The 2015 World Series of Poker began with 6,420 players, who created a prize pool of $60,348,000, but after seven days of intense play, the final table is set. This year’s November Nine includes an eclectic mix of players including circuit regular and chip leader Joseph McKeehen; 72-year-old Pierre Neuville, who is fresh off winning a Lifetime Achievement Award at the European Poker Awards; and WSOP bracelet winner Max Steinberg.
Here’s a look at the 2015 WSOP November Nine:-
Seat 1: Ofer Zvi Stern (Israel) — 29,800,000 (74.5 Big Blinds)
It seems Israel is producing some pretty tough poker players these days, and 36-year-old Ofer Zvi Stern is no exception. The man from Herzliya became the second player from Israel to make the November Nine, following in the footsteps of Amir Lehavot, who finished third in the 2013 WSOP Main Event for $3,727,823.
Prior to his deep run in the 2015 WSOP, Stern only had two cashes on his résumé. The first came way back at the 2008 WSOP when he finished 63rd in the $1,500 Limit Hold’em Shootout event for $5,055, while the other came earlier this year when he took 34th in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $25,000 High Roller for $44,540.
Stern currently sits 85th on Israel’s all-time money list with $49,595, but with at least $1,001,020 coming to him for making the November Nine, he is guaranteed to jump into sixth place ahead of Rafi Amit ($956,293).
Seat 2: Pierre Neuville (Belgium) — 21,075,000 (53 Big Blinds)
Earlier this year, 72-year-old Pierre Neuville received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the European Poker Awards. During his acceptance speech, Neuville was appreciative, but humbly dismissive.
“The best is still to come, and it’s never too late to win,” said Neuville. “Thank you very much, but I’m sorry to tell you it’s not achieved yet.”
For most, a lifetime achievement award would be the capstone of their career. Not for Neuville, who hails from Belgium and has had a lifetime affair with games. In fact, Neuville seems to have saved the best for last as he finds himself fourth in chips in the 2015 WSOP November Nine.
Seat 3: Josh Beckley (Marlton, New Jersey, USA) — 11,800,000 (29 big blinds)
Josh Beckley is a 24-year-old poker pro from Marlton, New Jersey with $219,526 in lifetime cashes, with a career best $98,348 for winning the 2014 Parx Casino Big Stax VII $1,500 Event. His other five-figure scores include $53,564 for third in the 2015 Parx Casino Big Stax X $300 No-Limit Hold’em, and $33,932 for fourth in a $1,500 no-limit hold’em event two weeks later.
Beckley is a well-respected East Coast grinder who is friends with Aaron Mermelstein, so it’s safe to say he’ll have a strong support group between now and November.
Seat 4: Max Steinberg (Oakland, California, United States) — 20,200,000 (50.5 Big Blinds)
Max Steinberg, 27, is the only bracelet winner in the November Nine. Originally from Fairfield, Iowa, Steinberg won his gold bracelet in the 2012 WSOP Event #33 $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em for $440,238. Steinberg topped a field of 2,795 in that event including a final table lineup of Ryan Laplante (7th-$56,372), David Nicholson (6th-$75,314), Dylan Hortin (4th-$139,258) and Matt Stout (3rd-$192,813).
Steinberg, who has an identical twin brother who also plays poker, used to grind full time, and he was quite successful at it amassing $1,936,457 in live tournament earnings, including $352,916 for a runner-up finish to Pascal Lefrancois in a 2010 WSOP $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em event.
Other highlights on Steinberg’s poker résumé include runner-up to Josh Hale in the 2012 World Poker Tour Legends of Poker Main Event for $293,490; second to Isaac Hagerling in the 2013 WSOP Event #27: $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em Mixed Max for $231,501; and second to Jonathan Hilton in the 2013 Southern Comfort 100 WSOP National Championship for $219,799.
Seat 5: Thomas Cannuli (Erma, New Jersey, United States) — 12,250,000 (31 Big Blinds)
Thomas Cannuli is a bit of a dark horse, the sort of player you don’t pay much attention to, but upon closer inspection you realize there’s more to him than meets the eye. Maybe it’s because he had a stable of big-name poker pros on the rail sweating him including Sorel Mizzi, Jeff Gross, Antonio Esfandiari, and Brian Rast.
Some, if not all, of those players have a rooting interest in Cannuli’s success, and rumor has it the greatest Olympian in history, Michael Phelps, also has a piece. Often called “Holy Cannuli” and “Tommy Guns” by his friends, Cannuli hails from New Jersey and just turned 23 back in June.
