As thousands of players flood into the Horseshoe and Paris over the next few days for the World Series of Poker Main Event, most are dreaming for a similar journey that Kevin Schaffel experienced in 2009. The retired part-time poker player made the run of his life that year, becoming a member of the “November Nine.” He ultimately exited in eighth place for $1.3 million in a tournament won by Joe Cada.
Schaffel may not have won the bracelet but looks back fondly on the experience and the massive bullet point that the finish has added to his life. He's now back in the action on Day 1B of the Main Event and hoping to recapture some of that mojo again.
“I play it most years,” he says. “It’s the best tournament in the world by far. There's no other big event where you get the full amount of people that satellite in and people buy in and people scrounge up money to put their family member in. You can't find an event like this. It's a spectacle. It's a lot of fun. I never had any more fun than making a table that year.”
When it comes to big poker moments, 2009 was a huge year for Schaffel. At the time, the WSOP paused the final table at nine players and reconvened in November to play to a winner. The delay was meant to build some hype for the event, which would be carried live on ESPN.
Despite all the hoopla, bright lights, and media coverage, Schaffel wasn’t nervous about playing at the biggest final table on the poker calendar. The November Nine also included another big name beyond Cada – Phil Ivey. Schaffel entered the final table sixth in chips but has no regrets about his Main Event coming to an end.
“I was not nervous for some reason,” he says. “Even when I got busted, I got busted with pocket Aces versus Eric Buchman’s pocket Kings. The flop came King-Queen-Jack. And a King on the turn. I was gone. I wasn’t upset because I was so thrilled to be there. But it took me five or 10 minutes to recover.
“It's always disappointing, but my friends were way more disappointed than I was. It was just an unbelievable experience. I still to this day have 100 people who say that was the most fun they ever had.”
With his winnings, Schaffel purchased the house he still lives in today. The rest went into his investment portfolio, which has made retirement much easier.
“I was one of the few who didn’t gamble it away at the casino or sports betting,” he says with a laugh.
If that Main Event finish wasn’t enough, Schaffel recorded another major score in 2009. That August, the World Poker Tour’s Legends of Poker played out and Schaffel put in another big final table appearance. He grabbed runner-up in that event for $471,670.
Schaffel lives in Coral Springs, Florida, and worked in the direct mail and printing industry before retirement. He now has more than $2 million in lifetime tournament winnings and spends much of his time playing poker and on the golf course.
Looking back, that amazing run in 2009 means a lot. He’s hoping another big poker journey awaits as he takes his seat in the Horseshoe this year.
“I was on cloud nine for a long time,” he says. “It was a magical four months. I even signed with PokerStars for about a year. They flew me and my brother and put me into a European Poker Tour $10,000 event and I came in 19th. That was in September of that same year. Those times were very special and are great memories.”
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