Thursday, September 13, 2007

2007 WSOP Final Table Hand No. 24: “The Action Man”

Jerry, the Action ManThe first 15 hands of the 2007 WSOP Main Event final table -- as shown on the ESPN pay-per-view live broadcast -- made for some undeniably thrilling poker television. We’ll all see the repackaged, edited, hole-card-cam version in a couple of weeks, but I’m convinced lacking knowledge of players’ holdings made watching these opening hands much, much more exciting.

Yang won seven of those first 15 hands. He assumed the chip lead from Philip Hilm on Hand No. 14, claiming a huge 11-plus million chip pot by forcing Hilm to fold to his all-in bet on the turn. Yang then busted Hilm on the very next hand after Hilm decided to put the amateur to the test with an all-in semi-bluff. Yang called, Hilm didn’t get there, and the former chip leader was suddenly out in ninth.

We’ll certainly see that electric Hand No. 15 on the ESPN edited version soon enough. And again and again after that. We’ll also see Hand No. 21 when Yang busts Lee Watkinson in 8th. That hand versus Watkinson was the one where we hear Yang speaking of how God has a purpose for him, how “with the money I will glorify your name, Lord.” (Curious to see how much of that will make it to the edited version.)

An overhead shot showing Yang's massive chip lead at the 2007 WSOP Final TableFollowing that hand, Yang is up to 55 million -- getting close to half of the chips in play with seven players left. We get a neat overhead shot of his overwhelming chip lead. Meanwhile, Gordon and Nejad are discussing how Yang thinks he’s “ordained by God” to win (Gordon) and has an “invicibility complex” (Nejad).

But they’re entirely missing the point here. Yang hardly believes he’s invincible. Just the opposite. He’s entirely submitted his fate to a higher power.

As Hand No. 24 begins, Hevad “Rain” Kahn, winner of the previous hand, is saying something about buying some Big League Chew with the prize money. (Anyone catch Kahn’s performance from the Day 3 show this week? Sheesh.) The blinds are 120,000/240,000 with a 30,000 ante. Alex Kravchenko, the table’s short stack with a little under 4.9 million, raises to 750,000 from middle position. Lee Childs, sitting to Kravchenko’s left, quickly folds. Jerry Yang, sitting in the cutoff seat, checks his cards, then -- as he has done some dozen times before -- methodically pushes them in front of his stack and places a chip atop them. He’s considering a bet.

“Uh oh,” says the Englishman Jon Kalmar from across the table in a sing-song voice. We see Childs, in the shot beside Yang, laughing in response to Kalmar’s words. After the trauma of Hand No. 9, Childs appears to have settled down. Indeed, the rapid elimination of two players appears to have loosened up everyone.

“Jerry, the action man,” intones Raymond Rahme. A curious dynamic has developed here. Yang’s chip stack certainly distinguishes him from everyone else. But so do a lot of other things. The announcers have already branded him the least-experienced, “weakest” player. His soft voice and reserved demeanor contrast sharply with the others’ frivolity. And, of course, his professions of faith also tend to set him apart a bit here in this particularly secular atmosphere. It is as though Yang has become the table’s straight man.

“Raise,” he says, and we can see Tuan Lam in profile exhale and lift his sunglasses to steal a glance over at Yang. Yang stands up and carefully places two-and-a-half stacks’ worth of the 100,000 magenta-and-green chips out for a 2.5 million bet.

The table folds to Kalmer who with a chuckle asks “How much ya got left there, Jerry? You got me covered?” He tosses his cards to the center.

The others fold back around to Kravchenko, who like everyone has a smile on his face. The Russian takes his time, riffling his chips and opening his mouth more than once as if to say something. After a minute or so later, he checks his cards one last time, then tosses them. We catch a very quick glimpse what appears a non-face card as they go into the muck.

“Nice hand, Jerry,” he smiles, head cocked to the side. We look back at Kravchenko and it sounds like he says -- still smiling -- “I choked again.”

Yang assures him if he’d have gone all in he would have called. “Sure,” says Kravchenko. “I was ready for that,” he adds.

Given how Kravchenko subsequently nurtured his short stack, I’d guess he didn’t have too much there, hoping merely to steal the 570,000 chips’ worth of blinds and antes. Yang’s range is much wider, obviously.

Not a hand we’ll likely see played (and replayed) on ESPN, but one that certainly illustrates how the first couple of hours of play had profoundly affected the table’s vibe.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

"God does not play dice" - Einstein
But He does play poker. Sweet. And, according to this Main Event, He has a wicked sense of humor.

9/14/2007 2:35 AM  

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