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A Look At The 2016 World Series of Poker Final Nine

Main Event Winner To Take Home $8 Million

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Aug 17, 2016


The 47th annual World Series of Poker is over… at least for everyone but the nine fortunate individuals who make up this year’s November Nine. There were 107,833 total entrants in the 2016 summer series who were paid out more than $221 million in prize money, but the main event accounted for 29 percent of that prize pool with $63,327,800 up for grabs.

The Field

There were 6,737 entries in total, each putting up the $10,000 buy-in. It is the fifth-largest main event in history and the largest in the last five years. The WSOP opted for a flatter payout structure, giving the final 1,011 players a minimum payday of $15,000.

The main event continued to be popular internationally, with 80 nations represented on the felt. The United States led the way with 4,985 entrants, but Canada (381) and the United Kingdom (343) also sent many players to Las Vegas. Germany (87) and France (85) rounded out the top five.

According to the WSOP, the average age of a main event participant this year was 40.08. For the second year in a row, William Wachter from Mahopac, New York was the oldest person to register. The 95-year-old even managed to make the money in 2015. Evan House-Hull from Sandoval, Illinois, was the youngest player in the field, having just turned 21 19 days before play began. There were 268 women in the tournament, making up just under four percent of the field. This summer’s last woman standing was a familiar face in Gaelle Baumann. The French pro finished in tenth place in 2012, but couldn’t best it this time around, busting in 102nd.

The tournament also attracted a number of celebrities, including comedians Ray Romano, Kevin Pollak and Brad Garrett, film director Nick Cassavetes, NFL stars Richard Seymour and Antoine Winfield and other athletes like Brad Lidge, John Arne Riise, Shane Warne, and Jason White.

A number of top professionals made deep runs, including Tony Gregg (50th), Chris Klodnicki (45th), Jason Les (40th), Alex Keating (35th), Max Silver (33rd), Dan Colman (31st), Paul Volpe (29th), Antoine Saout (25th), Tom Marchese (14th), and James Obst (13th). But while each were handsomely rewarded, they all missed out on a guaranteed seven-figure payday that awaits all the members of the November Nine.

The November Nine

The WSOP gave the players a 67 percent increase in their starting chips, going from 30,000 to 50,000, so many expected a long, drawn-out bubble to see who would advance to the final table. Instead, the players just had to wait a few hands.

Joshua Weiss entered the unofficial ten-handed final table with just a handful of big blinds in his stack. He blinded down to less than two blinds before he hit the rail. With his elimination, the final nine celebrated their guaranteed $1 million payday. However, there’s millions more up for grabs on Oct. 30, when the ESPN-broadcasted final table will begin. This year’s champion will pocket $8 million.

The 2016 November Nine will come into the final table with an average stack of 37.4 million. With the blinds still at 250,000-500,000 with a 75,000 ante, there’s still quite a lot of play left in the tournament.

Here’s a look at the final nine, according to information provided by the WSOP.

Seat: 1 — Griffin Benger

Chip Count: 26,175,000 (7th)
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Age: 31
Profession: Poker Player
Lifetime Earnings: $1,386,295
Biggest Poker Score: 2013 EPT Berlin High Roller - 1st Place ($562,343)

Our only Canadian at this final table is 31-year-old Griffin Benger from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Benger has already won $2,395,406 in live poker tournaments, and even has a previous $1 million victory on season 1 of the TV show Shark Cage, claiming first place in the 2014 Shark Tank session in London. Benger has 13 previous WSOP cashes totaling $231,201 and his previous high finish at a WSOP event was twice finishing in 14th place, once in 2012 and again in 2013. Remarkably, this main event was the only event Benger entered at the 2016 WSOP, and he’s done well in this event before. He’s cashed twice, once in 2014 in 90th place and prior to that, in 2012 in 304th place. Benger also has a successful history with other games, having previously been a world champion in the Counter-Strike computer game, and ranked as the no. 1 online poker player in 2011. Benger, a poker pro, looks to become only the second Canadian champion in this event and first since Jonathan Duhamel took the crown in 2012.

