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28/07/2008 No. 71
he Guardian G2 Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Monday July 28, 2008

And so the "November nine" have been established: the finalists in the 2008 World Series of Poker who, bizarrely, will now go back to their homes and wait four months to finish the tournament.

No "famous" players made the final, although David Rheem (a 28-year-old Los Angelino) was known to some and has cashed in five previous WSoP events. Other professionals at the table will be Ivan Demidov from Russia, Peter Eastgate from Denmark, Scott Montgomery from Canada, and Americans Ylon Schwartz and Kelly Kim.

The definite amateurs are Dennis Phillips and Darus Suharto, a pair of accountants who won their seats on PokerStars. And I'm not sure which way we are officially defining Craig Marquis - a 23-year-old Texan college student - but he probably calls himself "a professional poker player" because, these days, all students do.

Why do I divide them into these two categories? Because I always have. It's part of World Series tradition: either rooting for the beauty of the game and the pro player who tackles it best, or the fairytale story of the amateur underdog who comes good. The delaying of the final, however, ruins the distinction. With $9m available to the winner, those amateurs would be insane not to put their accountancy jobs on hold and train all summer. So they'll all be professionals by November. Claims were made that the break would allow "personalities to come out", but more likely they'll just grow increasingly similar to each other. People have told me that I'll come round to the idea of a delayed final, but I find new reasons to dislike it every day.

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