One of the biggest talking points heading into the 2017 World Series of Poker was the elimination of the Mani Event’s November Nine. Since 2009, the Main Event has been paused once the field reached a final table, with those nine players getting anywhere from two to three months off, before returning in November to play to a Main Event champion.
This year, the Main Event will play to completion in July, with two days replacing the month-long break from years past before the final table reconvenes to crown poker’s newest $8 million man. Throughout the November Nine era, 71 players made it to the final table, Mark Newhouse did it twice, and two of the biggest names to add Niner to their lengthy poker resumes are seated together on one of the PokerGO outer tables.
The most recent Niner, last year’s bronze medalist, is Cliff “JohnnyBax” Josephy. The New Yorker is a legend in the online poker world and also has two WSOP bracelets in his trophy case. The other Niner on the PokerGO outer table, Joseph Cheong, pictured below, who finished 3rd in the 2010 Main Event and is an online legend in his own regard.
“I just always thought it was pretty unnecessary,” Cheong said on a recent break when asked about the November Nine. “When I watch poker, it’s not really about who wins anyway, you just want to see people play.”
People around the world are watching Cheong play live today but for both Cheong and Josephy, their respective Main Event broadcasts were on tape delay and the only live portions were their final tables.
“All my friends at home that hadn’t experienced any of that before, hadn’t seen me very much on TV, they were jonesing to watch it every week,” Josephy said of last year’s ESPN coverage that he headlined for much of the days leading up to the final table. This year, no one needs to wait to see their favorite players in action, to which Josephy says, “It’s fantastic.”
Cheong agrees and said, “I think it’s a really big step in the right direction for televised poker.”
Both former Niners would have also preferred to play out their respective Main Events in real time, without the break for the final table. In the same breath, both also understand the reasons for the break, which was used to promote the players and build excitement for the year’s biggest poker event. For Josephy, it also got his entire family involved with the broadcast.
“I understand why they took the giant layoff, they get to promote the players, which was great. They got to come out, shoot in my backyard, it was great for my kids, they got to be on prime time ESPN.” Josephy said, with a smile.
Now, on Day 2C of the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event, Josephy and Cheong are back on primetime ESPN, trying to make it to the first July Nine in over a decade.