It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a dream final table. The tables and tables of poker superstars who comprised the field at the Southern Poker Championship have been distilled into a final table of six of the least recognizable men in the room.
Indeed, when your final table's marquee name is World Series of Poker Circuit All-Star Hilbert Shirey (granted, a triple WSOP bracelet winner back in the day), you know you're in trouble as far as audience appeal is concerned.
Look, we don't mean to say that the final table of the World Poker Tour's second foray into the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi is boring, it's just, well, it's one of those tables that our friends at Wicked Chops like to call a family and friends affair.
As in, if you're family and friends, this will be a thriller. Otherwise, it's six guys in a moodily lit room slinging clay at each other.
It could all have gone so differently, too. Day 3 at the Beau saw the final 27 contestants all return to the poker tables 10 hours after the conclusion of their 16-hour marathon Day 2, and among those still standing were Team PokerStars Pro pros Hevad Khan and Vanessa Rousso, as well as Full Tilt Poker's Tony Cousineau and Jordan Morgan.
Further, EPT4 London runner-up Florian Langmann, poker writer Bernard Lee and Ted Lawson - a tournament grinder in the Dan Harrington mode - remained in the hunt, alongside a number of other lesser-known but still highly qualified entrants.
By the time the action ended a little past 11 p.m. Central Time on Friday evening, though, none of the above remained.
The carnage began early. Morgan was short-stacked and bit the dust fairly quickly. Lawson and Lee quickly followed suit. All three men finished in the low 20s and earned $13,186 for their efforts.
Then Langmann ran his tens into queens, busting in 18th. In the following level, Khan would hit the road, victimized in 14th after shoving his short stack into the middle with Q♠ 7♠ against Jeff Coutroulis' A♠ T♣.
Khan would be followed to the rail by two of the more colorful examples of Southern Fried Poker, thus denying the final table any sort of local color, with Justin Phillips - with his red hair, overalls and sleeveless T a true original - and Toby Tatum - it was more his name than anything else - hitting the bricks in 13th and 12th respectively, marking the end of the Redneck Poker campaign for this event.
That left Cousineau - renowned on the poker circuit for his nitty behavior - and newly minted Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Rousso (and Shirey, oh Shirey) still alive from the professional set, but with both players short-stacked it was a long, agonizing descent toward the six empty chairs at the TV table for observers, media and WPT personnel alike.
Alas, it was not to be, as Cousineau dropped out in eighth spot when his big slick failed to improve against Tyler Smith's pocket nines, and then Rousso, heartbreakingly, bit the dirt in seventh. The Lady Maverick, you might remember, seventhboked the WPT Championship in 2006 after James Van Alstyne's A-J felled her A-K, and has never gotten closer to a WPT final table.
She'd fail to advance any further on Friday night, fighting valiantly with a short stack for most of the day before finally succumbing so tantalizingly close with A-K again, this time losing a race to chip leader and dominant force Soheil Shamseddin's pocket tens.
That left the immortal six, including Shamseddin, Smith, Shirey, the colorfully named Bobby Suer, Allen Carter and Chuck Kim, all having earned a berth at Saturday's final table. Shamseddin, with $3.061 million, is the chip leader and the favorite, with Carter's $1.673 million good for second-best on the leaderboard.
Action will kick off at 4 p.m. Central Time and play down until one of the above is holding a $1 million check. PokerListings.com will be on scene and even if you're not friends and family, we encourage you to join us - the WPT has made household names of hundreds of new faces and it will do the same tomorrow night. Be there!