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How the 2009 WSOP November Nine are Preparing for the Final Table

Some stay out of the spotlight, while others hone their game


The RioThey were given just under four months to prepare for the biggest final table of their lives. How they were to prepare was up to them. This week saw several members of the November Nine back in action as they tried to get back in the swing of things in preparation for the main event final table in a couple of months.

Two months ago, there weren’t too many people in the poker community who were familiar with the names ‘Kevin Schaffel’ and ‘Steven Begleiter.’ But one incredible main-event run later, they are now in the game’s most intense — and most rewarding — spotlight.

Those two men were back in the limelight this week, this time for their performance at the World Poker Tour Legends main event in Los Angeles, with Schaffel finishing as the tournament’s runner-up and Begleiter coming in ninth place in the 279-player field.

Schaffel’s Legends result is slightly reminiscent of Ivan Demidov’s third place finish at the 362-player World Series of Poker Europe main event in 2008, where he played in preparation for the inaugural November final table. It gave the young Russian added respect from his tablemates and a confident demeanor going into his final table, where he outlasted all but one of his opponents, finishing second to Peter Eastgate.

With the concept of November Nine still in its infancy stages, there has not yet been a consensus amongst the poker community just how much — or how little — final table participants should play in preparation for the most pressure-packed final table in all of poker. Each player has treated it differently, some choosing to back away from the tournament scene completely to recharge, while others have announced they will play some of the major events prior to the WSOP final table.

Card Player caught up with a few members of the November Nine and asked how they were preparing for the biggest final table of their lives.

Who’s been active?

Four members of the November Nine were in high-profile tournaments this week. Schaffel, Begleiter, and the 21-year-old Joe Cada played at Legends, while Britain’s James Akenhead participated in APPT Macau.

Kevin SchaffelSchaffel explained that it is difficult to simulate what it will be like in November, where he will enter action sixth in chips with eight rested and motivated opponents up against him.

“I’m reading a little bit more. I’m playing some more sit-and-goes. Six-handed games mainly, because I have a pretty fair amount of experience playing at full tables,” said Schaffel, who earned an additional $471,670 for his second place finish this week. “But there’s no way to recreate the final-table experience, it’s impossible to do.”

Schaffel said he’s going to London Oct. 1-8 for a tournament trip, presumably to play EPT London. He is cautious not to overextend himself, however.

“I’m playing a lot of golf and mixing in a little poker here and there,” said Schaffel. “I don’t want to burn myself out certainly.”

Cada, who enters the final table fifth in chips and with a chance to break Eastgate’s record as the youngest ever to win the WSOP main event, told Card Player he will definitely play in the World Series of Poker Europe (Sept. 17-Oct. 1), as well as EPT Barcelona (Sept. 4-9).

Asked if he was hoping to “pull an Ivan Demidov” and final-table both the WSOP and the WSOPE in the same year, Cada responded, “That’d be nice. We’ll take it one step at a time.”

Phil IveyAlthough he has yet to play in a major live tournament since the WSOP, it’s fair to say Phil Ivey has been active as well on the poker scene — both at Bobby’s Room in Bellagio and at Full Tilt Poker — where he continues to play the highest stakes available.

With his play already featured on shows such as High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark, as well as on Full Tilt, Ivey certainly doesn’t need to worry about revealing any tendencies to his competitors.

Who has stayed away from the green felt (at least publicly)?

True to his word, chip leader Darvin Moon has escaped from the public eye.

A modest logger from rural Maryland, he told Card Player right after the main event concluded, “When I get done here, I’m going back to work in my little town and I’m going to get away from everybody.”

The 2009 WSOP main event was the only big buy-in tournament Moon has played in, and it does not appear that he is anxious to play any more in the near future. As of now, he has chosen not to sign with any online poker site to limit any high-profile appearances he might be forced to make.

But that doesn’t mean Moon isn’t playing any poker. He arrived to Las Vegas this year courtesy of a $130 satellite tournament in neighboring West Virginia, and he said that he and his buddies play $30 tournaments two or three times a week. While it may seem like amateurish preparation for poker’s biggest stage, it was clearly good enough to get Moon where he is today — sitting first in chips at the final table.

Eric BuchmanHis closest competitor in chips, the cash-games pro Eric Buchman, has also stayed away from any major poker tournament since the main event. Instead, he’s been taking it easy with family and friends, and seeing the occasional New York Mets game. However, he will venture back to the poker table soon enough.

“I’m planning on playing EPT London, and probably a couple of those WCOOP (World Championship of Online Poker) events,” said Buchman, who will represent PokerStars at the final table, the site that runs_WCOOP_.

However, Buchman says he’s hesitant to play too much or reveal what name he will play under on PokerStars because he doesn’t want his November competitors analyzing his play.

Although he may not play too much in the coming events, as a pro for nearly 10 years, it’s more than likely Buchman has enough experience under his belt to at least limit any final table jitters that he might be feeling in the Rio’s Penn and Teller Theater.

Jeff Shulman, the president and one of the publishers of Card Player, has also stayed away from the poker felt in the initial month following the suspension in play. He has said that he would probably play a few online sit-and-gos to work on his short-handed play, as well as ask his poker pro friends if and what tells he might give off during live play. Shulman enters November fourth in chips.

France’s Antoine Saout — eighth in chips — has also stayed away from the major tournaments thus far, and did not immediately respond to a question asking if he planned on playing any events before November. Saout recently signed with Everest Poker.

With a rare chance to win more than $8.5 million, it is obvious that these players are trying to prepare themselves as well as possible. Whether the best option is playing these high-profile events or simply resting and staying under the radar, only time will tell.



over 8 years ago

Nobody has "hired a poker coach"??? 2008 thing or wave-o-the-future??? Nuff Said.


over 8 years ago

All intelligent competitors have hired some organized & confidentaly training help, even Mr. Shulman who despite his arrogant, unsportsmanlike attiude reflected in his post event interviews, remains an intelligent player & noboby's fool. Some are duking it out in real events ramping up their experience in challenging events. Kudos for their poker first, fans first, attitude towards the game.


over 8 years ago

Once again, inspite of the rule-breaking name-calling comments of the person that tried to attack my last post, I will correct the statements, and tell the world the truth.

Uh, please don't try to hype the thing with "They were given only four months, bla bla bla.

How long did they have, before the owners of the event stole the traditions, and FORCED people to wait four months. More to the point, forced someone to take a chance of dying before they had there dream, A dream that was so close.

Now, you wanna say "They have four months, bla bla bla, FINE.

But don't freakin' say "ONLY " when :

(1) They used to have a day at most

(2) Who the heck says ANY time is needed? You're supposed to "prepare" before even entering the event, NOT spend four months when said preparations can, at best be a tiny advantage.

Making lucky guess's, and hitting lucky cards, THIS is what is going to be the deciding factor. You can watch all the tapes (if any are available, and that is a big if) of your opponent's playing you want. but, that won't stop you from not getting a hand, or suffering a bad beat.
Please stop with the hype, and be more in line with what is in the interest's of the players and the event itself: REVERSING the decision to steal four months from the lives of those involved, and the eventual t aking anyway (due to a death) the right of the person to play at the WSOP main event final t able. It's not a question of if, but when.