Yeah, well. What can you do? Somebody’s gotta keep track of this stuff.
Was almost painful to watch ESPN’s chronicling of Scotty Nguyen’s sudden tumble just shy of the final table. While they showed the hands that erased his stack, ESPN did not show the first of Nguyen’s missteps -- perhaps the hand that precipitated his rapid fall. Having built his stack up over 15 million, Nyugen lost about a third of that in a curious blind-vs.-blind in which Nguyen tried and failed to run his over Tuan Lam’s pocket tens. They did show the two big hands he lost to Philip Hilm -- also blind-vs.-blind hands. (Wrote a bit here about all three of these hands back in July.) Looked as though Hilm was able to get under the Prince of Poker’s skin, with Nguyen appearing to lose his cool, sending a couple of F-bombs in Hilm’s direction during his slide down to the felt.
The edited version of the Main Event final table airs next week. Meanwhile, I’ve been spending even more time watching other people play cards as I move through the unedited, pay-per-view broadcast of the ME final table.
I watched Jerry Yang knock off Hevad “Rain” Khan in that oddly-played Hand No. 56. After a middle position raise from Yang, Khan reraised to 6 million from the big blind (leaving himself only 3 million or so). Yang called -- and appeared as though he would’ve turned his cards over then, had he not been stopped -- and for some reason Khan felt compelled to declare himself all-in in the dark. The flop came king-high, Yang called, and Yang’s pocket jacks outlasted Khan’s ace-queen.
Hellmuth was in the booth during Khan’s bustout, and afterwards he and Gordon engaged in a brief debate inspired by Khan’s earlier antics. Hellmuth essentially endorsed such shenanigans, and when Gordon tried to object Hellmuth quickly cut him off, saying “You’re out of your league if you want to argue this with me.” “Then why not just turn the game over to clowns,” answered a sullen-sounding Gordon.
I watched Jon Kalmar get bounced in 5th place just a few hands later (Hand No. 60) after losing a standard A-K vs. J-J race with Raymond Rahme. Then came a fairly uneventful stretch of thirty hands or so lasting until the dinner break. Hand No. 92 was the first after the break, about ten hours after the final table had begun.
Unlike most of the final table hands to this point, this one actually involves Tuan Lam. Lam’s strategy prior to the dinner break had been essentially one of avoidance. During the first 91 hands, Lam willingly participated in just 15, winning eight and losing seven. He had yet to show down a single hand. He began the night with over 21 million chips (in second place just behind Hilm), but by this hand had dwindled down to 11.25 million, making him the short stack among the final four players.
Blinds are up to 200,000/400,000, with a 50,000 ante. Raymond Rahme folds from UTG, and Alex Kravchenko, who has a tad more than Lam with 11.75 million, limps in from the button. Yang, who begins this hand with over 71 million, completes from the small blind. Lam checks his cards and taps the table in short order, accepting the free look at the flop. There is 1.4 million in the pot.
The flop comes . Yang checks fairly quickly. Lam riffles his chips for 15 seconds or so and announces a bet of 1.5 million. Lam’s lime-green PokerStars T-shirt, wrap-around shades, and moussed hair make him look young, but the measured cadence of his voice reminds us he’s much older than your typical internet whiz kid (41, to be exact). Kravchenko thinks a bit, then folds. The action is on Yang.
As Yang ponders, Gordon points out how frequently Yang has check-raised Lam during the course of the evening. After twenty seconds, he announces raise. “Like clockwork,” says Gordon. The raise is to 4.5 million, meaning a call from Lam would leave the Canadian only about 7 million behind. We see Lam lick his lips and look over in Yang’s direction. He looks up at the dealer. “I’m gonna go all in,” he says. The crowd erupts.
“How much more to me?” asks Yang quietly. The chips are counted. He’s told it is 6.3 million to call. Yang takes some time to stack up and separate exactly 6.3 million of his chips, then resumes his usual hands-over-mouth pose of contemplation for another fifteen seconds. He leans back. “All right, I call,” he finally says.
We see Lam’s eyebrows raise slightly. He’s not particularly happy to have been called. Lam shows for the open-ender and two overs. Yang has for middle pair and an over. Kind of surprised neither player raised preflop with these hands, especially four-handed, though I suppose Kravchenko’s call from the button froze both. The percentages show Yang only a slight favorite here at 53%.
Both players stand. Lam leans forward, hands on the table’s brown felt rim. Yang pumps his right fist. The turn is the . Lam still has a good number of outs -- the three remaining aces, four nines, three kings, and three queens.
When the pops out as the river card, the crowd cheers wildly. Lam finds himself in a group hug with some Canadian-flag waving friends. One tells him “You can do it. Okay? I told you. You can do it.” Yang comes over and shakes Lam’s hand. Amid a drunken chorus of “O Canada,” Lam allows himself a shout of “Yes!” and sits back down, still smiling, stacking his 23 million chips. Yang slips down to 60 million on the hand.
After the hand, Gordon speaks of Yang’s need to “refocus” and “shake it off,” but I’m wondering more about Lam’s mindset. Lam clearly came back from the break thinking he would have to make a move soon, though a preflop raise with king-queen didn’t seem right for him. Then after flopping an attractive draw, he makes a somewhat desperate push, gets called, then gets a bit lucky to survive. Does he now retreat back into his shell? The super-tight, stay-out-of-trouble approach helped him into the final four. Now that he’s back to his original starting stack, will he sit out another stretch of hands, seeing if he can make it further?
Probably not a strategy to win the tournament -- to stay out of danger, to remain “on the lam” as long as possible, as it were -- but a lucrative one nonetheless.
All that folding has a side benefit, as well. It keeps one’s heart rate down.
Labels: *high society