By Paul Hewson
Are we about to witness another WSOP-inspired poker boom? This year's “November Nine” final table at the Main Event features players from four countries, ranging in age from 23 to 72. No women again this year, sadly, and no Daniel Negreanu; he busted out in 11th place. But there are enough personalities at this final table to give every poker fan a reason to tune in Sunday night (8:30 PM ET, ESPN) when the cards start flying.
Here's a quick look at this year's November Nine, listed in order of seat number, with their chip counts (M = 1 million) and their odds at press time to win the Main Event.
1. Ofer Zvi Stern (29.8M; +450)
Stern is the second Israeli player to make the November Nine; Amir Lehavot (2013) was the first. He's made just under $50,000 live, most of that at this year's PCA $25,000 High Roller, where he finished 34th for $44,540.
2. Pierre Neuville (21.075M; +550)
The 72-year-old Belgian (a November Nine record) has been playing poker since 1957. Neuville is a former vice-chairman at the Hasbro toy company, and started really getting into live tournaments after his retirement in 2008, racking up over $2.1 million in earnings.
3. Josh Beckley (11.8M; +1200)
Beckley's a known commodity in New Jersey, and has taken down some big cashes at nearby Parx Casino in Philadelphia. While the pro grinder has amassed nearly $220,000 in lifetime earnings, he'll be one of the shorter stacks on Sunday.
4. Max Steinberg (20.2M; +350)
The only player in the November Nine with a WSOP bracelet (he won a $1,000 NLHE event in 2012), Steinberg has been playing more daily fantasy sports than poker of late – apparently winning nearly $2 million playing live tournaments wasn't enough. Steinberg actually won his Main Event seat playing DFS.
5. Thomas Cannuli (12.25M; +1200)
The youngest player at the table, 23-year-old Cannuli normally plays cash games and has just over $50,000 in live tournament earnings to his name. But “Holy Cannuli” also has the support of some top pros this week, like Antonio Esfandiari.
6. Joe McKeehen (63.1M; +175)
Meet the table boss. McKeehen ran super-hot on his way to the final table, and brings a massive chip stack of 158 big blinds with him. He might be the best player at the table, too, earning nearly $2 million in live tournaments – and a math degree from Arcadia University.
7. Patrick Chan (6.225M; +2200)
Chan has been playing poker since 2010, starting with online MTTs and moving into live poker after Black Friday. This will be Chan's third six-figure payout, and his first seven-figure score; even if he finishes ninth, Chan will earn a cool $1 million for making it this far.
8. Federico Butteroni (6.2M; +2800)
Italy also has its second November Niner, following in the footsteps of Filippo Candio in 2010. The former watermelon farmer has won a little over $100,000 in live tournaments, playing across the globe from Europe to Australia. He's the shortest stack at the final table.
9. Neil Blumenfield (22M; +600)
The sharply-dressed 61-year-old software executive will be tacking on another zero to his lifetime earnings of $130,000. Blumenfield owns a political science degree from Berkeley and has previous Main Event experience, finishing 285th three years ago.