It started with the sun high in the blue Nevada sky and was ended this evening by a man named Moon. The players, organisers and media expected to finish in the early hours of Thursday with daylight dawning in Las Vegas. Instead it was wrapped up by 11pm. But the November Nine are now known, named and preparing themselves for 16 weeks of preparation for the final table of the Main Event of the World Series of Poker.
These are the players:
Seat 1: Darvin Moon - 58,930,000
Seat 2: James Akenhead - PokerStars qualifier - 6,800,000
Seat 3: Phil Ivey - 9,765,000
Seat 4: Kevin Schaffel - Pokerstars sponsored player - 12,390,000
Seat 5: Steven Begleiter - 29,885,000
Seat 6: Eric Buchman - 34,800,000
Seat 7: Joe Cada - 13,215,000
Seat 8: Antoine Saout - 9,500,000
Seat 9: Jeff Shulman - 19,580,000
Among them, is the PokerStars sponsored player Kevin Schaffel, who like his competitors will soon become a household name.
Schaffel is a 51-year-old father of two, from Ft Lauderdale, Florida. He describes himself as "a bit more than a recreational poker player" and has the results to prove it, having cashed in the previous two World Series Main Events, two WPT events and the 2008 PCA. Formerly the owner of a printing and mailing firm, which he ran for 30 years, he has recently been pondering his future on the golf course and around the poker tables. After what is now guaranteed to be at least a $1.2m payday in November, the pondering has possibly become a good deal more relaxed.
After a series of groundhog days, when it seemed as though this would never end, we finally reached the money on day four, only to start another four days to bring us to this point. But in a sense this was already the final stretch. Some campaigns began online weeks ago and will not finish until the second week in November. A summer in Vegas that will now be followed by an autumn on the TV and magazine front pages.
The PokerStars qualifier Jonathan Tamayo was among the first suffering from a short stack and picked his moment to move in behind a raise from James Calderaro. Eric Buchman re-raised to 11 million forcing Calderaro out and Tamayo flipped over his A♠Q♦ but had clashed with Buchman's K♣K♥. The T♦T♠Q♣ flop wasn't the worst for Tamayo but he needed more. A third king came instead busting Tamayo in 21st place. PokerStars qualifier Andrew Lichtenburger went soon after in 18th place.
Nick Maimone set off on a rampage that, had it been bestowed upon him by some higher force at the time of his birth, to be used at the moment of his choice, he couldn't have found a better time. For a short spell Maimone seemed indestructible, first doubling up with queen-ten against queen-jack, then queen-five against pocket jacks, then sevens against tens and a race with queens against ace-king.
Higher providence seemed to be at work for Maimone who had launched himself up to more than 11 million from less than two, until his stack began to dwindle again with 16 left. This time Maimone's all-in was overpowered by the flopped top pair of Eric Buchman, out but rewarded with a hard earned $633,022.
Maimone was followed after the dinner break by Ben Lamb in 14th place for $633,022. The PokerStars sponsored player from Las Vegas tangled in his last hand against Jeff Shulman, betting 655,000 pre-flop from the cut off before Shulman raised enough to put Lamb in from the big blind. Lamb called to show A♠J♠ but Shulman had the upper hand with A♦K♠. Lamb knew it was over for him by the second card of the flop. Falling 9♥K♦3♠ Lamb needed Maimone-style help but by the 7♦ turn it was all over.
By now thoughts of a long night were evaporating. James Calderano soon went in 13th, then one-time chip leader Billy Kopp in 12th after a shock bust out. Just two more eliminations were required when PokerStars player Jamie Robbins moved all-in for 2,350,000 with K♣Q♠. Phil Ivey called with A♥T♥. Suddenly the Main Event was close to its last table and five faceless cards later, Robbins was gone and the ten remaining shuffled up to the main feature stage.
Minutes later Jordan Smith got his chips in with pocket aces on a flop of 8♣2♦4♦. But he hadn't counted on Darvin Moon making a set of eights. It was over.
The story of the November Nine will be told next. The story of how we got there is now complete.
For a long time Team PokerStars Pros led a charge on records both of the personal kind and those that satisfy the itch of poker historians. Dennis Phillips ran deepest. Last year's third place finisher busted on day seven in 45th place, 33 places ahead of his old rival Peter Eastgate. The reigning champion was on an impossible mission to win back-to-back big ones. It was a thrilling ride, saluted by everyone, but he was flushed out in 78th place.
There were other cashes for the team. Noah Boeken cashed in 96th, former champ Joe Hachem in 104th, Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier in 122nd, Thierry van den Berg in 122nd and Benjamin Kang in 246th. Actor Lou Diamond Phillips, who was sponsored by PokerStars, also recorded his first cash in 186th. Some 113 of the hundreds of PokerStars qualifiers and players cashed in the main event for a combined payout of $7,091,985. Among the top ten per cent of the field from earlier than today were Grayson Ramage (35th), Adam York (41st), Manuel Labandera (44th), Mark Ader (61st) and George Saca (63rd), just part of a long list available here.
We had the excitement of a packed Amazon Room, a potential Eastgate or Hachem double, not to mention the Grammy award winning hip-hopper Nelly rocking the Palms PokerStars party and shaking a few worlds with his show at Rain. We once joked how one of PokerStars' celebrity players was looking for a "Summer of George". Instead, once the dust settles, this will be known as yet another glorious summer of poker.
We'd like to thank you for following the all the news and action on the PokerStars Blog, from the start of the Series 57 events ago all the way through to the early hours of the last day. Poker may be in essence a game for the individual at the table, but away from it it's watched by the world - thanks for relying on us.
Of course it's not quite over. The World Series may pack up and leave the Rio but only for three and a half months when it returns to the Penn and Teller Theater for the November Nine finale. You can count on getting to know the finalists between now and then here on the PokerStars Blog.
Part of that introduction will come thanks to the video blog team who have provided hundreds of videos throughout our World Series coverage. You can watch any or all of them at PokerStars.tv.
We mock what we don't understand and there's nothing we don't understand less than the PokerStars foreign language blogs. But their expertise is second to none - follow their work on the Swedish, German, Dutch and Spanish blogs. You can also recap on events today at the links below.
Everyone on the PokerStars blog - Simon Young, Brad Willis, Howard Swains and Stephen Bartley - would like to thank all of those involved in putting in the hard hours and hard work involved in the blog each day since the World Series kicked off back in May. Our thanks to the unrivalled photographic eyes of Joe Giron, the Swedish of Lina, the German of Robin, the Dutch of Steve and the Spanish of Ivan. Also thanks to the video blog team of Hass, Ruairidh, Chris and Steven. Last but not least thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of Mad Harper.
That's all from us here in Las Vegas. It's been quite a ride. The blog rolls out of town tomorrow on its way to destinations new all over the world. Next stop Moscow and the start of season six on the European Poker Tour.
See you there.