2016 World Series of Poker November Nine Set, Cliff “JohnnyBax” Josephy Leads

The day has come that organizers of the World Poker Tour, European Poker Tour, and poker tours everywhere have been eagerly anticipating for a month and a half: the end of the summer portion of the 2016 World Series of Poker. On Monday, the Main Event ground down to the final table, meaning the poker world’s attention can now shift away from the WSOP and to other poker tournaments until the November Nine.

The WSOP Main Event began with 6,737 players, split across three starting flights. As tends to be the norm, Day 1A on July 9th was the smallest at 764 players, mainly because people a) don’t want to wait two days before a potential Day 2A b) those who have to take off of work for the Main Event can’t afford those additional days off, and c) people from out of town (most of the field) don’t want to pay for extra hotel nights. Day 1B had 1,733 players and Day 1C set the record for the largest single-day field in WSOP history with 4,240 registrants.

The number of players at the beginning of each day thereafter are as follows:

Day 2A: 546
Day 2B: 1,301
Day 2C: 3,252 (5,099 total to start Day 2)
Day 3: 2,186
Day 4: 800
Day 5: 251
Day 6: 80
Day 7: 27

When the sportsbooks post their odds for the November Nine, the man who will be the favorite is Cliff “JohnnyBax” Josephy, primarily because he is the chip leader. The betting odds almost always go in order based on final table chip counts, with some minor tweaks made once in a while if a very strong known poker pro is just slightly behind the person one spot ahead of him in the standings. Josephy has 74.6 million chips, providing him a fairly small lead over Qui Nguyen, who has 67.925 million chips.

2016 WSOP Main Event November Nine Photo credit: WSOP.com

2016 WSOP Main Event November Nine
Photo credit: WSOP.com

Josephy will also be the favorite because he is, in fact, an extremely skilled poker player. He doesn’t have an overwhelming resume for someone considered by many to be the strongest player at the table, as at the age of 51 (he is also the oldest of the November Nine), he “only” has $2.6 million in live tournament earnings to his credit, not counting the $1 million is guaranteed for making this final table. Josephy has earned one WSOP gold bracelet in his career, nabbing it in 2013 in the $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em Shootout event.

Where Josephy has made his name over the years is online. He is really an oddball of sorts in the poker world, as he was arguably the biggest name in online poker about a decade ago, when he was around 40 years old. While the ages of the top poker pros are starting to skew upwards as many are now in their early and mid-30’s, back in the beginning of the poker boom, online poker really was a young person’s game. Anyone in their 30’s was ancient. Someone being a full-time internet pro at 40 was bizarre. And then there was “JohnnyBax,” who for more than a year spanning 2005 and 2006 was the number one ranked online poker tournament player in the world, according to rankings put together by PocketFives. He has over $4.1 million in lifetime winnings in online tournaments, and that is only what was recorded by PocketFives. He likely has more than that, plus cash game winnings.

Josephy has also been the financier behind who knows how many poker players over the years at the World Series of Poker; he was one of the pioneers of modern-day staking. He and fellow poker pro Eric “Sheets” Haber had 50 percent of Joe Cada’s action when Cada won the WSOP Main Event in 2009.

The November Nine “bubble boy” was Josh Weiss. He was in a bad spot, holding just 850,000 chips after posting the 75,000 chip ante and blinds at 250,000/500,000. He had to find a hand with which to shove and A-8 offsuit looked as good as any. He was called by both Gordon Vayo and Michael Ruane, who checked down the board of J-7-3-5-4. Checking down in a spot like this is typical, as by both staying in the hand, Vayo and Ruane increased the chances of Weiss being eliminated and the two of them making the November Nine. Not only is making the November Nine prestigious and provides the opportunity for possible sponsorship deals, but the jump in cash from tenth to ninth place is $350,000, more than first place paid in many events this summer. Only if one or both of Vayo and Ruane had an extremely strong hand would there have been any further action.

Ruane won the pot with J-5 versus Vayo’s Q-7 and Weiss, sure enough, was knocked out in tenth place. At least his next three and a half months will be less stressful than they might have been.

Though it is called the November Nine, the Main Event final table will run from October 30th through November 1st this year because the United States presidential election falls on the second Tuesday of November, the day the championship would have normally been decided this year.

The winner of the WSOP Main Event will receive $8 million. Everyone is now guaranteed at least $1 million. The Main Event final table chip counts are as follows:

1.    Cliff Josephy – 74,600,000
2.    Qui Nguyen – 67,925,000
3.    Gordon Vayo – 49,375,000
4.    Kenny Hallaert – 43,325,000
5.    Michael Ruane – 31,600,000
6.    Vojtech Ruzicka – 27,300,000
7.    Griffin Benger – 26,175,000
8.    Jerry Wong – 10,175,000
9.    Fernando Pons – 6,150,000

Cover photo credit: Joe Giron/WSOP

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