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Poker News: July 17, 2008

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Copyright © Herald Tribune

HEADLINE: World Series of Poker field reduced to final 9

The World Series of Poker has been dealt its final nine. As for a winner, come back in 117 days.

These players aren't household names yet — save one or two among truly hardcore card fans — but with four months of publicity and time to mull their game and study their opponents, nobody will sit down at the final table in November an unknown.

"The beauty of it is I survived," said Kelly Kim, a 31-year-old professional poker player from Whittier, Calif., who squeezed into the final nine holding about 2.6 million chips — but just 1.9 percent of the chips in play and more than 23 million behind the leader. "I get to play another day — anything could happen. It's truly amazing."

Tournament officials doled out ninth place money — $900,670 — Tuesday to each of the finalists, and were expected to meet with the new faces of no-limit Texas Hold 'em to talk about the months ahead.
They will play Nov. 9-10 for a top prize of $9.12 million in a 1,500-seat theater at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino where magicians Penn & Teller normally perform.

No doubt, the cash alone could be life altering but the potential for each player given their newfound celebrity is uncharted territory for the series. Several players spoke to agents and representatives from poker Web sites throughout the series, parlaying success on the felt into sponsorship deals.

It's also unclear how playing the final table four months from now will affect the game itself, though the seesaw way the players' final 11-hour, 38-minute session ended up left none of the finalists with a dominant chip lead.

The leader with about 26.2 million chips, 53-year-old Dennis Phillips of the St. Louis suburb of Cottage Hills, Ill., held about a 1.9 million chip lead over Ivan Demidov, a 27-year-old semiprofessional player from Moscow.

"I'm having a blast — I live for this," said Phillips, a trucking account manager who won entry into the main event by winning a satellite poker tournament at Harrah's St. Louis.

Winners of qualifying satellite tournaments have their $10,000 buy-in to the main event paid for them. Each player, whether they won a satellite tournament or paid their own entry, sat down with 20,000 in chips when the main event began July 3.

The rest of the nine in order of their stacks were: Scott Montgomery, a 26-year-old Canadian from Perth, Ontario, with nearly 19.7 million chips and Peter Eastgate, 22, of Odense, Denmark, with about 18.3 million. The other finalists, who had stacks of about 10 million to 12 million chips, were Ylon Schwartz, 38, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Darus Suharto, 39, of Toronto; David "Chino" Rheem, 28, of Los Angeles; and 23-year-old amateur Craig Marquis of Arlington, Texas.
Kim trailed as the nine emerged from a field of 6,844 players to reach the pinnacle of poker, simultaneously tired, relieved and ecstatic when the final cards fell Tuesday morning.

"Everybody was scared they weren't going to make the final table," Marquis said.

Dean Hamrick, a 25-year-old poker player from East Lansing, Mich., was eliminated in the last hand Tuesday morning when his ace-jack failed to beat the pocket queens of Marquis.

Both players bet the last of their chips before seeing any community cards. Hamrick picked up an inside straight draw on the flop, giving him additional possibilities to win the hand, but he failed to pair his ace or make the straight and was eliminated in 10th place. He won $591,869.

"It's the worst you're ever going to feel to win half a million bucks," Hamrick said. "I guess at least it's a good story."
Earlier, Marquis put his tournament life at risk with an ace-queen and was called by Hamrick holding pocket queens.

Marquis was a huge underdog before the community cards were dealt because Hamrick's two queens made Marquis' queen seem worthless. But Marquis' queen also was a heart, which won him the hand when the fourth and fifth community cards gave him a flush and 11.2 million in chips.

"I was hoping he would fold, obviously," Marquis said.
Chips have no monetary value in the no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event, but are used to indicate where players stand relative to one another in the tournament. One player will have to win all the chips in play to win the title in November.

The eventual winner will have never won a world series tournament before because the last two gold bracelet winners, Phi Nguyen and Brandon Cantu, were eliminated early Monday.

The last woman in the field, 24-year-old actress Tiffany Michelle, was eliminated in 17th place — the best finish for a woman in the main event since 2000, when tournament professional Annie Duke finished 10th.

"It may not be a World Series of Poker bracelet, but that's really huge and it makes me really happy," said Michelle, who won $334,534.
Last year's winner, California psychologist Jerry Yang finished out of the money this year.

Phil Hellmuth, who won the main event in 1989, finished highest in the tournament among previous winners — 45th.


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Article downloaded from the World Wide Web on July 17th, 2007

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