Seat: 2 — Vojtech Ruzicka

Chip Count: 27,450,000 (6th)
Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Age: 36
Profession: Poker Player
Lifetime Earnings: $1,149,027
Biggest Poker Score: 2013 EPT Deauville High Roller – 1st Place ($426,907)

Vojtech Ruzicka entered the final day of play with the chip lead and managed to keep himself squarely in control. The 30-year-old from Prague, Czech Republic becomes the first Czech to make the final table since Martin Staszko in 2011. Staszko finished in second place. No player from the Czech Republic has ever claimed the WSOP main event crown. In fact, Tomas Junek (2012) is the only WSOP gold bracelet winner from the Czech Republic. Ruzicka has 17 previous WSOP cashes totaling $138,585 and has won $1,149,027 lifetime on the live poker circuit. Ruzicka is a poker pro who played 18 WSOP events this summer, cashing in four. This marks his first time to cash in the WSOP main event. He has claimed a victory before, winning the 2013 EPT Deauville High Roller no-limit hold’em event for $426,907. However, this $1 million he is guaranteed for reaching the WSOP main event final table will be his largest-ever live poker cash.

Seat: 3 — Fernando Pons

Chip Count: 6,225,000 (9th)
Location: Palma, Spain
Age: 37
Profession: Account Manager
Lifetime Earnings: $20,653
Biggest Poker Score: 2014 Wynn Summer Classic $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Championship event – 56th Place ($4,059)

Hailing from Palma, Spain, is 37-year-old Fernando Pons, who is an account executive for a retail chain. He has never cashed previously at the WSOP and has only won a total of $10,589 in live poker tournaments – just a few hundred dollars more than the buy-in for this event. This was the only event he came to play at the 2016 WSOP, and prior to the $1 million he’s locked up in this event, Pons’ biggest live tournament cash was for $4,059 for finishing in 56th place in a $1,500 no-limit hold’em event in Las Vegas in 2014. He is the first Spaniard to make the WSOP main event final table since 2014, when Andoni Larrabe finished in sixth place. He can follow in the footsteps of Spain’s legendary card sharp, Carlos Mortensen, who captured the WSOP main event crown 15 years ago, in 2001. Mortensen won $1,500,000 that year and Larrabe won $1,622,471 for his finish, so Pons just needs to finish fifth or higher to have the biggest Spanish score in WSOP main event history. 

Seat: 4 — Qui Nguyen

Chip Count: 68,075,000 (2nd)
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Age: 39
Profession: Gambler
Lifetime Earnings: $52,986
Biggest Poker Score: 2009 WSOP $1,500 No-limit hold’em – 54th Place ($9,029)

Qui Nguyen is the only Las Vegas, Nevada resident. He’s a 39-year-old poker pro and gambler with just $9,029 in WSOP earnings – less than the $10,000 it cost to enter this event. He has just one previous WSOP cash and only $52,986 in lifetime tournament poker winnings. This marks Nguyen’s first time to cash in the WSOP main event. He entered three WSOP events this summer, his main event journey marking his only cash. Nguyen’s best finish was his 54th-place finish in the 2009 WSOP, in a $1,500 no-limit hold’em event.

Seat: 5 — Cliff Josephy

Chip Count: 75,000,000 (1st)
Location: Muttontown, New York
Age: 50
Profession: Poker Player
Lifetime Earnings: $2,641,620
Biggest Poker Score: 2006 Aruba Poker Classic - 2nd Place ($446,975)

Cliff Josephy from Syosset, New York is the oldest remaining player in the field at 50, but also the only one with a WSOP gold bracelet on his resume. In fact, Josephy has two, having won a $3,000 no-limit hold’em event in 2013 and a $1,500 seven card stud event at the 2005 WSOP. All told, Josephy has $810,358 in WSOP earnings entering this main event and has won $2,641,420 lifetime in live poker tournaments. He also has some history in this event. Josephy has cashed twice previously in the WSOP main event, in 2008 (386th place) and last year, in 956th place. In addition, Josephy has invested wisely in this event previously. He was a financial backer of 2009 WSOP main event winner Joe Cada. With his guarantee of $1 million for reaching this final table, Josephy will have his largest career cash.

