Top 5 of 2009: Phil Ivey Makes the November Nine

PokerListings has criss-crossed the planet this year bringing you the biggest and best poker news from every corner of the globe. Now that 2009 is coming to a close, we’ve decided to sift through the literally thousands of headlines searching for the year’s top stories.

With an eye on the great poker personalities that have made the scene and the interesting fodder they’ve provided for us over the past 12 months, we’ve come up with our very own Top Five Poker News Stories of 2009.

The plan was to present them to you every other day from until New Year’s Eve and we conclude today with No. 1: Phil Ivey Makes the November Nine.

You simply can’t have a bigger story than the consensus best player on the planet making the final table of the biggest tournament in the world.

After finishing 23rd in 2002, a heartbreaking 10th in 2003 and 20th in 2005, Phil Ivey finally reached the final table of the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event this summer.

And, as if making the November Nine was not enough, he brought with him a shot at a third bracelet on the year.

Within minutes of the final table being set, pundits predicted poker would be the big winner, that the game’s biggest superstar would help sell poker to a whole new audience through the mainstream media and do more to convince the U.S. government that poker is a skill game, and should be legal online, than ever before.

But, weaned on the game in Atlantic City casinos playing with fake ID before he was old enough to legally play, Ivey had always been a bit standoffish with the media.

With the bright Main Event spotlight on him for four months before the final table played out, however, he appeared to at least partially embrace a role as an ambassador for the game, helping poker make a few strides further into the mainstream.

Despite sitting seventh in chips heading into the final, online betting sites saw huge dollars bet on Ivey, pushing the odds down and practically making him the favorite to win before November.

And as the final table date drew closer, it began to look as if the entire poker world was rooting for him, even those who probably shouldn’t have.

When there were 2,400 players left in the Main Event, fellow Team Full Tilt Pro Andy Bloch bet Ivey $20,000 at 99-1 that he wouldn’t win.

Faced with paying Ivey $2 million if he did, Bloch said he still couldn’t help but pull for him.

“It was quite a sweat,” he said. “But no matter how much it would have cost me, a part of me still wanted to see him win.”

Although Ivey’s presence did not increase ratings for ESPN’s final table coverage, it still appeared interest in the Main Event and the game of poker was as high this November as it’s ever been, and poker has Ivey to thank for that.

In the end, when his ace-king could not get past Darvin Moon’s ace-queen, Ivey bowed out seventh, helping pave the way for 21-year-old Joe Cada to become the youngest Main Event champion in history.

But even his bustout appeared to draw as much attention as Cada’s win.

He may not have won the Main Event, but the impact of Ivey just making the final table was enough to turn the heads of people who had never paid attention to poker before and secure a spot as the No.1 story on PokerListings’ Top Five Poker News Stories of 2009.

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