Tuesday, July 01, 2008

2008 WSOP, Days 32-33: The Beginning of the End

July? Really? What just happened? Anybody see where June went?

What a month. And now I notice we’ve somehow slipped into what Haley affectionately refers to as “silly season,” that latter stage of the WSOP when the Main Event (which starts Thursday) and other associated phenomena bring out the celebs and additional media, transforming our meticulously ordered, carefully regimented sequence of competitions into some sort of Cirque du Soleil-styled spectacle where, suddenly, anything seems possible. Even a friggin’ poker musical.

Yesterday’s final table of Event No. 49, the next-to-last of those $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em events (a.k.a., the “donkaments”), went smoothly. I enjoyed working with Pojo on that one, and didn’t mind at all seeing J.C. Tran claim another one for the pros. If you go back through our hand-for-hand coverage -- especially the heads up portion -- I think you’ll see chronicled fairly substantial evidence of how solid a player Tran really is. Not that we didn’t know that already.

All told, that makes eight final tables I have covered this summer for PokerNews (Events No. 4, 11, 19, 28, 34, 40, 46, and 49). The winners in those events were Erick Lindgren, Phil Tom, Vanessa Selbst, Phil Galfond, Layne Flack, John Phan, Joe Commisso, and J.C. Tran. Tran’s performance was definitely one of the better ones I was privileged to follow, although the PLO aggression of both Selbst and Flack was both impressive and fun to watch as well.

Get to do one last final table tomorrow, for Event No. 52, the last of the “donkaments.” Then we’re all moving on to the big one.

We’ll see what happens tomorrow, but I can’t imagine it eclipsing the memory of Event No. 19’s final table, the one with the crazy-ass heads up between Selbst and Jamie Pickering (discussed here and here). People continue to marvel about that one, with those who saw it still breathlessly recounting what happened to those who did not.

That’s the one, you’ll recall, where Pickering, who had played a tight, controlled, and smart game until heads up began, suddenly started raising pot again and again -- before and after the flop -- without looking at his cards. I’ve since seen Pickering playing in other events, including a deep run (finishing 13th) in another PLO event I covered, and whenever I have seen him he has without exception kept to the careful, decidedly inconspicuous style that got him to heads up in Event No. 19. All of which confirms my belief that he was mindfully employing a strategy there with Selbst -- one which included ordering round upon round of drinks for himself and others -- and damned if it didn’t almost work.

Getting down to the end. We desire it. We dread it. Faced with such a prospect, ordering drinks seems an appropriate response, really.

As we approach the Main Event and suddenly become conscious of the idea of “the end” (previously only a pipe-dreamy theory from which we’ve been too damned distracted really to pursue), it’s hard not to start the business of reflecting back on the meaning of it all.

SnoopySpeaking of, I see Snoopy made it back to the U.K. safely, where he has written a terrific, lyrical conclusion to his WSOP adventure in which he suggests he might be taking a break from -- or maybe even breaking off entirely -- outlining for us all the ins and outs of the Snoopy System. (Here’s hoping Snoop don’t give it up entirely.)

There Snoopy points out how even though “we embrace the poker boom, we also need to keep a hold of the reality… It’s just a game of cards.” Good advice for those of us he’s left behind, anxiously eyeing that Main Event Monster creeping closer. Wondering how exactly we’re gonna tame that sucker enough to “keep it real.”

It is just a game of cards. I mentioned before how I haven’t played all that much poker this summer -- how writing about poker nonstop has significantly tempered the urge to play. Just five live sessions the whole trip, most of them quite brief, plus one very enjoyable home game last night over at Pojo and Mean Gene’s. And looking back through my record book for online play, I see I only played online 13 of the 30 days in June, by far my lightest month of play since making my first deposit back in ’04.

Even so, my time at the WSOP has not, in fact, changed the way I feel about poker. At least I don’t think it has. But it has certainly clarified those feelings for me in some important ways.

Not gonna try to spell that out today, though.

There’ll be time later for that. After the end.

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Anonymous gtycoon said...

The time did fly by quick this past month. The couple weeks before waiting for the WSOP seemed to take longer than the month of June.

I've been following along every day and couldn't get enough of WSOP. Congrats on doing such a great job! and thanks!

7/01/2008 10:14 PM  
Anonymous Pud's Poker said...

The month of June did fly and thank God as I had a torrid time at the tables.

Poker is just a game of cards but to some of us it means so much, especially if you're a perfectionist like me!

7/02/2008 5:18 AM  
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7/02/2008 12:30 PM  

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