenfield will enter the final table third in chips, but miles behind the chip leader.
Blumenfield would be the oldest ever November Niner if it weren't for Belgian Pierre Neuville. At 72, Neuville can call Blumenfield "Sonny" (or Jongeling or Enfant). But Neuville has shown himself to be young in spirit. While the grind of a seven day tournament can wipe out the most hearty of us, the septuagenarian showed no signs of fatigue on those last days leading to the final table. He sits with the fourth biggest stack, around a million behind Blumenfield.
On the other end of the age spectrum we have 23-year-old Thomas Cannuli from New Jersey. Cannuli will have a who's who of poker celebs in his corner as many well known players have an interest - both emotional and financial - in this young pro. He has $52,225 in live tournament earnings but is mostly a cash and online game player. He has far surpassed his 691 finish in last year's main event. He was sitting next to Negreanu for much of the ESPN coverage this year and so he should be used to the glare of the cameras and having the spotlight on him.
Josh Beckley is a 24-year-old poker pro also from New Jersey with $245K in live earnings prior to this World Series. He'll be going into the final table with 29 big blinds, seventh in chips at the table. Like chip leader McKeehen, during the Main Event hiatus, Beckley has continued to play tournament poker, recently winning a WSOP circuit event.
To Beckley's left will be well known poker pro Max Steinberg whose story this year has been about transitioning from poker to daily fantasy sports betting. In fact, it was a $27 buy in on a Draft Kings WSOP qualifier that bought the 27-year-old his seat in the Main Event. But the only bracelet winner left in the field will be bringing his experience along with a middle sized stack of 20.2 million and 50 big blinds to the final table. He will also be giving Blumenfield a run for his money as Steinberg's natty dressing has brought as much attention as his gameplay - at least from ESPN's Normal Chad.
The two shortest stacks belong to Patrick Chan and Federico Butteroni. Chan has over $500K in tournament winnings including four previous WSOP cashes. The 26-year-old Brooklynite may not be a household name, but he's had experience playing in high profile events facing tough opponents, so don't count him out. Butteroni will be bringing his enthusiasm, his Italian fans and his coach Phil Hellmuth to help him overcome his short stack. He had two prior cashes this year at the WSOP and has won $100K in tournaments since 2010,
Rounding out the final table is Israeli Ofer Zvi Stern, who finds himself second in chips with 29.8 million and 74.8 big blinds after being the chip leader for much of Day 7. Stern has only two live tournament cashes to his name (for just under $50K) and is most notable for how little we know about him. Sitting at the table covered from head to toe, there's no telling if the guy in the picture at the top of this article is even the real guy. But he showed himself to be an aggressive player and with his chip stack, he might be the table's hope for chipping away at the chip leader.
Here are the seat assignments and chip stacks of the final table:
Seat 1 Ofer Zvi Stern – 29,800,000, 74.5 BB
Seat 2 Pierre Neuville – 21,075,000, 53 BB
Seat 3 Josh Beckley – 11,800,000, 29 BB
Seat 4 Max Steinberg – 20,200,000, 50.5 BB
Seat 5 Thomas Cannuli – 12,250,000, 31 BB
Seat 6 Joseph McKeehen – 63,100,000, 158 BB
Seat 7 Patrick Chan – 6,225,000, 16 BB
Seat 8 Federico Butteroni – 6,200,000, 15.5 BB
Seat 9 Neil Blumenfield – 22,000,000, 55 BB