The 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event boasted one of the most popular final tables in history, primarily because a man named Phil Ivey navigated a field of 6,494 to make the November Nine, along with James Akenhead, Steven Begleiter, Jeff Shulman, Eric Buchman, Antoine Saout, Darvin Moon, and the eventual winner of the $8.5 million first-place prize, Joe Cada. There was also one other man at that final table, Kevin Schaffel, the subject of our latest “Where Are They Now.”
Schaffel was the oldest of that year’s November Nine and began the final table sixth in chips. Although he owned and operated his own printing company for 30 years, Schaffel was no stranger to poker, having played for more than 40 years.
Even before his run in 2009, Schaffel had quite a bit of poker success. His first notable cash came in the 2004 WSOP Main Event when he finished 42nd for $60,000. He followed that up with five other cashes, including an 86th-place finish in the 2008 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event ($16,000); 324th in the 2008 WSOP Main Event ($32,166); and 41st in the 2008 World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open ($17,500). Interestingly enough, Schaffel has played in the Main Event every year since 2004, or so the rumor goes.
During the hiatus after making the November Nine, Schaffel notched two scores that made him one of the final table favorites. One was a 19th-place finish in the 2009 European Poker Tour London for $27,063, and the other was his runner-up to Prahlad Friedman in the WPT Legends of Poker for $471,670.
Unfortunately, Schaffel wasn’t able to carry that momentum into the WSOP final table and was eliminated in eighth place. In his last hand, Schaffel raised to 1,250,000 from middle position, and Begleiter made the call from the cutoff seat. Buchman then squeezed in a re-raise to 5,750,000 from the button, which prompted Schaffel to move all-in for about 17,200,000. Begleiter got out of the way while Buchman made the call:
For the second time in less than five hours, there was an aces-versus-kings situation at the final table of the Main Event. Unfortunately for Schaffel, the flop delivered top set for Buchman. The turn made things worse for Schaffel as Buchman improved to quads. Schaffel was left drawing dead and sent home in eighth place for $1,300,231.
PokerNews recently caught up with Schaffel to see what he’s been up to since 2009, and how making that year’s November Nine changed his life.
What have you been up to since the 2009 WSOP Main Event Final Table?
I played a lot of tournaments the following year, but other than the World Series of Poker this year, I really haven’t played too many tournaments. They have higher-stakes gambling in Florida now, so I don’t really travel as much as I used to. I just went to Borgata for their Main Event. I used to travel a lot to Vegas and California, but I really just play mainly cash games here now.
I don’t play nearly as much as I used to, but I definitely play a few times a week, you know, three to four days a week.
We’ve heard a lot about the poker scene in Florida and that it boasts some of the juiciest games. As someone who lives down there, what are your thoughts?
I see a lot of people that I used to play with in California, Vegas, and around the country who are here from time to time. There are many places to play. I think the main place is the Hard Rock for most people coming in from out of town because there’s a hotel there, but it’s not my favorite place. I play at the Isle in Pompano, it’s just a little closer to my house and has a different atmosphere. I enjoy it there, so I play there more.
For people coming from out of state, between the hotel, action, and size of the games, I would think the Hard Rock is the best place. I don’t know how it really compares, let’s say, to the Commerce or the Bellagio.
We read a stat that you’ve played every Main Event since 2004, is this true?
Well, I think I missed one year for some reason. I know I played ’05 because I did well in ’04. I think I might have missed ’06, but I don’t remember the reason why. Since then, I have. If I only ever play in just one tournament, that’s always going to be the one I’m going to play in. When I say that, I’m just not going to be playing in that many $10K events like I used to, for a number of reasons, the main one being the financial implications.
It was a tremendous, tremendous thing that happened to me two years ago. Between that tournament and the second place at the Bike a month later, it really helped me so much financially, you know, to secure my finances. Being a little older, I’m almost 54, what I used to take for granted when I had a business for 30 years, you know bringing in X amount of income every year, it’s not the same since I no longer have that business. So I’m a little more careful with my finances. I definitely still play and enjoy it a lot, but I’m not willing to risk $200K to $300K a year to enter tournaments. You can easily run bad in 10 to 15 tournaments.
What was it like to have Phil Ivey at your final table? Was it intimidating?
I thought I would be much more nervous and intimidated than I was. When I first started playing Main Events in ’04, I can recall many tournaments being intimidated by a lot of different people. I actually played with Phil, I had been at his table a number of times, and I hate to say it, but I said it before, when Phil has a lot of chips, he’s very intimidating, as are a lot of people who have a lot of chips at the table; when Phil doesn’t have a lot of chips and is short, or other good players are short stacked, then there’s really nothing to be intimidated by. Whoever has chips is really who is the most intimidating at the time. It changes throughout the tournament.
I was aware of him being at the table, but I was certainly more nervous playing against Darvin Moon that particular day at the table than Phil. Darvin could knock me out at the time and Phil couldn’t.
What was it like making the November Nine?
It was a great experience, something I will never forget. My kids, my family, they will never forget. My friends will never forget, to this day people come up to me from my golf club, people who went out there with me that weekend, and just over and over say that was the best weekend they’ve ever had. It was just a fantastic experience.
I wasn’t a big fan of waiting the three to four months. If I had to answer that question before I got to the final table, I’d say, “No, let’s play it,” but having everybody there was just an amazing experience that we talk about like it was yesterday. They run a great show out there for the final table. I hope to get there again someday [laughs].
During the November Nine hiatus, you had some success, namely a runner-up finish in the Legends of Poker. Do you feel that momentum and confidence helped you in November?
You can’t help but get that feeling that you’re doing the right thing. Unfortunately, the cards are going to be the cards. Like I said before my Main Event, the luckiest people that weekend are going to be the people who get to the final two. I don’t mean that Joe Cada and Darvin Moon didn’t play well that weekend, but they were clearly the luckiest out of all of us. That’s part of the game.
It definitely gives you a lot of confidence to know that what you’re doing in the Main Event, in the WPT event after that, whatever you’re doing is working, but you still need that luck when the cards get dealt in November.
What were some of the biggest changes in your life after making the WSOP Main Event Final Table?
The number one way it changed my life was financially. I was between houses basically. I was divorced for only a couple of years prior to that, and I was looking for a place to live, didn’t know where I wanted to live, so those two tournaments basically afforded me a nice house, and, you know, just peace of mind. A little security for my kids, as well, who are in college right now. Just a lot of security from that perspective.
I’ve met so many nice people that I see at every stop I go. It’s just been a lot of fun. I’ll consider them friends for a long time, I’m sure.
If you had to give some advice to those who make the November Nine, what would it be?
The first thing that comes to my mind is don’t let your head get too big. I could have been knocked out in the second level of Day 1 if it weren’t for the board pairing, then it was kind of smooth sailing after that. I’m sure everybody who is at the final tables right now can look back at a hand or two where if it was a different river card, they wouldn’t be where they’re at either. Count the blessings and don’t get such a big head that they’re the greatest in the world because when it come down to it, it’s a combination of good playing and a lot of luck. Just enjoy it.