Finalists must sit, wait until the fall

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LAS VEGAS --- The World Series of Poker has thrust nine millionaire winners into the spotlight as they wait 116 days to get back to the table for the rest of the no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event.

They hung on to win at least $1.26 million as poker's richest tournament played at an unexpectedly brisk pace, and now must decide how to best spend the next four months to set up a run at the $8.55 million crown.

"So I guess I'm going to actually start watching some poker on TV," said Phil Ivey, a 33-year-old poker legend who regularly plays the biggest cash games in Las Vegas and is one of the best players in the world.

The seven-time tournament winner at the series is guaranteed his best finish yet at the $10,000 buy-in main event after placing 10th in 2003, 20th in 2005 and 23rd in 2002.

His wins here have come playing games other than no-limit Texas Hold 'em, including two gold bracelet wins this year with a chance for a third in 57 events.

"So far I've just made the final table, so it's a pretty big accomplishment," said Ivey, who has won $3.46 million at the series, not including this year's main event. "Winning it would be top of the line."

Ivey will start in November with 5 percent of the chips in play -- 9.75 million -- and a goal of winning them all to take the title.

To do it, he'll have to get past eight relatively unknown players.

They include Darvin Moon, a married, self-employed logger from Oakland, Md., who currently leads with 30 percent of the chips at the table.

"Everyone at this table is way better than I am," said Moon, 45, who said this trip was his first to Las Vegas. "Something is helping me."

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