To many online poker players, Cliff ‘JohnnyBax’ Josephy is already a legend. Monday night at the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event, Josephy found the most incredible way to add to that status by making the November Nine with the chip lead.
The 50-year-old Josephy is looking forward to coming back to the Rio in October for the November Nine festivities and he’s hoping to have a big rail cheering for him.
“If I don’t bring back a better rail than I had here today – because my rail was non-existant – which is understandable. I have a bunch of 50 year old friends in New York with jobs. Judging from the advanced or premature texts that I’ve gotten over the past few days, they’re all looking forward and threatening to come here. We won’t be the most raucous rail. We’re not British. We’re not drunks anymore,“ joked Josephy, whos also going to lean heavily on his previous trips to the November Nine. “I was in the audience the first two years of the November Nine with Ylon Schwartz in 2008 and with Joe Cada in 2009 so I will know what to expect and it will not intimidate me one iota.”
But Josephy, who spent a record 74 weeks straight as the #1-ranked online poker player in the world from April 2005 to September 2006, isn’t the only former #1-ranked player coming back in October. Griffin Benger, who was ranked #1 a total of five times in his career, is also going. Benger, who wasn’t going to play the Main Event until winning a 888 poker satellite two months ago, finished with 26,175,000 – the seventh best stack. Benger will be a staple of ESPN coverage once broadcasts begin including what is likely to become one of the most talked about hands in WSOP history.
Benger raised to 875,000 from UTG and British poker pro William Kassouf bet 2,300,000 from the hijack only to have Benger make it 5,600,000. This sent Kassouf into the tank for several minutes where he talked – as he has been doing for most of the past few days – trying to get information from Benger. Kassouf eventually moved all in for 13,450,000 and Benger snap-called, tabling . Kassouf showed . The board ran out with no help for Kassouf and he was eliminated in 17th place. During and after the hand the pair exchanged verbal barbs that apparently resulted in WSOP tournament director Jack Effel giving Benger a warning.
The player closest to Josephy is Qui Nguyen. The Las Vegas low stakes grinder, ended with 67,925,000. Nguyen has just 28 live cahes and only two of them came in a tournament with a buy-in greater than $1,000. The only previous win on his record came in a $125 nightly tournament at the Aria Casino in 2013.
Gordon Vayo, who turned 27 earlier this week, is ecstatic to make the final table after nearly being eliminated on Day 6 when he risked his tournament life with against Jonas Lauck who held . The board ran out to give Vayo Broadway and keep him alive.
“I was out of the tournament. In my head that was it, it was over, it was done, I was gone. There was no chance I was going to remain in this tournament,” said Vayo, who is third with 49,375,000. “I was stunned. Obviously I was thrilled, but I couldn’t believe it happened and even though it happened, I was looking at it and my brain couldn’t process that it actually happened.”
After hovering near the chip lead over the last two days of play, Kenny Hallaert managed to make the November Nine with 43,325,000.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. I’ve never been at this stage and probably never will be again. Probably going to have a beer now and let everything sink in,” said Hallaert. “I have some friends made it to the November Nine and I can ask what their experience was and if they have any tips for me.”
Michael Ruane, an online grinder from Hoboken, NJ, sits sixth with 31,600,000. Ruane is an online grinder who has moved around the world with his brother to continue to play online poker. He and his brother now live and play on regulated sites in New Jersey.
Czech poker pro Vojtech Ruzicka, who started Day 7 with the chip lead, ended the day with 27,300,000 – just ahead of Benger. Sittting in eighth is Day 5 chip leader Jerry Wong. He has 10,175,00.
The shortest stack when play resumes in October will be Fernando Pons. He’ll be returning to just 6,150,000 – just over 12 big blinds.
The day began with 27 players all hoping to survive the day and be part of the November Nine. Amongst the 18 players that were eliminated on Monday were former November Niner Antoine Saout, Jared Bleznick, online poker legend James Obst and former CardPlayer Player of the Year Thomas Marchese.
Due to the U.S Presidential Election in the first week of November, this year’s November Nine is actually spread over three days beginning on October 30. All three days will be broadcast live on ESPN.
November Nine Chip Counts
- Cliff Josephy – 74,600,000
- Qui Nguyen – 67,925,000
- Gordon Vayo – 49,375,000
- Kenny Hallaert – 43,325,000
- Michael Ruane – 31,600,000
- Vojtech Ruzicka – 27,300,000
- Griffin Benger – 26,175,000
- Jerry Wong – 10,175,000
- Fernando Pons – 6,150,000