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November Niners, superstars fill dream WSOPE final
Rife with intriguing story lines, a dream final table was set at the 2009 World Series of Poker Europe main event in London Wednesday.
Featuring two members of the November Nine and the father of a third, one of poker's hottest young players and one of the game's most enduring superstars, plus three more previous WSOP bracelet winners, Thursday's final nine at the Casino at the Empire appears to be an instant classic.
Ivan Demidov shocked the poker world making the final table of the 2008 WSOPE main event just a few short months after booking his seat in the WSOP's first November Nine.
Now, British pro James Akenhead and French Everest Poker qualifier Antoine Saout have matched that feat.
"Just to make the World Series final in Vegas is obviously massive," Akenhead told PokerListings. "Now, to make this final as well, for Antoine and I both, it's unbelievable."
In a strange twist of fate, the father of fellow 2009 November Niner Jeff Shulman is also in the final nine in London.
But Barry Shulman, and the entire group, will all be looking up at chip leader Jason Mercier when play begins Thursday.
While he started the day Wednesday near the bottom of the final 36, Mercier quickly ascended to the top of the chip counts and will bring a rather healthy lead to the final nine.
Having collected more than $3.3 million in live tournament earnings, an EPT title and a WSOP bracelet in less than two years as a pro, Mercier certainly qualifies as one of poker's brightest new stars and told PokerListings his confidence is at an all time high.
"I'm feeling really confident," he said. "I have about double what second has right now, but I've done this before and blown it, so I just have to come in here tomorrow ready to go to work and hopefully win it."
Despite being found at the bottom of the current leader board, Mercier's toughest competition at the final table could come from one of the game's biggest stars.
He made fifth in this very event last year and says his enduring success is a testament to hard work.
"When I started out I always saw guys who would rest on their laurels," Negreanu said.
"To achieve that lofty status and maintain it, you have to always work on your game and try to improve. If you don't, you'll end up just one of those has-beens that people laugh at.
"I take it seriously, I want to win and I want to be the best."
To win this particular event, Negreanu will also have to get through WSOP bracelet winners Matt Hawrilenko, Chris Bjorin and Praz Bansi.
"At this level, it's down to whoever makes the least mistakes and runs good," said Bansi. "Everyone knows what they are doing at this stage."
The only wild card at this star-studded final table is Finn Markus Ristola, who has about $100,000 in career live tournament earnings, including a cash in the first event at this WSOPE.
For all the action from the 2009 WSOPE main event final table, including chip counts, photos and live updates, click through to PokerListings' Live Tournaments page beginning at 12 p.m. BST Thursday.
-With files from Rod Stirzaker