As I’ve been preaching over the past months, and despite what various TV networks and poker training sites and would have you think, poker is, even for the best of the best, hugely a game of luck. I don’t remember exactly what the percentages were, but Annie made the point to me years ago that drove how huge luck factors. She’d tell me that she only hoped to cash in a small percentage of tourneys (maybe 20%?) and even in those, could hope to go deep, where the real money is, a fraction of that percentage – as a poker player, luck beats you time and time again – you lose and lose and lose, and when you win, you hope to beat the odds and win big. A few years back I remember Greg Raymer, former Main Event champ, happy after making final tables in two big WSOP events, talking about how great it felt to be back after four years without a major cash. Four years of LOSING. My point is that losing is pretty much what you do as a poker player, because of luck, and a one-table tourney will be decided by who gets good cards in perfect spots as much as how well he can use those cards. That said, here are the payouts, and below that my predictions:
Picks and Notes from a guy who “never said I was any good.”
In a world where all luck balanced out equally over a couple hundred poker hands, where one table sit-and-go tourneys were won by the best player more than 40% of the time, more like, say, 70% – and the NN really is a one table sit and go – one could successfully handicap this event. There is no such world, and luck will do a ton of the deciding today. But, just for ducks, here’re my picks in ascending order (or is this descending? I’m starting with 9th), with a little info about each and their chip count.
9. Mark Newhouse. USA 7,350,000. His stack is so short, that’s my main reason to put him ninth, but if he doubles up early, all bets are off. He’s got the skills and has played his short stack very well so far. But, from what I hear, he’s got some Karma waitin’ to smack him right in the face for some gloating over Morgenstern’s incredibly quick demise. Newhouse is also part of the young, Vegas, partying poker crew, so sure to have a loud and boisterous rooting section.
8. David Benefield. 6,375,000. Like Newhouse, short stacked – if he doubles up, look out world. He’ll play his short stack like a pro, and one lucky break could change everything. One personal note. Yes, he’s the kid some of you non-poker heads out there will want to root for. He quit the game while at its highest level a few years back to go back to college (Columbia) not to study business (ie how to play games and make more money, as many poker pros do who return to school), but to study Chinese and Political Science because they just plain interest him academically. Horrible podcast host Bernard Lee, who interviews the November Niners every year, seemed almost disgusted by Benefield’s choice, asked in a tone of why would anyone want to go back and study that?-ttreated Benefield like a freak for wanting to go to school to actually learn shit, not obtain a moneymaking goal. A little more of a sidenote about Lee’s radio sho. It’s awful. He never asks an interesting question, the audio quality is wretched, the list goes on. The first eight of the Niners went on the show and then Amir, at the last second, said no thanks. It was certainly in part a tactical move on Amir’s part, but perhaps a smidge was a response to Lee’s way of asking more than telling people they’re going on his show. Either way, while I was sad to turn in on the day Amir was supposed to be on, I was tickled to death that he pulled that move. Last note: The Benefield quitting story is a bit more hype than reality, he reduced his playing but never gave up the game. Benefield will surely have some big-time pros on his rail, offering advice, should he need it.
7. Jay Farber 25,975, USA Many see him as the only true amateur in the field. He’s definitely a young party kid who may make the mistake of playing a bit too tight to cover his inexperience. Or, if he loses a few, could become desperate and too aggressive to get them back. So far, we haven’t seen much but pretty standard tight aggressive play, with one maybe a tiny bit loose call, doubling Newhouse up on Day Seven. Of course, he may also be a guy, at his age, with no particular other profession except escorting high-end bachelorette parties to fancy Vegas clubs, who’s more concerned about climbing the prize latter than others are. It is a latter in which every player you let bust before you is worth a MILLION dollars. That may matter more to Farber than some of the other poker pros, in it for their legacy, and glory, as much as the money.
6. Michiel Bruumelhuis. Netherlands. 11,275,000. In an interview I heard, he talked about some mistakes he’s made during the tournament so far. He’s run out of time to make mistakes, especially with his stack size. For no reason but intuition, I think he’s done running great. Should have a big Dutch squad railing him.
5. Ryan Reiss, 25,875,000. USA He’s 23 years old, with one huge cash last year. Young gun on the rise, on a roll, confident, will have great rooting section. Being on a hot streak counts for a lot. Will the inexperience show, or will he go even deeper?
4. Marc-Etienne McLaughlin (this link can take you to pretty good Poker News Daily profiles of all Nine), 26,525,000. Canada. Also young, just 25. Calls himself a “businessman,”doing Canadian Import-Export to China, but has managed to take the time off to make deep runs in the Main event in ’09, ’11, and this year. Sometimes the announcers have called him a tattoo artist, but he’s never mentioned it and has not tattoos, so I’m wondering if it was all a hoax. I haven’t seen enough of him to know much, but players clearly respect his game. It’s a volatile game, though, so he could as easily end up 2nd as 7th in the end.
3. J.C. Tran 38,000,000. USA. The most experienced guy with the biggest stack, who’s known for loose, aggressive play. He may try to run over the table. If it works, he’s taking home a bracelet. If it doesn’t work, the veneer of ESPN’s poster boy for this year could start to crack. This table is a tough one for his aggressiveness, a lot of his opponents know how to handle it. But still, he should be the odds-on favorite. I saw him playing craps last night and I don’t know, I just don’t think he’s gonna take the whole thing down. Tran’s rail is where I’m guessing you’ll most likely see prose you know from TV, Mizrachi, Matusow, Hellmuth. Whether they’re friends with JC or not, some “old” pros are always hangin’ out hoping to see one of theirs take it down.
2. 1. Sylvain Loosli 19,600.000. France. The ultimate live tourney challenge for the French online and cash pro. So far he’s ben up to it at every turn. Scary player. Seems to me, based on interviews I’ve heard and the few hands we’ve seen, to be poised, ready, and to really know his shit. Should be a big french contingent in red white and blue chanting soccer cheers.
1. Amir Lehavot. 29,700,00. Israel. (though he’s lived in the U.S. since he was a child, and people call him American, although he’s flying the Israeli flag as a player.) I’ve said all I can say. In terms of poker skill, demeanor, stack size, there’s no reason Player X can’t finish the job. He’s also a guy you just wanna root for, in part because ESPN has come as close to ignoring him as they have to any Niner I’ve ever seen, In part because he doesn’t play the media and clique-y game, in part because he’s not a psycho gambler who’ll just blow it in a year, in part because he’s just an nice guy, a sensible businessperson who happens to excel beyond all expectations at a game he enjoys. I pick him to win it all be cause why the hell not!!!
Interested in knowing more about these guys? Google them and you’ll have plenty of articles and video to choose from.