Every year at the start of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event in Las Vegas the big question is whether or not one or even two name players will be able to outlast the throngs of participants to make it to the November Nine. The World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) never seems to have that problem and, for the third time in its three-year history, the prestigious event has delivered a final table filled with big names from the old and new guard as well as both the USA and Europe.
It is difficult to single out one headliner amongst the nine, but the big story on the penultimate day of play was the young Floridian pro Jason Mercier. The newly signed PokerStars pro has been on an 18 month heater, winning the European Poker Tour (EPT) stop at San Remo in 2008, taking down the EPT London High Rollers Event this time last year and winning his first WSOP bracelet when he won one of the Pot Limit Omaha preliminary events this summer. He heads into the final nine with a massive chip lead, holding 3.2 million chips compared to his next closest competitor, James Akenhead, who begins the final table with 1.4 million.
Akenhead is another big story of this year’s final table as both he and another player still in the WSOPE Main Event are scheduled to return to Las Vegas in November to participate in the final table of the WSOP Main Event. Both Akenhead and Antoine Saout are members of the elite November Nine and, like Ivan Demidov before them, they have shown off their poker prowess in London as well. Akenhead is in much better shape chip-wise in London than he will be in Las Vegas. He is second in chips for Thursday’s final table, but will be the shortest stack of the nine remaining players in the Las Vegas Main Event. Saout, who is also one of the shorter stacks of the November Nine, is in similar shape in London and begins the day sixth in chips.
There is another player at the final table with connections to the November Nine and that is Jeff Shulman’s father, Barry Shulman. The owner of Card Player magazine may not be a part of the final table of the WSOP Main Event, but his son is. Shulman began the WSOPE final table fourth in chips. Should he and the younger Shulman both win their respective Main Events, they will not be the first father and son duo to win bracelets in the same year, as Doyle and Todd Brunson already accomplished that feat in 1995.
Others taking part in the WSOPE final table festivities include online poker pro and 2009 WSOP bracelet winner Matt “Hoss_TBF” Hawrilenko, two-time WSOP bracelet winner Chris Bjorin, Finnish pro Markus Ristola, WSOP bracelet winner Praz Bansi and Daniel Negreanu, who is making his second consecutive appearance at the WSOPE Main Event final table.
There are an astounding six former bracelet winners in the final nine and each player has experienced their fair share of poker success. With the blinds still small compared to the stack sizes there is still plenty of room to play. Negreanu is the short stack at the start of play with 438,000 chips, which translates to roughly 22 big blinds. Play began early Thursday afternoon and will continue until a new WSOPE Champion is determined.
Here are the chip stacks from the start of final table play:
Jason Mercier – 3,198,000
James Akenhead – 1,398,000
Praz Bansi 1,160,000
Barry Shulman – 1,090,000
Markus Ristola – 784,000
Antoine Saout – 701,000
Matt Hawrilenko – 674,000
Chris Bjorin – 518,000
Daniel Negreanu – 438,000

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