The final table at the 2009 World Series of Poker Europe Main Event is set. From a stacked field of 334, just nine remain. Legends have come and gone. Amateurs have come and gone. The few that remain are the best of the best and on Sunday, February 28 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2, a champion will be crowned.
The final table is headlined by a short-stacked Daniel Negreanu. On Day 1, he was almost eliminated very early into play. He lost more than two-thirds of his starting stack in the first few hours, but he fought back and now has a shot for his fifth WSOP bracelet. Amazingly, this is the second straight year he's made the final table in London, having notched a fifth place finish in 2008. It'll be an uphill battle for Negreanu and he'll need to double-up fast to avoid elimination.
Every seat at this final table is full of talent, but can Jason Mercier hold on to his massive chip lead and win his first bracelet?
WSOPE final table chip counts:
Jason Mercier -- 3.1 million
James Akenhead -- 1.3 million
Praz Bansi -- 1.2 million
Barry Shulman -- 1.0 million
Markus Ristola -- 784,000
Antoine Saout -- 701,000
Matt Hawrilenko -- 674,000
Chris Bjorin -- 518,000
Daniel Negreanu -- 438,000
Before the event even started, Daniel had good vibes.
"[London's] been a lucky place for me," said Negreanu. "I seem to play well out here, and I'm looking to just sort of play the best poker I can. And if I do that, I feel like I will get deep again."
But Kid Poker's story isn't the only one making news. James Akenhead and Antoine Saout, members of the 2009 November Nine, have done it again. They've reached the final table of the WSOPE main event, pulling off a double accomplishment that many people thought would never happen. Russian Ivan Demidov made both final tables last year, but couldn't take down either. We've seen what Akenhead and Saout did in November at the WSOP main event final table, but can either of these two players win their first bracelet? This truly remarkable feat will be talked about for years to come, especially if one of them can take down the title.
"I'm full of confidence," Akenhead said, heading into the final table second in chips. "Every tournament that I play now I feel like I'm playing really well. To make the final table of the World Series is like a master achievement in itself; to come here in London and beat 350 players, the best players in the world, the top pros in the world … this is just as big an achievement I think because the field is so much tougher."
While Akenhead has cruised through this tournament, no one has matched the high-level play of Jason Mercier. The 23-year old Florida pro has made a habit of making it deep in European tournaments and this one was no different. Day 4 belonged to Mercier and now he has nearly one-third of the chips coming into the final table. By way of bluff, big hands and shrewd play, he has taken control of this event, and given his position, the consensus is that he's the player the beat. Some players work well with a target on their back, and some don't. We'll see how Jason and the other 8 players fare at this thrilling final table.
The second hour of the final table (10 p.m. ET on ESPN2) picks up the final table coverage with five players eliminated. We don't want to spoil this, because it truly is one of the greatest final tables ever, but suffice it to say, when it gets heads-up, you won't want to leave your living room. It is one of the best heads-up matches of all-time and one hand is sure to go down as one of the best ever televised.
The twists and turns to get to the bracelet are poker's version of a roller-coaster. From nine players down to one bracelet in what most players have called the toughest tournament in the world, it's a final table that should not be missed.