At the start of Day 4 of the 2017 World Series of Poker there were 11 players who had, at one point in their careers, been a part of the now retired November Nine. The top three from that group were Antoine Saout, Kenny Hallaert and Ben Lamb.
It really shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see those three running deep in the Main Event. Along with their final table appearances, each one of them has also had a top 125 finish. Saout finished 25th last year, Hallaert was 123rd in 2015 and Ben Lamb got 14th in 2009, a year before his final table appearance.
“I learned a lot when I made a deep run in 2015 when I finished 123rd place,” said Hallaert. “I was really tired and exhausted already on Day 5 and I was disappointed when I was knocked out on Day 5 because I got down to approximately 2% of the field and I had a field that I had ruined my only chance to ever make a deep run in this event.”
Hallaert knew that fatigue was a big factor in his downfall in 2015 and took steps to correct that or 2016. He worked on eating better, lost some weight, put some effort to improving his focus all while continuing to improve his game as much as possible.
“I could see it in my results already. I was improving. I was working a lot on my game as well but I was feeling better when I was sitting at the table, I was less tired, I was just a happier person in general. So I found, more or less, the key to success,” said Hallaert, who finished sixth last year.
Lamb knows that the Main Event offers a very different type of player than any other tournament in the world. The abundance of amateur players, many playing the Main Event for the first time, make mistakes with the weight of the moment upon them.
“I think a lot of people get deep in this tournament and the pressure gets to them and they end up making a horrible decision for all of their chips, said Lamb. “Some kind of weird force takes over them and they end up making a mistake.”
Having two top-14 finishes in his career, Lamb believes he has a solid understanding about what types of players are in the tournament and how best to take advantage of each of them.
“I’ve been deep before and it helps. I know what to expect, know how the tournament is going to play out, know how other people are going to react,” said Lamb. “You know who’s going to play ABC and who’s really going to try to put pressure on.”
Each of them were in the enviable position on the bubble to have a lot of chips. While a lot of players were simply folding everything, hoping to squeak into the money, Lamb, Saout and Hallaert were on the other end of that equation, applying pressure to players not wanting to bust early.
“The bubble is actually about getting more chips, so I abused the bubble. I got like 200,000 chips,” said Saout.
For Hallaert, having a big stack at the stage afforded him the opportunity to do something that others couldn’t: relax and enjoy the moment without worrying about busting.
“I had the luxury to have had chips three years in a row on the bubble. Once we were down to 1,500 (players), I was 90% sure I was cashing given my chip stack. So I could already start putting a lot of pressure on opponents,” said Hallaert.
Even though they’ve had their fair share of success in the Main Event, making it past the bubble was still something worth savoring.
“The Main Event is the most beautiful tournament in the world, there’s nothing else that can compare,” said Hallaert. “Even though it’s already my fourth cash, I think I would want to die to make a cash in the Main Event because it’s so unique.”