You know your friend?
He’s doing so much better than you
Are ever likely to do
He’ll eclipse you
But he will not miss you
—Harvey Danger, “Cream and Bastards Rise”
Each day of the World Series of Poker Main Even is a struggle. Not simply a struggle to not fall behind, but a fight to build from your starting stack of 30,000 chips to (ideally) something like 20 million, 666 times what you began with (there’s a coincidence for you).
Ideally, by the end of each of the seven days of play before the final table is set, you’ll multiply your stack by about 2.53 times (2.537 = 663.5) or more. That’s not a necessity—not everyone has a steady rise to the top—but if you were able to maintain that rate of growth, you would reach the million-dollar payout level.
This is how the 2015 November Nine fared on their path to poker’s biggest stage.
Each of the days of the Main Event play five 2-hour levels. By the end of every other day, the blinds increase by a factor of 10.
On Day 1, everyone begins with 30,000 chips at the 50-100 blind level and ends at 200-400 with a 50 ante. There were 6,240 entries over three days, with a total of 3,919 surviving their respective days.
One way to gauge how players are doing is to compare their stacks to the average stack, which was 47,767 beginning Day 2, but another method is to look at the median stack, where half the players have more chips and half have less. For this year’s Main Event, that was 38,575, when you combine all three days.
By either standard, four of the November Nine were above the line after Day 1, though only two had increased their stack to 2.5 times the start. Patrick Chan and Pierre Neuville kicked things off with excellent Day 1 totals of 81,900 and 79,625, respectively. Joshua Beckley (62,200) and Federico Butteroni (52,650) were the other two in the upper half of all players. Current chip monster Joseph McKeehan, Zvi Stern, and Neil Blumenfield were all within the 30,000 to 40,000 range. Max Steinberg was actually a bit below the starting stack, at 26,300. Note: Thomas Cannuli does not appear on any of the Day 1 reports, his first mention is in the results for the combined Day 2s. Neuville is the only November Niner known to have started on Day 1A. Stern and Blumenfield played Day 1B.
A player who increased their stack by 2.53 times to 75,900 on Day 1 would go from playing 300 big blinds to 190.
On Day 2, the cost of poker at a full table goes from 1,050 chips in Level 5 (the end of Day 1) to 3,600 in Level 10 (the end of Day 2). By then, the median stack among the 1,796 players (just under 29% of the entrants) was 92,000, with the average at 104,231.
As the field prepared to combine for the first time, only Beckley and Chan were below median, with Chan actually having lost some ground during Day 2C and dropping to 66,800. The others ranged from Blumenfield’s 149,500 to Pierre Neuville, with more than 350,000. At this point, most of the 2015 November Nine had more than twice the median stack, but even Chan had 40 big blinds going into Day 3.
The new payout structure of the Main Event made Day 3 “Bubble Day”. More than half the players going into the day would be paid at least the minimum cash of $15,000. By day’s end, the 661 remaining players would be facing 2,000-4,000 blinds and antes of 500; at 10,500 chips per round, a cost exactly ten times that of the end of Day 1.
Federico Butteroni took a hit on Day 3, not only dropping what would be the new median of 238,000 but actually going from more than 200,000 chips to 125,500. All the other players beat the median, with most ranging between Zvi Stern’s 256,000 and Max Steinberg’s 616,500. The breakout, however, was Joseph McKeehan, who would move to second in chips on the leaderboard and stay near there all but one of the remaining days, as one of the first players to break 1,000,000 chips.
From 10,500 chips/round of the end of Day 3, the cost would rise to 36,000/round by the end of Day 4 (10x the cost at the end of Day 2). It would be the first and only day that all of the eventual November Nine would be above the median (by definition, at the end, half of them would be below median).
McKeehan would lead not just the Nine, but the entire field by the end of the day, nearly tripling his total to 3.122 million. Cannuli would be the nearest competitor of the nine, placing 5th overall with 2.271 million. The median for the day was 700,000, Blumenfield, Neuville, and Chan were all between that number and 1 million. The others were spread between the 1 million and 2 million marks. Only 237 players would be coming back for Day 5.
Another ten-fold jump over two days meant that by the end of Day 5, fold a round would lose you 105,000 chips (blinds of 20,000-40,000, antes 5,000). Correspondingly, about 10% of the 661 players ending Day 3 would remain: just 69 (nearly one for every year of Day 5 chip leader Pierre Neuville’s age). Neuville rocketed from 956,000 to 7.105 million over the course of the day.
Neil Blumenfield had a rough day, dropping from 835,000 to 570,000. It put him in next-to-last place on the chip count at the end. McKeehan (3.66 million) dropped to 20th in chips, temporarily passed up by Steinberg (4.285 million), Stern (4.415 million), and Cannuli (5.07 million). Median stack was 2.4 million, with only Blumenfield, Beckley, and Chan below that number.
Neil Blumenfield was coming in to a 10bb stack on Day 6, but he doubled through Brian Hastings half-an-hour into the day, then did it again an hour later, after which he was comfortably sitting on more than 40 big blinds, though he was still below the median at the end of Day 5.
McKeehan, meanwhile, worked his way back to the 4th-place position out of 27 by the end of the day, with 11.975 million once again ahead of the other eventual Nine. With him above the median stack (6.21 million) were Stern (8th, 9.94 million), Chan (11th, 7.4 million), and Cannuli (6.22 million). Neuville was just under (15th, 6 million), followed by Butteroni (18th, 4.98 million), Blumenfield (20th, 4.315 million, a 650% increase over where he began the day), Beckley (22nd, 3.745 million), and Steinberg (24th, 3.29 million). This would be the only day where most of the final Nine would be below median (which also means that most of the players above the line didn’t make it through the next day).
The last day for everyone but the Nine. The day had no set end apart from the elimination of 18 players. As it happens, that point was during the fifth level played. By the time the tournament reached level 35, there were only eleven players remaining (yeah, that guy was the eleventh player). Nearly two hours of play went by, with Joe McKeehan fast-driving action on Daniel Negreanu’s shorter-handed five-player table before Jack Effel enforced hand-for-hand play. The end for Negreanu came only about fifteen minutes later (will anyone remember the name of the guy who laster longer than Negreanu but still didn’t make the November Nine: it’s Alex Turyansky).
Most of the November Nine players multiplied their stack several times on Day 7, with Butteroni only increasing by about 25% and Chan actually going down by more than a million chips. The median stack when they return four months from now will be the stack of Max Steinberg, at 20.2 million, not quite ten times the median stack at the end of Day 5.
For more about the November Nine, check out Donnie Peters’s article at PokerNews.
You think you’re dialed in
Someone has to win, and you know what that means…
It means someone’s gotta lose
It’s probably you