The problem with predicting anyone to make a final table at the Main Event of the World Series of Poker is that there are so many entries.
While we won't know an official entry count for 2011 until over the weekend, the 2010 tournament had 7,319 players enter. Picking nine players from a group of that size is nearly impossible.
Additionally, big name professionals are targeted early in the tournament. This explains why many of them are eliminated early in the going.
If they survive the early minutes of the tournament long enough for players to develop a big chip stack and be targeted because of it, then they are more likely to survive.
Still, the final table will generally include at least one professional that everyone knows. With the tournament underway shortly, let's try to find some of the big name guys who might be a part of the November Nine.
The word lock is a little strong, given the circumstances of the tournament. But these players aren't exactly long shots for deep runs.
Remember that Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer, and Chris Ferguson aren't participating. All would at least be considered for a list like this and Ivey would be a lock No. 1 selection.
John Juanda already has a bracelet in 2011, last defeating Phil Hellmuth to win the $10,000 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship.
In reality, if you're looking for a guy who can survive the madness of the early tables of the WSOP, Juanda is your guy.
He's won four American WSOP bracelets and has on in the European World Series of Poker. Additionally, Juanda's recorded six final tables on the World Poker Tour.
His best Main Event finish came in 2005, where he finished in 31st place. That won't get you to the final table, but Juanda's career at the WSOP has had 55 cashes.
To make a final table, you must first finish in the money. Once there, anyone can make a run to the final table. Don't be at all surprised to see Juanda make that run.
Daniel Negreanu hasn't made a final table at the main event in his career. His best finish was an 11th place in 2001, which was before the big poker boom.
Still, ealize that Canadians have had a great amount of success this year at the WSOP. Actually, his nationality has nothing to do with it.
Negreanu is one of the best players in the world, with four bracelets and 26 final tables at the WSOP The key is survival, and Negreanu is a good bet to do that.
He certainly has a target on his back, but a good early day can go a long way in changing that.
Johnny Chan is the most decorated living player in Main Event history.
He followed back to back wins in 1987 and 1989 with a runner up to Phil Hellmuth in 1989.
Chan has won ten bracelets and is by anyone's standards, a top-five poker player in the history of the game, and that's a conservative guess.
Doyle Brunson doesn't make this list because his age does challenge him, as the WSOP days are long. Still, he deserves honorable mention.
But as for Chan, there may not be a more respected or feared player in the world. He was the poster boy for the poker establishment in the 1998 movie Rounders, which has been said started the "poker boom."
Yeah, he'll be targeted as soon as he walks into a room, but that's nothing new for Chan.
Michael Mizrachi is one of the most consistent poker players in the world.
That consistency showed last year when he made a run to a fifth place finish at the Main Event.
Mizrachi also won the Poker Player's Championship in 2010 to claim what is to date, his only bracelet. Winning that shows an incredible amount of skill.
Now, it's true that luck is a big part of making a quality run at the Main Event, but that can't be controlled. What can be controlled is skill, and few are better than Mizrachi today.
Although nobody has more bracelets than Phil Hellmuth, he probably can't be considered the greatest all around tournament player of all time, as all of his bracelets are in hold'em.
The good news for Hellmuth is that the Main event is hold'em, so his all around skills aren't in question.
Hellmuth is playing good poker right now, notching three runner up finishes at the WSOP so far.
By objective standards, Hellmuth is the best tournament hold'em player of all time.
As a 24-year-old kid, he beat the two-time defending champion Johnny Chan in 1989. His record for the youngest Main Event champion of all time stood until 2008, when Peter Eastgate broke it—and Joe Cada broke Eastgate's record in 2009.
Hellmuth is playing great poker right now and seems to have his head screwed on right, which has always been his problem.
Now he will be targeted because of his name and attitude. Who wouldn't want to be the guy who Hellmuth chews out after you've just eliminated him?
But if Hellmuth wins a few early pots and gets an early chip stack, he'll be around a long time.