That’s right. Come some point early next week, when the November NineTM has played down to one, we think that’s the headline we’ll be posting (again). Jeff Shulman is our pick to win it.
(Editor’s Note I: reference this excellent thread in 2+2 for a detailed breakdown of starting final table chip counts and results from 2004 to present)
(Editor’s Note II: If Shulman DOES win, Jeff Madsen will probably put out a theory that the final table was actually filmed yesterday in a secret bunker deep inside the Rio where they also filmed the moon landing and that’s how we knew the results. Also, if you still believe in the 9/11 conspiracy, read this).
A few bunch of factors: He’s got a healthy stack, with 19.58M chip (10% of chips in play). He’s experienced. This is his second WSOP final table of the decade. He’s been on TV (mostly via Poker SuperStars) many times. And he’s freaking editor of Card Player magazine. Dude has been in the industry long enough to not let all of this get to his head. So the spotlight isn’t going to affect/distract him as much as it does others (see: Phillips, Dennis). Plus, we’re big believers in the unscientific theory of, “Hey, if it’s your year, it’s your year.” And it’s the Shulmans’ year.
Why is it Shulmans’ year? Of course, Barry Shulman, Jeff’s dad, won the WSOPE Main Event. But it goes deeper than that. It’s about redemption.
After years of being out of favor with “the industry”TM due to its strong-arming tactics, Card Player, who has at least been a little kinder and gentler under Jeff’s reign, is more than due to have the sun shine on its ass. CP has been kicked to the curb by the WSOP and the WPT. Even in the WSOP Media Guide, the very last line of Shulman’s bio contains the mini-shot, “A vocal WSOP critic, despite his ongoing participation and success.” Nobody else has anything remotely close to a personally shot in their bio. So yes, this is redemption time, at least for the Shulmans. Jeff has shown a very disciplined game in ESPN broadcasts, he’s being “coached” by the best NLH tournament closer of all-time, Phil Hellmuth, and despite his comment about throwing the bracelet in the garbage, he’s repped himself well on TV (i.e. not a douche, like some others).
So yeah, after years of it not being the Shulmans’ year, it’s their year again. He’s our pick.
But if it’s not Jeff Shulman, then who will it be?
Eric Buchman. Listen, there is nothing compelling about this guy. He’ll make Jerry Yang’s tenure as WSOP champ feel like “The Golden Years.” But behind Phil Ivey and Jeff Shulman, he’s the most experienced guy at the final table. He has the second most chips. He’s in pretty good shape.
Some quick thoughts on some of the other players:
Darvin Moon. Since 2003, three final table chip leaders won the Main Event title (Moneymaker, Raymer, and Gold). And with so many chips, it’s kind of hard NOT picking Moon. If the tournament were to be held the day after the final table was set, instead of a four-month break, then he would be our pick. But bottomline is if you’re on the kind of heater that Moon was, that just doesn’t carry over four months later (despite his good run at the $10 Texas Hold’em table game). It’ll carry over the next day (see: Moneymaker & Gold) but not four months. He’s due to take some bad beats and get cold-decked.
Phil Ivey. We want Ivey to win. It would be great for poker. He’s just got a too long of a way to come back. And despite the edge he has as the best player in the world and all, he just needs a lot of help and luck to catch up.
Joe Cada. If he had more chips, we’d probably have him second overall. He’s shown a solid, disciplined game in the broadcasts. Seems like a good kid. Why not.
Steven Begleiter. Pretty sure everyone agrees he’s the luckiest to be at the final table. He’s the most likely to spew chips and flame out early, unless he heeds advice from his coach, Jonathan Little.
Kevin Schaffel. Here’s a dark-horse. He’s got solid results, came in second at the WPT LA Poker Classic in August, and could surprise people.
Antoine Saout. He’s French. The French don’t win battles.
James Akenhead. A great player but he just doesn’t have enough chips.
We’ll see how it all pans out tomorrow. For more opinions on how the final table plays out, go here.