Tuesday, October 02, 2007

2007 WSOP Final Table Hand No. 40: “Can We See?”

CuriosityTonight ESPN continues with its edited version of the 2007 WSOP Main Event. Am guesstimating they’ll probably be working down to the final nine by the end of this evening’s programming. Meanwhile, I’m still slowly moving through the unedited ESPN pay-per-view broadcast of the final table. Am about four hours into the show, I believe. They are down to six-handed, with Philip Hilm (9th), Lee Watkinson (8th), and Lee Childs (7th) having all been run over by the Yang Express.

After Hevad “Rain” Khan wins a small pot in Hand No. 33, he stands and does his silly dance which Ali Nejad describes as “a mix between the robot, some indigestion, and some All Spice.” Have had to endure quite a bit of Khan’s goofin’ the last couple of weeks on ESPN’s edited broadcast -- more, really, than I thought we would. For more on that topic, check out Tom Schneider’s provocative post over on Pokerati -- and the dozens of replies -- regarding how ESPN and other media outlets tend to highlight such applesauce.

So we have the weird, attention-craving type antics like Khan’s at one end of the etiquette spectrum. Then near the other end we have the subtle, good-natured table talk of Englishman Jon Kalmar. Have to say I am liking Kalmar more and more as I watch, both for his play and for his Steve Dannenman-like, happy-go-lucky demeanor. At Hand No. 35, Kalmar puts in a preflop raise of 1 million from the button and picks up the blinds and antes. As he drags the pot, we hear him go “bak-bak-bak” while grinning, playfully calling the rest of the table chicken.

Have discussed a couple of the hands thus far (Hand No. 9 & Hand No. 24). Here’s another one that probably will be passed over when ESPN finally gets to the final table in its edited coverage next week.

Blinds are 150,000/300,000 with a 40,000 ante. The action begins with Kalmar (in fourth place with 15.8 million) raising to 1 million from the hijack seat (left of the cutoff). All fold to Jerry Yang in the big blind. We see Kalmar smiling contently as Yang -- the massive chip leader with over 62 million -- very deliberately makes the call from the big blind. The pot is just under 2.4 million.

Kalmar is looking up at Yang when the flop comes Qh3cTs. Yang sits motionless for eight seconds or so, then brings down his hand, lightly touching the table twice to indicate his check. Kalmar quickly nods and says he checks as well, his chin still resting on his hands. Phil Gordon says he’d liked to have seen Kalmar make a continuation bet rather than checking. The turn brings the Th, and the pair repeat the same routine, Yang again taking precisely eight seconds to bring down his hand, and Kalmar again instantly nodding and saying he checks. Gordon reminds us that not too long ago (it was Hand No. 30), we saw a similarly-played hand in which Kalmar checked down a middle pair versus Yang to claim a modest pot.

The river is the 5s. This time Yang remains still for about twenty seconds, then announces a bet of 1.5 million. Kalmar calls Yang’s bet even before the chip leader has moved his chips forward. The total pot is just under 5.4 million.

Once both players’ chips have been gathered in the center, there’s an awkward pause. Yang appears unwilling to show his hand, but it is clear Kalmar isn’t going to show his until he does.

After a couple of non-verbal hand gestures from Kalmar go unanswered, the Englishman finally says “Can we see?” The dealer turns over Yang’s cards and Gordon tells us he had 9-8 (we don’t get to see them). Kalmar picks up his cards and in a mildly triumphant way slaps them over. A-K, we’re told. Nejad and Gordon congratulate Kalmar on the call, then speculate a bit about what might’ve happened had a jack rolled off on the end.

The hand demonstrates one way of handling Yang -- a way much less risky, and potentially very rewarding, than that pursued by Hilm, Watkinson, and Childs. Just before Hand No. 40, Gordon and Nejad interviewed Lee Watkinson and asked him about his decision (back in Hand No. 31) to push all-in from the big blind with Ac7h and thus put Yang (who had raised from the SB) to the test. (Yang called with As9d, and Watkinson was eliminated.)

“I felt like Jerry was just pushing things . . . [that] he felt like he was on a mission,” explained Watkinson. Gordon laughs as Watkinson continues. “I felt like there was a good chance he’d call me with a worse hand or maybe if he had garbage, throw it away.”

Not sure what Watkinson really hoped to achieve there. At the time Watkinson had 10 million in chips to Yang’s 45 million. If Yang does call him with a worse hand, only A-6 through A-2 really make it a profitable play for Watkinson. And if Yang throws it away, Watkinson increases his stack by 15% or so -- significant, but worth risking elimination?

Actually I do know what Watkinson wanted. He wasn’t thinking about the numbers. He just wanted to see what Yang would do. And as Kalmar demonstrates here, there were cheaper, less risky ways of going about that.

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