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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

Mizrachi, eight others ready for November Nine

1 November 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Some have dubbed Saturday's final table at the World Series of Poker's Main Event as "The Grinder and the Eight Unknowns."

Michael Mizrachi, aka "The Grinder," thinks the analysis is a off the mark.

"This is a tough lineup of players. I can't take anything away from them," said Mizrachi, 29, of North Miami Beach, Fla. "We had some unbelievable games heading into this."

Mizrachi is easily the most decorated professionally of the nine players seeking the $8.9 million first prize in the tournament's $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold 'em World Championship. He has career earnings of $2.3 million at the World Series of Poker, including six trips to a final table.

Mizrachi won the tournament's $50,000 buy-in Poker Players Championship in May, earning almost $1.6 million. He's also in line to earn the 2010 Player of the Year.

Remove from the mix fourth-place qualifier John Racener. He has won $1.4 million in tournament poker, and the combined career poker earnings of the remaining seven players might not cover the big blinds.

Still, Mizrachi, who enters the table in seventh place, some 51 million chips behind leader Jonathan Duhamel, realizes he will have to live up to his nickname if he is going to capture the jackpot and the gold-and-diamond bracelet awarded to the winner.

"These guys aren't really known to the general public, but to the poker community, there is a lot of recognition," Mizrachi said. "Some of these guys made a name for themselves online. This is probably going to be one of the toughest final tables the tournament has seen in a long time."

The nine outlasted a field of 7,319 players -- second largest in World Series of Poker history -- who spent 11 days, as well as some 14 hours between July 17 and 18, to earn their final-table seats on stage in front of an audience of almost 1,500 at the Rio's Penn & Teller Theater.

This is the third year the World Series of Poker has taken a four-month break between qualifying and the final table. Harrah's Interactive Entertainment Vice President Ty Stewart, who oversees the tournament, said the 2010 final table players seemed to embrace the time off.

Eight of the nine traveled to London to play in the World Series of Poker Europe tournament.

Some cashed in on their celebrity fame. Sixth-place qualifier Filippo Candio of Italy, the first Italian to reach the final table of the Main Event, has gained so much popularity that an Italian television station is sending a crew to Las Vegas to follow his progress and do live broadcasts for his fans back home.

ESPN will pre-empt SportsCenter on Nov. 9 to televise its two-hour coverage of the final table. Also, the network will broadcast all the action from the final table live -- without showing the hole cards -- on its ESPN3 broadband network.

"This year, more than ever, these guys understood the platform, went out and maximized their opportunities," Stewart said. "We've seen this event accepted as a sports package that has a much broader reach."

Mizrachi, who has been playing poker for 11 years, said the online players might be at a disadvantage because of the grueling marathon sessions that embraced recent final tables, sometimes lasting well into the wee morning hours.

"It's not like online games at home, where you can just sit around in your boxers and play on the computer," said Mizrachi, who has spent the past few weeks in the gym taking off the weight he put on while traveling to poker tournaments abroad during the four-month break. He hopes to have dropped 20 pounds by the time cards are in the air Saturday.

The expected long night, he said, could help him and fellow poker professional Racener of Port Richey, Fla. The two have faced off many times over the past few years and are friends.

"John is not known to the public, but the poker community knows him," Mizrachi said.

Duhamel, a 23-year-old from Boucherville, Quebec, Canada, hopes to break a three-year trend where the chip leader heading into the final table fails to walk away with the grand prize.

Duhamel, who has almost 66 million in chips, about 20 million more than second-place John Dolan, knows the tide can turn quickly. His 42-millon pot on the final day of qualifying moved him from second place into the chip lead, which he never relinquished.

"A lot of these players have really good skills and are really dangerous," Duhamel said. "I just need to find a weakness and use it to my advantage."

Duhamel has spent the past few months honing his skills online and discussing poker strategy with his friends in the Montreal area. He plans to come to Las Vegas two days before the Main Event, but isn't planning too many ventures outside his hotel room.

"I'll be ready. I want to get my rest, be focused and mentally strong," said Duhamel, who said he once played a 20-hour session online. "I know there is going to be some pressure, but I'm confident in my game."

Duhamel will be backed by some 200 friends and family members decked out in jerseys of the National Hockey League's Montreal Canadians, his favorite team.

The image recalls memories of the 2008 final table, when backers of Dennis Phillips wore matching white work shirts and St. Louis Cardinals baseball caps.

Stewart said he realized last year the arena-type atmosphere of the event when four shirtless fans of eventual champion Joe Cada used body paint to spell out his name from the upper tier of the theater.

"Even those poker purists have realized how this event has become as big and as fun as it can get," Stewart said.
Mizrachi, eight others ready for November Nine is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.