Seat: 6 — Michael Ruane

Chip Count: 29,800,000 (5th)
Location: Hoboken, New Jersey
Age: 28
Profession: Poker Player
Lifetime Earnings: $44,962
Biggest Poker Score: 2012 EPT Campione main event – 30th Place ($17,244)

Hailing from Hoboken, New Jersey, 28-year-old Michael Ruane is as big a surprise to be at this final table as anyone. He has just $24,438 in WSOP earnings, all coming from three previous WSOP cashes. His biggest cash previously was for $17,244, so the $1 million he is guaranteed is by far the biggest prize he’s earned in poker. This marks Ruane’s first time to cash in a WSOP event, and he has lifetime live poker tournament winnings of $44,962. He only played two events at this year’s WSOP, and his deep run in the main event makes it quite a successful journey for Ruane, who makes his living as a poker pro.

Seat: 7 — Gordon Vayo

Chip Count: 50,450,000 (3rd)
Location: San Francisco, California
Age: 27
Profession: Poker Player
Lifetime Earnings: $974,714
Biggest Poker Score: 2014 WSOP $3,000 NLH - 2nd Place ($314,535)

Gordon Vayo is a 27-year-old San Francisco, California resident and poker pro with 26 career WSOP cashes worth $608,136. With the guarantee of at least $1 million for reaching this final table, Vayo will more than double his career $974,714 in earnings. In 2014, Vayo finished in second place in a WSOP $3,000 no-limit hold’em six-handed event, winning $314,535, his biggest poker score prior to this accomplishment. This marks Vayo’s first time to cash in the WSOP main event, but he’s had a good summer, playing 21 WSOP gold bracelet events and cashing in eight of them.

Seat: 8 — Kenny Hallaert

Chip Count: 43,325,000 (4th)
Location: Hansbeke, Belgium
Age: 37
Profession: Poker Player
Lifetime Earnings: $1,714,610
Biggest Poker Score: 2011 EPT Deauville main event – 6th Place ($210,962)

For the second consecutive year, we have a Belgian-born player at the final table. Thirty-four-year-old Kenny Hallaert hails from Hansbeke, Belgium and he’s amassed 22 WSOP cashes and $367,855 in winnings. He’s an accomplished poker tournament player with $1,317,530 in career live tournament winnings, including a sixth-place finish at EPT Deauville in 2011 that paid him $210,962, his largest score prior to making this final table. Hallaert is no stranger to going deep in this event or other large WSOP events, as he’s twice cashed previously in the WSOP main event (2015: 123rd) and (2011: 323rd). In addition, in the inaugural WSOP Colossus event, the largest live poker tournament in history with 22,374 entries, Hallaert finished in fifth place, earning $182,348 for his $565 investment. He’s now guaranteed to add at least $1 million more to his bankroll and is in good position at the final table.

Seat: 9 — Jerry Wong

Chip Count: 10,325,000 (8th)
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Age: 34
Profession: Poker Player
Lifetime Earnings: $1,317,539
Biggest Poker Score: 2013 PCA main event – 3rd Place ($725,000)

Brooklyn, New York resident Jerry Wong is the second New Yorker to be featured at this final table, alongside Josephy. The 34-year old poker pro has career WSOP winnings of $118,156 coming on 19 previous cashes. In total, Wong has won $1,317,539 in live poker tournaments, including a $725,000 prize for coming in third place in the 2013 PCA in the Bahamas. Wong played 16 WSOP events in 2016, cashing five times. His guaranteed $1 million payday is his biggest tournament prize. Prior to that, his biggest WSOP cash came in the 2012 main event, where he finished in 309th place for $32,871, the only other time he has cashed in this event.

The Remaining Payouts

1st place: $8,000,000
2nd place: $4,658,452
3rd place: $3,451,175
4th place: $2,574,808
5th place: $1,934,579
6th place: $1,463,906
7th place: $1,250,000
8th place: $1,100,000
9th place: $1,000,000