I wrote this predictions column on Wednesday, the day before I arrived in Vegas. I spent Friday at the Rio, camped outside the ESPN interviews that will ultimately help shape the final two broadcasts. It gave me one last opportunity with each of the players, and now, I'm more uncertain than ever.
In talking to the players, there are a few things I've figured out:
" Ylon Schwartz is a tighter player than I originally thought, which I think makes my prediction on his run a little less likely.
" The loosest among the nine was undoubtedly Scott Montgomery, whose smiles and jokes struck me as the antithesis of the behavior of a man feeling the pressure of the moment.
" Peter Eastgate, who'd struck me as a little uptight in July, was thoughtful and clear in his answers. He's ready.
" I wouldn't be surprised at all if Dennis Phillips, who chartered a plane to bring in some 300 friends and family, is a little distracted. He hosted a charity tournament here Friday night.
" The most outwardly confident poker player at this final table is Craig Marquis.
" If you were to ask the players to gather to play right now, I think they'd do it unanimously.
I can also say that I'm legitimately more excited to see how this all unfolds than I was a year ago and I credit the November Nine format for that. Who knows if my predictions are right? Really, it wouldn't be much fun if they were. I can't wait to see who proves me wrong first.