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Introducing 2016’s ‘November Nine’ WSOP finalists

After a gruelling ten days the WSOP Main Event entry pool has been whittled down to 9 players, known as the November 9. With $25 million in prize money available, and the accolade of being poker’s world champion in their grasp, we take a look at this year’s finalists.

Five nations, one bracelet, $8 million for the winner

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The November Nine return on October 30th to battle it out at the 47th annual World Series of Poker’s $10,000 no-limit Hold’em Championship, regarded as poker’s premier event of the year. Attracting 6,737 entrants from over 79 various counties, the final nine have burst the bubble and landed on the final table after a painstakingly long week and half of poker.

While all will be battling in pursuit of poker glory, each can rest easy in the knowledge that the smallest prize on offer is a cool $1,000,000. Of course, everybody’s aim is to land the $8 million first prize and, of course, the much-desired diamond-encrusted golden bracelet, sealing their name in poker history.

Spanning from five counties — Belgium, Czech Republic, Spain, Canada and the USA — each of these countries has had a presence on the final table at least once before. Winners have come from the USA, Spain and Canada, while the Czechs and Belgians have come close before, both still searching for their maiden winners.

The November  Nine will return to the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino on the 30th of October under the glare of ESPN’s cameras. Fortunately this didn’t affect the good willed comradery last year, so expect a talkative and entertaining table.

See below for seating arrangements

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Seat 6: Cliff Josephy — 74,600,00 and chip leader

Syosset, New York is the home to this year’s chip leader Cliff Josephy, who enters the final day with 74.6 million in chips. Age is but a number for this player who, at the age of 51, is the oldest player in the field. He’s the only player remaining who has won a bracelet, and with two to his name — the $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em event in 2013 and the $1,500 Stud Card event at the 2005 WSOP — his experience could well take him all the way to another championship. In total, Josephy has $810,358 in WSOP earnings and over the course of his career has earned in excess of $2.6 million. Cashing twice previously in the WSOP, finishing 956th last year and 386th in 2008. Backing Joe Cada financially in 2009, he’s also invested in the tournament wisely, and with $1 million guaranteed this year, the WSOP Main Event has been a good source of income for Josephy.

Seat 5: David Nguyen — 67,925,000

The only Las Vegas resident, Nguyen is the 35-year old poker pro with just $9,209 in WSOP earnings. For those who haven’t entered before, this is $791 less than it costs to enter. Fortunately, all his hard work has appeared to have paid off, entering the final table in second place, chasing Josephy’s tail. In-fact, even if he was to crash out in ninth place, he’ll instantly double his career earnings of $974,714. Nguyen’s best finish previously was 54th in the 2009 WSOP $1,500 No-Limit hold’em tournament.

Seat 8: Gordon Vayo — 49,375,000

27 year-old San Franciscan Gordon Vayo has 26 WSOP cashes throughout his career worth a noteworthy $600k. In total, much similar to Nguyen, he has cashed $974,714 and so will be sure to double his money to shy of $2 million. 2014 was a good year for Vayo, finishing second in the WSOP $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em, winning $314,535. It’s been a good season overall for the American, playing in 21 WSOP belts and cashing in eight.

Seat 9: Kenny Hallaert — 43,325,000

Much like last year, we’ve another Belgian at the table in the form of Kenny Hallaert from Hansbeke. Throughout his career he’s amassed a gargantuan 22 WSOP cases and earned a decent $367,855. His main source of income has come from tournament directing, with $1,317,530 in live tournament earnings, with a sixth place finish at EPT Deauville that awarded him $210,982. Hallaert isn’t inexperienced when it comes to this competition either; cashing twice in 2015 and 2011.

Seat 7: Michael Ruane — 31,600,000

New Jersey-born Ruane is, in simple terms, a huge shock to feature at this year’s WSOP main event. With just $24,438 in WSOP earnings and just $44,962 in career earnings, this tournament is ultimately life-changing for the 28-year old star. Only playing in two other WSOP tournaments this year, it’s been a huge journey for Ruane.

Seat 3: Vojtech Ruzicka — 27,300,000

Entering the final day as the chip leader, Czech Republic’s Ruzicka managed to keep a cool head and maintain control to guarantee his place on the final table. The first person to represent his country since Martin Staszko in 2011, no player has ever claimed the WSOP and so Ruzicka will hope to be the first. With 17 previous WSOP cashes totalling $138,585, alongside nearly $1.2 million in career earnings, this is set to be a huge payday for the 30-year old. Entering 18 tournaments this year, he’s cashed in four is certainly set to cash his fifth of 2016.

Seat 2: Griffin Benger — 26,175,000

With over $2 million in career earnings, this isn’t his first £1 million tournament Canadian Griffin Benger has experienced, taking home $1,000,000 in the Shark Tank session in London. With 13 previous cashes throughout his WSOP career, reaching over $230,000 in career earnings, this is set to be his biggest scoop. The WSOP Main Event is the only tournament Ruzicka has entered this year, previously coming in at 90th and 304th, it has been a remarkable performance for the 31-year old. He’s not just a talented poker play as well, being a former world champion in video game Counter Strike, the bloke from the True North is as multi-talented as they come.

Seat 1: Johnny Wong — 10,175,000

Brooklyn’s finest Jerry Wong is the second New Yorker to take a seat at the final table, unfortunately he’s much shorter stacked than his American counterpart. With winnings of $1.3 million overall, including $725k for finishing in third place at the 2013 PCA Bahamas, he’s certainly got the experience to pull this back. Unfortunately, with so few chips, it’s likely he’ll be one of the first out.

Seat 4: Fernando Pons — 6,150,000

Palma, Spain’s Fernando Pons comes in last place with 6 million chips. As an accounts executive for a retail chain, it appears that poker is more of a hobby from Pons, who has only won $10,000 in live earnings. With $1 million heading his way, he could quit and enjoy his life and go travelling. If only he could turn it around and take the $8 million home, then he could retire for good. Unlikely though, and his inexperience might lead to an early exit for the Spaniard.

Prize money on offer:

1st: $8 million
2nd: $4,658,452
3rd: $3,451,175
4th: $2,574,808
5th: $1,934,579
6th: $1,463,906
7th: $1,250,000
8th: $1,100,000
9th: $1,000,000

That’s our roundup for this year’s November 9. Follow all the action on ESPN during the 30th of October as these nine battle it out to take home the most coveted prize of the year.