10. Darvin Moon's early play
Last year, Dennis Phillips was the chip leader
entering final table action. But he fell behind early after losing some big pots. Phillips scrambled back into
contention and managed to finish third, but his early stumbles proved too much to overcome.
Darvin Moon faces a similar situation. He's the chip leader by a wide margin, so it makes sense to press his advantage when he can. But his aggression needs to be controlled. If he makes a couple of missteps like Phillips did, he'll be in trouble.
9. Will Akenhead play to win?
Kelly Kim was last year's short stack at the final table, and he folded his way to an eighth-place finish. James Akenhead is this year's short stack, and it will be interesting to see if he's going to be aggressive and try and win the Main Event, or if he'll play it nice and tight and just hope to outlast a few players.
8. Aggressive play
In 2008, the difference between ninth place and eighth place was $387,547. The difference between eight place and seventh place was $484,433. And the difference between seventh place and sixth place was $645,912. That's, as the kids like to say, real money. And as a result, everyone at the final table was playing tight poker. Players were so afraid of risking money that the poker became pretty boring.
This year, payout structure is more flat. The difference between ninth place and eighth place is less than $40,000. And the difference between ninth place and sixth place is $323,531. The goal behind tweaking the Main Event payout structure was promoting less conservative play at the final table. Let's see if it works.
7. Buchman's big stack
He's not Phil Ivey. But he's the pro with the most chips. And he won't be afraid to use them. Buchman has more than $950,000 in career tournament earnings and this is his third WSOP final table. Buchman is second only to Moon in chips, so he's in great position to win the whole thing.
6. The quiet European
2008 Main Event champion Peter Eastgate entered last year's final table as the quite European who played a lot of online poker. This year, that role belongs to Frenchman Antoine Saout. Saout is known for his multi-tabling skills at Everest Poker. And he's running hot after finishing seventh in the World Series of Poker Europe Main Event.
5. Begleiter's nerves of steel
For most of these players, winning the $8,546,435 first-prize for this year's World Series of Poker Main Event is "life-changing" money. The two big exceptions are Steve Begleiter and Phil Ivey. The money won't faze Begleiter, who spent 24 years working for Bear Stearns & Co. and is now a senior principal for Flexpoint Ford, which manages $1.5 billion in investments in the financial services and healthcare industries. He, like Ivey, will be playing to win. And that makes him a dangerous player. He's used to dealing with pressure-packed situations that involve a lot of money. And he can focus on making the right "poker" decision, because he doesn't have to worry about what a mistake will mean financially.
4. Will youth be served?
Eastgate was 22 when he became the youngest person to win the Main Event last year. If Joe Cada wins this year, he'll be the Main Event's youngest champion at 21. And he'll further cement the importance of earning your poker chops online.
3. The Dennis Phillips effect
Last year, Phillips brought hundreds of fans to the final table in Las Vegas, and they were all wearing St. Louis Cardinals hats and yelling up a storm every time he played a hand. His fans helped create an electric scene that had never been seen before at poker tournament. And it will be interesting to see if a player from this year's final table can surpass what Phillips did last year.
2. The heads-up pause
There's going to be at least a 24-hour break between when the final table plays down to two players on Nov. 7 and when heads-up play begins on the night of Nov. 9. This break could play a significant role in the outcome of the tournament. If a player is relatively short-stacked heading into heads-up play, the break gives him a chance to rest, regroup and think about his strategy. If fatigue and mental exhaustion set in while they're playing down to two players, the player suffering the most will get a much-needed chance to recharge. It will be interesting to see who benefits the most from the pause in the action.
1. Challenging Ivey
This tournament will ultimately boil down to how people respond to Phil Ivey. Ivey is going to apply pressure -- and lots of it -- on every player. That's his style. How these players respond will ultimately determine who's wearing the bracelet at the end of the tournament.