There can only be one once the final hands are dealt in November, but for now, poker fans will have nine players to envy and to scrutinize for the next 117 days before the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event finishes up play.
The final nine, dubbed the November Nine, battled their way through a field of 6,844 entrants, and on Monday they rose to the top of the final 27 players to take their positions at the final table.
2009 WSOP November Nine
The cream of the crop this year and their chip counts are:
- Dennis Phillips - $26,295,000
- Ivan Demidov - $24,400,000
- Scott Montgomery - $19,690,000
- Peter Eastgate - $18,375,000
- Ylon Schwartz - $12,525,000
- Darus Suharto - $12,520,000
- David Rheem - $10,230,000
- Craig Marquis - $10,210,000
- Kelly Kim - $2,620,000
Hailing from St. Louis, Mo., Dennis Phillips is the oldest of the remaining players and also the chip leader. The 53-year old is an amateur poker player who is a full-time account manager for a commercial trucking company.
Phillips also has some poker success on his resume already. He came in in ninth place in the 2007 WSOP Circuit Grand Tunica $500 No-Limit Hold'em event. His $2,386 cash there will be massively overshadowed by any money he walks away with from the Main Event final table in November.
He also won his way into the Main Event through a satellite at Harrah's Casino in St. Louis.
Ivan Demidov is only a couple million behind Phillips in the chip count, but away from the poker table the two are worlds apart. The 27-year-old Demidov hails from Moscow, Russia, and is a professional poker player.
Demidov cashed deep in a WSOP event already this year, coming in in 11th place in the $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em event. He also has a final-table finish in a 2006 Russian Poker Championship event as well as a third-place finish in the $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em evening event during the Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic in 2007.
Scott Montgomery is another professional poker player at the final table. His poker resume looks pretty blank prior to 2008, but this has been a good year for the Canadian. In February he made the final table of the World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic, and he has already cashed in three other WSOP events as well.
When he wasn't busy at the Rio with the WSOP, he also headed over to the Bellagio where he made the final table of the $3,000 No-Limit Hold'em event of the Bellagio Cup IV.
Montgomery put up cash to get into the Main Event, and it looks like his investment is going to pay off, given that he'll walk away with at least $900,670.
Peter Eastgate, Youngest of November Nine
The youngest player at the table will be Peter Eastgate, who is the only other player aside from Demidov who had to travel from outside North America to be at the final table. He comes from Odense, Denmark, where he is a professional poker player.
He too paid into the Main Event with cash and will be seeing a hefty return on his investment. His prior experience includes playing the Ladbrokes Poker Poker Million V and Poker Million VI, a ninth-place finish in the 2007 Paddy Power Irish Open, and cashing in the European Poker Tour Scandinavian Open.
Should Eastgate win the Main Event, he would take over Phil Hellmuth's record as the youngest-ever Main Event winner in Las Vegas.
Ylon Schwartz, from Brooklyn, N.Y., is one of the five Americans at the final table this year. The 38-year-old is a former professional chess player who discovered that he could make more money playing poker than he was making hustling chess games in New York City's public parks.
He has been playing poker professionally for several years now and has 12 prior WSOP cashes to his name already, including a 15th-place finish in this year's $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em event.
When asked how he made it this far in the tournament, Schwartz told PokerListings.com:
"Pretty much just picking up small pots. I think I had one huge pot and basically just waited for people to make mistakes. And you know, at the World Series you've got a lot of novices, so they're bound to overvalue what they have. That happened a lot for me, so I was able to exploit that."
The second Canadian at the Main Event final table is Darus Suharto, from Toronto, Ontario. The 39-year-old accountant is an amateur poker player who won his entry into the Main Event through a satellite.
After coming in in 448th place during the 2006 WSOP Main Event, Suharto has definitely topped his previous best cash in major poker tournament. No doubt he'll be happy to put his MBA from Indiana University to use figuring out how best to invest his money when the final table is played out.
David "Chino" Rheem is probably the most well-known of the players at the final table this year. The 28-year-old professional player is from Los Angeles and has five prior cashes at the World Series. One of those is a final table in the 2008 $5,000 Limit/No-Limit Hold'em event, where he came in in fifth place.
He too paid cash to get into the Main Event rather than winning his way in through the satellites at the Rio or through an online poker site.
Final Nine Play for $32 Million
Another contender for youngest Main Event winner on record is Craig Marquis, 23, from Arlington, Texas. Marquis is a college student who's only been playing poker for about 18 months.
Marquis had two cashes in the WSOP last year and cashed in the $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Shootout this year, but nothing compares to the money he'll take home after making the final table of the Main Event.
Up until the Main Event, Marquis had been having a pretty rough series. In his interview with PokerListings after Day 6, he said he'd joked with his roommates that he was just saving it all up for the Main Event, and then it ended up working out well for him.
The short stack at the final table will be Kelly Kim from Whittier, Calif. Kim is a business-analyst-turned-poker-pro.
Kim has a long list of cashes in events in the Los Angeles and Las Vegas area, but he has yet to post a major event win on his record. He'll now have four months to study up and practice ways to play his short stack to victory as the players take their break before play begins again Nov. 9.
The November Nine will play down to the final two on Nov. 9, and then the heads-up battle will take place starting at 10 p.m. PT on Nov. 10. The winner is expected to be crowned in the early morning hours of Nov. 11, with ESPN broadcasting the final that evening.
"The winner of the World Series of Poker Main Event has always become an instant celebrity," said WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack. "This year, all nine players who make the final table will become household names - and are guaranteed life-changing prize money to go with their fame and place in poker history."
The final nine will play for a total of $32,633,446, with first place earning more than nine million and all but the ninth-place finisher walking away at least a millionaire.
ESPN will air a one-hour special on the final nine players Nov. 4 at 9 p.m. ET. Coverage of the Main Event begins Sept. 2 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN, with two-hour episodes running each Tuesday until the Nov. 11 finale.
For more information about how the players made it to the final table through the 11 days of the Main Event, visit the 2008 WSOP Live Tournaments section.