No one really knew what to think about Kevin Schaffel when he secured himself a spot in the November Nine.Phil Ivey was already, of course, a known commodity. Jeff Shulman, Eric Buchman, and James Akenhead had previously established themselves in the poker world with some recognizable success. Joe Cada and Antoine Saout seemed like your stereotypical, solid Internet-age players, while Darvin Moon had his common-man mystique and Steven Begleiter carried with him his Bear Stearns past.But Schaffel was initially a mystery to most poker fans. In his early 50s, he is the oldest player at this year’s final table. But while he was the elder statesman in the November Nine, he was really just starting his new career when the 2009 main event began.After 30 years working for, and then running, his family’s direct-mailing and printing business, Schaffel needed to move on.With a dwindling customer base and no more energy left to give, Schaffel decided to close his company’s doors in February 2008.As for what he would move on to, he had no idea.“When I closed my business down, I had no idea what I wanted to do,” said Schaffel, who has lived in Florida all of his life. But always enjoying his time at the poker tables — and always being fairly successful there, as well — Schaffel decided to try to make a living on the felt.“For the last year and a half, I’ve been playing poker,” said Schaffel. “I had been successful over the years playing cash games, typically $10-$20 no-limit.”But his past success didn’t immediately translate over to his new career.“I found out that (playing for a living) wasn’t so easy,” said Schaffel. “I started running really bad at the beginning of the year, and I had never experienced running bad for such a long period of time. I needed to show so much patience just to limit the losses when I was running bad.”With poker no longer being as profitable as it once was, Schaffel was at a loss as to the direction he wanted to take his life. Should he give up his dreams of playing poker for a living? Was it time to find another job?“I was really at a crossroads,” said Schaffel. “I didn’t know what I was going to do.”Still, even with all of the luck in the world seemingly against him, he decided to enter the 2009 WSOP main event. Schaffel was no stranger to big buy-in events, having played in approximately 14 $10,000 buy-in poker tournaments in his life and, impressively, cashing in just about half of them.He had run pretty well in the WSOP main event, specifically, finishing in 42nd in his first try in 2004 out of a field of 2,576, and coming in 324th last year out of 6,844 competitors — two cashes in his four attempts in the world championship.This year, with a newfound patience, his magical ride has landed him in the final nine.“The patience I’ve had to learn over the last four months — of throwing cards away every hand for hours upon hours because there was just nothing there to play — it really helped me in the main event,” said Schaffel, in July. “I just never felt pressured to push with a bad hand. I just stayed calm and waited, and there were enough cards to get me through.”Those cards and that discipline landed him a spot at poker’s most hyped final table. But just as the poker community began wondering which of these final nine players were legitimate contenders to become the new world champion and which were simply there due to an insane amount of “run good,” Schaffel navigated his way through another tournament field — this time at the stacked WPT Legends main event.Although Schaffel eventually finished runner-up to Prahlad Friedman at WPT Legends , the second straight stellar performance gave him confidence and respect from his fellow competitors.At that tournament, he told Card Player how he was preparing for the final table and answered some readers’ questions, as well.Watch Kevin Schaffel on CardPlayer TV’s ‘All Inbox’:Entering the main event final table sixth in chips, Schaffel has a chance to win $8.5 million to cap off an amazing few months of poker. No matter what, the $1.26 million Schaffel has already secured for at least ninth place has gone a long way in solidifying his decision to pursue poker as a career.“Obviously, this is life-changing right now, and I just can’t believe it,” Schaffel said, soon after he made the final nine.Not much of a spender, Scaffel said in July that he was only looking to get his own place and perhaps “upgrade” his car with his winnings.“I’m renting a house from a guy who lives most of the year in Costa Rica, but his kids come back and forth, and sometimes they come when he’s not there. It’s just a little uncomfortable being there … You never know when someone’s going to walk in,” Schaffel said at the time. “I think one of the first things I’m going to do is to get a nice small townhouse at some point.”Of course, Schaffel admits, if he does a little bit better than ninth place, that townhouse may see an “upgrade,” as well.Watch Kevin Schaffel on Card Player TV:Editor’s Note: This article was originally published earlier this year, but updated and edited in preparation for next week’s final table.
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