- Bernard Lee, ESPN Staff Writer
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In the world of poker, the World Series of Poker final table is the most celebrated day of the year. With the recent creation of the November Nine, all nine members of that heralded final table became poker superstars and are now recognized all over the world. However, during the modern era of poker, the WSOP final table had never been reunited after the champion is crowned. Just weeks ago, this anomaly was rectified.
On Feb. 8, Foxwoods Resort Casino re-assembled the 2010 November Nine for a three-table tournament. Each of the November Nine played as well as 18 Foxwoods players (who were chosen via a series of qualifying tournaments during the previous month), the WSOP on ESPN announcer Lon McEachern (who came in to announce the reunion event), Kasey Thompson (owner/publisher of All-In Magazine) and myself. The event was met with an overwhelming response with hundreds of fans turning out to witness this historic reunion and smiles on all the faces of the players.
Matt Jarvis (second place), Jonathan Duhamel (fifth), Michael Mizrachi (seventh) and yours truly (sixth) all made the final table. After a hard fought battle especially between the two Canadians (see below for more details), Ben Hopkins from Rhode Island won this unique tournament and will have stories to tell his friends and family forever.
The players spent nearly a week in Connecticut and it wasn't filled with only poker tournaments, but also numerous activities and events. As the Foxwoods poker spokesperson, I had the privilege to host these players all week long.
Here are some of my favorite moments throughout this incredible week:
Best activity/event: Boston Bruins versus Montreal Canadiens
Although I'm a huge Celtics fan and we went to see the Green versus the Magic and the Lakers, this hockey game was one for the ages. The game had it all:
• Huge rivalry between two teams of the Original Six in hockey
• Decked out in Canadiens jerseys, Jonathan Duhamel brought his agents and a couple of Canadian press to cheer for the Canadiens (also RDS, the ESPN of Canada, was covering the game and showed Duhamel several times on Canadian television)
• Fourteen goals (the Bruins won 8-6) were scored with eight coming in the second period alone
• Not one but three full team fights including one between the goalies
• Non-stop action from start to finish
Duhamel, who has gone to over 70 live hockey games, said that this game was the best he had ever seen. This ringing endorsement alone made it the best event of the week.
Best prop bet: Duhamel versus Jarvis
As you already know, poker players love to prop bet and there were plenty bets made during the week ranging from bowling at Foxwoods' High Rollers to the Super Bowl to multiple sporting events.
Money was exchanged, but the best bet of the week simply had to do with team pride for the two Canadian members of the November Nine. With both players being hockey fanatics for their respective hometown teams (Duhamel -- Montreal, Jarvis -- Vancouver), they set up a last-longer bet during the reunion event. The loser would have to wear the winner's team jersey with the winner's name on the back for the first three WSOP events they play this summer. Jarvis outlasted Duhamel and the WSOP champ will begrudgingly wear a Vancouver Canucks jersey this summer at the Rio.
Best reason to change a flight: Senti flies in for the Celtics
Poker players are last-minute creatures and asking them to book their flights weeks in advance was not an easy task. However, most did, but I paid for it (literally). Most of the players asked to revise their itineraries for one reason or another. Jason Senti had the best reason to change his flight. Upon previewing the week's activities, he decided to change his plans and fly in early Sunday morning to attend the Celtics versus the Orlando Magic game. After Senti flew into Boston's Logan airport, a car brought him over to the TD Garden just in time for the singing of the national anthem.
As a huge Celtics fan and 15-year season-ticket holder, I can fully understand his desire to come see the 17-time NBA champions. By the way, when the Celtics personnel brought the 2008 NBA championship trophy up to our suite, I'm sure Jason was glad that he changed his flight.
Best "10th" player award: Lon McEachern
Although the reunion event centered on the November Nine, the event would not have been complete without a voice of poker from ESPN. Unfortunately, both commentators couldn't make it because of a prior commitment, but Norman Chad's "better half" came through and brought the event to life, introducing the players prior to the start of the reunion event.
Having Lon at the event was truly the icing on the cake. Not only did the players and fans love his humor and wit, Lon got to play some poker as well, finishing as the bubble boy in the invitational.
Best tournament run: The Grinder
While both Matt Jarvis (18th place) and Jason Senti (24th place) had deep runs in the $400 no-limit hold 'em event, Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi ran over the table during Day 1A of the $300 no-limit hold 'em event. In true Grinder style, Mizrachi entered Day 2 as one of the chip leaders, but unfortunately finished in 14th place. In his own words, Foxwoods is "definitely a great place to play poker," but "there is a lot of dead money" as well.
Best double duty: Joseph Cheong
During the week, FTOPS XIX was well underway. With seven Full Tilt representatives among the 2010 November Nine, many of the players performed double duty as they participated in the online series when they weren't playing live in poker room downstairs.
Cheong showed his flexibility, finishing 49th of 4,302 players in FTOPS XIX Event #10 (no-limit hold 'em, six-max, rebuy). And after playing all night long, Cheong impressively came down to play in the $400 no-limit hold 'em with only a few hours of sleep.
The 2010 November Nine Reunion event is a moment that I and hopefully all nine players will remember forever. Hopefully, we will have the chance to do this again in the future.
Bernard Lee is the official spokesperson of Foxwoods Resort and Casino. Lee is the co-host of ESPN Inside Deal, weekly poker columnist for the Boston Herald and radio host of "The Bernard Lee Poker Show."
3hThomas McKean, ESPN Stats & Information