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ESPN gears up for Main Event final
The 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event final table is a little over a week away and the crew at ESPN can't wait.
"We're really excited about the final table this year and we expect it to be just as good if not better than what we did last year," said Doug White, ESPN's Senior Director of Programming and Acquisitions.
"We expect play to be stellar and we expect the drama to be there as well."
When it comes to drama, ESPN WSOP coverage co-host Lon McEachern says it all starts with one of the greatest players in the game having a shot at poker's most coveted title.
"This is one of the most highly anticipated final tables we've seen in a long time, just for the fact Phil Ivey is there," McEachern said. "I'm excited to see the poker community buzzing about this and I'm sure we will live up to and surpass their expectations in terms of the production and play at the final table."
Co-host Norman Chad appears equally excited to see what Ivey can do, but he also said this second edition of the November Nine is rife with compelling story lines.
"When you start with Phil Ivey you are in great shape because it's the greatest player in the game trying to win the greatest event in the game, but beyond that, you do have that usual mix that you have at a Main Event final table and that's just terrific," he said.
"It's just like anything else. If you look for the story, you will find it. If you look at these guys, they are interesting. They are more interesting than they look at first glance."
McEachern believes young but experienced pro Eric Buchman, who will come into the final nine second in chips, has the best shot to win the title.
But, he also said CardPlayer Magazine editor Jeff Shulman is a "solid player" who is "steeped in the game" and should be "a very dangerous force" at the final table.
Chad said he was impressed with 21-year-old Joe Cada's poise and maturity as he looks to surpass 2008 champ Peter Eastgate as the youngest player ever to win the Main Event and although he admitted French Everest Poker qualifier Antoine Saout is the player he knows the least about, Chad would not count him out.
"You have to be at the final table to have a shot, so he can do it," Chad said. "He's obviously a solid player and another one of these young guys that you have to wonder how the heck he could get this good this quickly."
Chad said Steven Begleiter "has lot of gamble in him," and the former Wall Street executive knows how to use the big stack he's bringing to the final table.
And while McEachern said he's been particularly impressed by Kevin Schaffel results since the summer and Chad said James Akenhead has impressed him with his "selectively aggressive" style, both commentators seemed clearly focused on the two biggest story lines coming in - Ivey and chip leading Maryland logger Darvin Moon.
McEachern called Moon "the second best thing to happen to this final table," next to Ivey and believes that as the unknown coming in, Moon could be the scariest player in the field.
"He is the least experienced and probably the worst player at the final table," added Chad. "But he is a bit of a wolf in sheep's clothing...I think there's a little shark in him. There's a bit of a pool hustler there."
But of course, Chad is still making Ivey a bit of a favorite.
"He just does all the little things a little better than everybody else," he said.
The final table will play down to heads-up Nov. 7 and a winner will be crowned Nov. 9.
PokerListings will have live coverage throughout and ESPN will broadcast an edited version of the final table Nov. 10.