In a little while I’m heading back in to help cover the final table of Event No. 52, the very last of the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em “donkaments.” (Follow at PokerNews here.) Meanwhile, here are three additional memories from the last few days with which I awoke this morning:
Hellmuth Is In the House
About 4 a.m. on Saturday, there were two tables left in Event No. 46, the $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Handed event. We’d been there about 14 hours by then, and were still a few eliminations -- and another hour and a half -- away from getting to the final nine. Phil Hellmuth, who I am not sure even entered the event, had shown up every couple of hours apparently to sweat one of the remaining players (I’m not sure who). So when he turned up again there as we were nearing the end of play for the night, we weren’t too surprised to see him.
This time, though, he accosted one of our reporters and began telling him about how he’d just heard the news that John Bonetti had died. Hellmuth wanted to be interviewed about Bonetti. “I’ve been avoiding you guys all Series and now I’m here and ready to be interviewed and no one is here,” he said to us. He ended up giving some quotes to one of our field guys, and I believe a couple might have found their way into the PokerNews article about Bonetti that appeared later that day.
Hellmuth was sincere and obviously somewhat shaken by the news of Bonetti’s death. Still, I couldn’t help feeling a little cynical about his “I’ve been avoiding you guys” comment. (When has Hellmuth ever avoided publicity?) He’d appeared on a couple of PN videos already, I knew, including one in which he does a miserable job shotgunning a can of Milwaukee’s Beast with his picture on the side. And, of course, I am a lot more cynical about all the UltimateBet gear Hellmuth gets paid to sport at all times when seen in the Rio, including when he comes down to report on a friend’s death.
Actually the faux racing outfit is starting to make more sense to me, as it could be said to go along with Hellmuth running away from questions about UltimateBet’s “super-user” scandal, the current management situation at UB, his deal with the company, etc. Perhaps that is what he meant by “I’ve been avoiding you guys,” actually. I don’t know for certain, but it’s probably the case that PokerNews asked to interview him about the issues at UB just as they did Annie Duke, but he declined.
(Incidentally, I was glad to see that Eric “Rizen” Lynch has now decided not to join the UB team as a paid representative of the site. Last month I wrote about his initial decision to join UB. He explains some of his thinking regarding his change of mind here.)
”I Played Pretty Good, Didn’t I?”
Two days later I was back in the Brasilia covering Day 2 of Event No. 49, another $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em event. This would’ve been Sunday night/Monday morning.
When there were 20-25 or so left, one of the remaining players, an older gentleman named Parviz Razavian, came over to our workstation to get a look at how the chip counts stood. He wore eyeglasses, but even with those his eyesight wasn’t good enough to read the tiny numbers on the laptop screen. So we read for him, letting him know he was right in the middle of the pack with an average stack. He told us he had family following him back home, and was genuinely excited to learn that they were able to keep up with his progress on the site.
Later on, Razavian busted on a particularly unfortunate hand. Here’s how I reported it:
Parviz Razavian Eliminated in 14th Place ($29,309)
We picked this one up on the flop. With the board showing , Parviz Razavian checked from the small blind, and Robert Kalb bet 160,000 from the big blind. Jason Moungey then pushed all in for 450,000 from the cutoff.
Razavian -- whom Moungey had covered -- called. Kalb, seeing two players all in, folded, showing Q-Q as he did.
Tough spot for Razavian there. He'd flopped top two, but Moungey had a set of deuces. The turn was the and the river the , and Razavian is out in 14th. Moungey is now up to 1.3 million.
About ten minutes after I’d posted that, he came over to tell us about the hand. He then asked if we had reported it, and my partner Pojo read aloud to him the post.
“I think I played pretty good, though? Didn’t I?” asked Razavian, not just referring to this hand but the tourney as a whole. Yes, sir, we replied. “Perfect flop for the deuces,” I added, referring to Moungey’s good fortune. He agreed. He explained how he had been ready to pounce with a check-raise when Kalb put in that flop bet, and hadn’t expected Moungey to wake up with a set from late position like that.
We congratulated him heartily for his achievement. Like everyone else at these last two tables, he’d outlasted 2,700-plus runners to have gotten that far. You could sense his genuine excitement at having made such a deep run, and having come so close to the final table.
I don’t know Razavian’s story, but he strikes me as a retiree who has perhaps found a second career of sorts here with poker. I also got the sense he was on his own at the WSOP, and so enjoyed interacting with us afterwards as his people were all elsewhere, following his progress online. Neat stuff.
From Calm to Chaos
One last little anecdote. At the very end of that night’s play, about 4:30 a.m. or so, they had formed the ten-handed table and were playing until one more was eliminated. The action had slowed considerably, and they’d been at it for a half-hour when I walked over to try to get some sort of “color” to post in the blog. The field reporter asked me if I would mind if he went for a quick three-minute break to smoke half a cigarette. Of course, I replied.
As soon as he exits, a huge KK-vs.-AA hand occurred and we had our elimination. Pojo had come over as well, and while I had gotten down most of the details, he helped me considerably to ensure my post on the hand was accurate.
Pretty disorienting, actually, how a serene sequence of preflop raises and folds can suddenly erupt into chaos with an all in shove and a surprising call. The players all stand, everyone left in the room crazily rushes the table, all talking at once as they do. Definitely can be a challenge to get it all down and translate it into language those who aren’t there can understand and follow.
Was kind of a funny scene when our reporter came back in. “What happened?” he asked somewhat sheepishly. We ribbed him a little for his badly-timed smoke break, but we were all in a good mood. Another exciting day at the WSOP had come to a close.
And we’d been there.