Good morning -- wow, that's an uncomfortable word in the poker world. But it is morning here in Las Vegas, and it's going to be a big day indeed.
Today is the day we've all been waiting months for, the beginning of the end of the World Series of Poker Main Event. Our November Nine have been in Las Vegas for a few days, getting mentally prepared and getting reacquainted with the city that will make eight of them millionaires.
Now it's time to play cards.
The most aggressive player over the last few levels of this event, the Czech Republic's Martin Staszko will begin today's play with the big stack of more than 40 million. That's good for almost 20% of the chips in play, and Staszko gets to enjoy the added perk of having position on the dangerous Ben Lamb.
Speaking of Ben Lamb, it's probably worth mentioning the WSOP's Player of the Year. You can read about the bracelet he won this year in the preceding bios, but it's also worth nothing that Lamb finished 12th in the 2009 Main Event. He'll be looking do to 11 spots better than that today, and he begins this final table with just less than the chip average -- about 21 million. That's plenty for now.
Another story line worth following in involves the Irishman at the table, Eoghan O'Dea. He's the son of Donnacha O'Dea, a two-time Main Event finalist, and Eoghan will be hoping to claim some elusive WSOP hardware for the family this week. And he's set himself up well to this point. O'Dea will begin the final table with almost 34 million chips, putting him in second place with nine to go.
On the short-stack watch are Sam Holden and Anton Makiievskyi, though neither of them are in immediate danger. With about 12 and 14 million chips respectively, the two shorties still have more than 20 big blinds and enough breathing room to try and play poker for a few orbits if they wish. With the average chip stack more than 45 big blinds deep to start play, we could be here a while.
If you've never seen this November Nine spectacle, it's hard to put into words. The Penn & Teller theater -- and the area around it -- are crawling with poker fans this morning, and they've come in uniform. Bob Bounahra has brought scores of rowdy fans from back home in Belize, and they're whistling and waving flags, still well over an hour from the start time. So far, they're the clear frontrunners for Loudest Cheering Section.
Sam Holden's fans have all shown up in curly, brown wigs in homage to their guy. Phil Collins' cheering section are wearing matching T-shirts and have already been drinking for at least a couple hours. Just now, a chorus of "Gi-a-nnetti" chants have just begun from Matt Giannetti's fans the top left corner of the balcony.
We've just spotted Sasquatch in the stands, too, the bearer of the free beef jerky. It's going to be a good day.
The cards go in the air in about 75 minutes, and we've got a ringside seat for the action. While you wait, check out the quick bios for the remaining players below. We'll be here for every hand once the cards go flying. Here's how they'll stack up to begin play:
Sit tight! The final table of the Main Event is almost here!