The show was certainly compelling to watch, even if I was already familiar with how most of the hands went. Indeed, of the 24 or so hands shown, there were only a small number that hadn’t gone to showdown for which I was curious to see some hole cards. From what I could tell, there wasn’t too much evidence that ESPN had such a short turnaround. They’d obviously planned the show pretty carefully ahead of time, having already produced those little color pieces (and the “Nuts”) and obviously mapped out the 12 segments (each of which featured two hands, I believe) fairly rigidly.
I did notice a conspicuous lack of Norman Chad humor in the early going, though he made a pretty good comeback there at the very end during the heads up segment, e.g., that reference to the venue -- the Penn & Teller Theater there in the Rio -- and eventual champ Peter Eastgate’s inscrutable muteness: “You know, if Teller ever retires, it could be Penn & Eastgate.” Not such a bad line, eh?
Was most fascinated by that early hand (Hand No. 18) between Dennis Phillips and Ivan Demidov, of course, which I wrote a little bit about on Sunday.
To reconstruct it for you, Demidov had just taken the chip lead from Phillips, having about 22.4 million to Phillips’ 21.6 million when the hand began. (ESPN shows the totals slightly differently just before the hand -- Demidov with 24.06 million and Phillips 23.05 million -- but I think that might reflect the situation just after the earlier hand that Phillips lost to Ylon Schwartz.) Phillips limped from under the gun, and it folded around to Demidov who raised to 1.025 million from the button. Both blinds folded, then Phillips repopped it to 3.525 million. Demidov then four-bet to 8.225 million, and Phillips called. The flop came . Phillips bet 4.5 million into the 17-million or so pot, Demidov raised all in, and Phillips folded, having lost over half his stack on the hand.
Last night we learned definitively that Phillips had (a couple of overs to that flop, plus a gutshot), while Demidov had (a double belly-buster plus a backdoor flush draw).
I’d thought Demidov could have had a number a different hands there, having used position and perhaps a sense that he could push Phillips around as leverage. Was therefore not too surprised to see the ace-queen. I said on Sunday I thought Phillips might have had pocket kings. Barry Greenstein in his audio commentary sounded pretty certain that Phillips had Q-Q. But a number of people in the forums, as well as $mokkee and Haley (to whom I give all props), thought Big Slick was a more likely candidate.
Easy to judge from afar, but it looks like at least three errors here from Phillips -- the UTG limp, the call of the four-bet, and the timid lead on the flop. The broadcast last night confirmed the sense that Phillips seemed more than a little bit out of his comfort zone. Similarly did the choice of hands shown help give us the impression that the other amateur at the table, Darus Suharto, was out-of-step, too, especially when compared to Schwartz, Demidov, and Eastgate, all of whom seemed perfectly at ease.
Was not surprised to see the 105-hand heads up battled distilled to two hands, though both were certainly interesting (and important ones). As I mentioned earlier in the week, it is disappointing that we only get to watch less than 10% of the hands played at the final table, which by many accounts was one of the most interesting and well-played WSOP ME final tables ever.
A couple of other last impressions. The scene at the Penn & Teller Theater certainly looked impressive, with the raucous crowd (who weren’t that way the whole night, I know) and electric atmosphere. Neat stuff. Also, all nine of the players came off as especially good-natured and sportsmanlike. All of them seem naturally inclined toward being “good guys,” but I think the delay and all of the associated obligations might’ve made each even more attuned to the fact that they were being observed more closely as temporary “representatives” of poker. And they all did very well in that regard, as far as I can tell.
Like I said yesterday, I’m still no fan of the delay, but I do think we’ll see something similar again next year. I guess the good news here is that we have less time to wait for the start of the 2009 WSOP!