“He’s like a little brother, a protégé,” Gross said of his man. Cannuli, a frequent visitor to Turning Stone and Borgata, who has $52,235 in live tournament earnings, including a 26th-place finish in the 2013 Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza III Main Event for $13,473 and eighth in the 2014 WSOP Circuit Harrah’s Philadelphia for $13,648.
In addition, Cannuli, who plays primarily cash games and online, has some Main Event experience. Last year he found himself fourth in chips after Day 2 (Phil Ivey finished as chip leader), and he ultimately went on to finish in 691st place for $18,406, his largest score to date (obviously not including what he’ll take home for making the November Nine).
Seat 6: Joe McKeehen (North Wales, Pennsylvania) — 63,100,000 (158 Big Blinds)
Since vaulting to the top of the counts on Day 4, 24-year-old Joe McKeehen of North Wales, Pennsylvania was a real contender to make the November Nine. With $1,995,070 in tournament earnings, McKeehen is among the most experienced players remaining in the tournament.
McKeehen, a diehard Philadelphia Flyers fan, learned to play poker right around the 2003 poker boom after watching the game on TV. Of course back then he wasn’t legally old enough to play, but he still dabbled online before paying a visit to Turning Stone once he turned 18. Then, when he was 20, McKeehen notched his first six-figure score when he won the $2,150 No-Limit Hold’em Turbo side event at the PCA for $116,230.
Despite the score, McKeehen stayed in school at Arcadia University, a private university on the outskirts of Philadelphia, where he graduated with a math degree.
Seat 7: Patrick Chan (Brooklyn, New York, USA) — 6,225,000 (16 Big Blinds)
Patrick Chan is representative of the countless players who grind for a living, not necessarily making it big, but making enough to support themselves. He’s also a testament that hard work pays off, because as a member of the 2015 WSOP November Nine he is guaranteed over $1 million.
It’ll be far and away the biggest score of Chan’s career, which dates back to 2010. That said, he has had his fair share of poker success, including two six-figure scores — $131,895 for finishing third in the 2012 Borgata Fall Poker Open Championship and $100,689 for a 12th-place finish in the 2014 WSOP Event #8: $1,500 Millionaire Maker. Chan also took home $71,449 in January of this year when he finished runner-up to Loni Harwood in the Parx Casino Big Stax $2,500 Championship.
Seat 8: Federico Butteroni (Rome, Italy) — 6,200,000 (15.5 Big Blinds)
For the second time in the history of the November Nine, Italy has a representative at the table. Following in the footsteps of Filippo Candio, who finished fourth in 2010 for $3,092,545, Federico Butteroni is the latest Italian to make it to the most prestigious final table in poker.
The 25-year-old Butteroni currently ranks 450th on Italy’s all-time money list with $103,006 in lifetime earnings, but thanks to his impending payday of at least $1 million, he is guaranteed to vault into the top 20. If Butteroni happens to finish in either first or second, he’ll actually pass Max Pescatori ($4,079,534) to become Italy’s all-time money leader!
Butteroni actually earned the biggest score of his career earlier this summer when he finished 20th in Event #28: $1,500 Monster Stack for $45,633. His only other five-figure score came two weeks later when he took down a Rio Daily Deepstacks for $31,756. Butteroni has also notched cashes in faraway locales such as Perth, Australia and Rozvadov, Czech Republic.
Seat 9: Neil Blumenfield (San Francisco, California, USA) — 22,000,000 (55 Big Blinds)
In 2012, Neil Blumenfield made a deep run in the WSOP Main Event, finishing 285th for $38,453, his largest score to date. Little did he know he’d return three years later and not only make a deeper run, but make it all the way to the November Nine.
Away from the table, the 61-year-old Blumenfield is a veteran of the software industry. Blumenfield, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, currently serves as President, Chief Operating Officer and a Director of Elastic Intelligence, Inc.
Before that he served as Vice President of Professional Services for Above All Software, Inc., spent seven years at Informix Software, four years at Visigenic Software, and served as Vice President, Professional Services at Andromedia, which was acquired by Macromedia.
In the poker realm, Blumenfield has amassed $130,468 in live tournament earnings including $37,749 for a fifth-place finish in the 2014 Heartland Poker Tour Lincoln Main Event; $15,930 for winning the 1st Annual State of Nevada Poker $1,000 Championship in Reno back in 2008; and $2,452 for finishing 268th in this year’s WSOP Event #40: $1,000 Seniors Championship.