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Ryan Lenaghan leads the Main Event, but we've looked to others to make the November Nine. (Photo Courtesy of Cardplayer.com)

It was interesting to look back this morning on my Day 4 recap from Saturday.  The numbers just seem so quaint and insignificant!  But alas, that’s the nature of tournament poker- the stakes keep rising, and adjusting your own stack accordingly is the key to surviving and thriving as the players drop and the prizes increase sharply.  We are beginning Day 7 of the Main Event with just 57 players, and every jump on the pay scale today is huge.  With the stated plan being to get it down to 18 players before breaking for the day, it means that the first one out today will receive $130,997, and the 19th place finisher, the last one out for the day, will go home with $302,005.  To say that the money is getting very, very serious is an understatement at the least.  Every decision now has six (If not seven) figures of actual cash attached to it, meaning that today may be about calming and playing through one’s own nerves more than anything else.

That is a big part of what separates the Main Event from every other poker tournament in the world.  The inflated prize pool offers such a unique opportunity that none of these players have ever really had a shot at, and its not like there are a lot of opportunities to practice this situation of running super deep in a super deep-structured event.  So when our chip leaders sit down today with legitimate aspirations of building to the November Nine, they’ll have to do so without paying much thought to how much money such an appearance actually guarantees.  But the reality is that anyone who says at this stage of the event that it’s not about the money is lying, and everyone wants to walk out of the Rio in November with the $8.7 Million in first place prize money.

Just like every year since the inception of the November Nine, we will get one deserving champion and eight other outstanding stories to watch and follow in the build-up to the Final Table, so on this Day 7, with the Final Table nearly in view, we thought it might be fun to handicap the remaining field and pick our own November Nine favorites just to see how many of them actually make it.  If all nine picks survive, I may be switching careers!  But here are a few rules that I think will keep the picks creative and fair:

++ Only 4 of my 9 picks can come from CURRENT (end of Day 6) Top 10 Chipleaders.

++  Only 3 additional players can have an average or above average chip stack.

++ The final two selections must begin this day below average in chips.

So here goes, the unofficial FTR preview picks for the 2011 Main Event’s November Nine:

1) Ben Lamb — His WSOP in general has been sick, and you just have to cheer for someone who carries himself so well and excels so regularly at the table.  Lamb has been forcing his Main Event tables into submission, value-betting them in position on every street when needed, and just generally causing chaos for anyone around him.  He opens Day 7 in 2nd chip position (T9.7 Million), and can build from there to the Final Table.

2) Phil Collins — Every time I see this guy or hear his name I am reminded of “Office Space” character Michael Bolton and how much fun he had sharing his name with a bonafide pop icon.  The “real” Phil Collins (poker player, that is) is having a blast with his own name and his own chip stack, ballooning it up to T7.7 Million.  If he can avoid a roller-coaster ride today, it will be tough to keep him off the Final Table felt.

3) Bryan Devonshire — I am more impressed by Devonshire than the others in the Top 10 that I’ve seen play extensively this week, and ill-timed blowups by others could easily propel him into the November Nine.  He begins the day with T5.9 Million.

4) Pius Heinz — Most people missed the fact that for a short time yesterday (Sunday), Heinz led this field, and if he can get into a similar spot today, I don’t see him relinquishing it again so easily.  T5.69 Million leaves him with some work to do as play gets started, but its certainly not out of reach.

5) Kyle Johnson — Johnson is my “wild card” pick and the only one in the group that I haven’t watched a lot of (or any) footage on throughout the Main Event.  He is a Canadian player who starts with T6 Million, and if he makes the November Nine, I’ll sheepishly say that I told you so.

6) Guillaume Darcourt — Either he makes the November Nine or busts well short of it.  Darcourt is a tough guy to figure out, but that obviously works in his favor if no one can figure him out on his way to Final Table money.  He enters Day 7 with T5.3 Million.

7) Andrew Hinrichsen — The Austrian starts with T4 Million, but has the style to build that very quickly without much resistance.  Our guess is that he will, and you’ll know him well by Tuesday night.

8) Erick Lindgren — Lindgren is kind of like Japan’s women’s World Cup team in that every time you push him to the brink, he pushes back and survives.  Japan took that all the way to a title, and Lindgren could do the same.  He will start the Day with T2.2 Million, which only leaves him about 35BB, but its been a story of survival for Lindgren all week, today could be his day to thrive and build to the November Nine.

9) Erika Moutinho — Moutinho is good for the game in a lot of ways.  Sure she is easy on the eyes and has an engaging personality, but she also shows zero indication of fear or uneasiness at the table, and that’s why I am pegging her to go from T2 Million to the Final Table.  Her boyfriend David Sands (also still alive today) said on air that it is her first $10K Tournament, a factor that might actually work in her favor as we get into universally uncharted water for this group of players.

I’d say that the fair Over/Under on these picks is 3.5.  If I get 4 or more players right, I’ll feel like I handicapped it pretty well.  If I have 6 or 7 correct, it’ll be pretty cool, and if I have all 9 correct, well – – – you saw it here first!!

From everyone here at FTR, we wish all of the remaining Main Event runners the best of luck at the tables.  Run good and run deep!!