Monday, March 09, 2009

Huck Lights Out Ahead of the Rest

Huckleberry FinnFollowed that NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship a bit yesterday, until it got down to Vanessa Rousso and Huckleberry Seed in the finals where they played two-out-of-three. (Looks as though Seed swept her 2-0.) Was reading along there on PokerNews, and the last I saw before hitting the sack was Seed and Farha in the semis constantly shoving their hopelessly-short stacks (like eight big blinds or so) over and over until Seed finally rivered a flush to move on.

Seed clearly has some heads-up game. His record in the five years’ worth of NBC Heads-Up events is remarkable, finishing in the round of 16 twice (2005 and 2007), the semifinals twice (2006 and 2008), and now winning. If my math is correct, that’s an overall record of 19-4 in those heads-up matches. Oh, and Seed additionally won the 2008 Canadian Poker Open Championships (also a heads-up tourney) just before last year’s NBC Heads-Up event.

Of course, as has been the case every year, the structures for the NBC event don’t really allow for heckuva lot of play. Now that the event is done, I thought I’d take a closer look at those structures to see just how poor they were.

Round 1: For first round matches, players began with 20,000 chips (matching the $20,000 buy-in). Blinds began at 150/300, meaning everyone had 66.67 big blinds in his or her stack to start. Levels were just 15 minutes long. Heads-up means more hands per minute, but I’m guessing they probably couldn’t average much more than a hand per minute. And, of course, one big hand requiring a lengthy visit to the tank could wipe out a third of a level or more. My buddy F-Train, who covered the event, could tell us just how many hands were being dealt each level.

For Level 2, the blinds doubled to 300/600, meaning suddenly players averaged 33.33 big blinds. Level 3 had them go to 400/800 (25 big blinds), Level 4 to 600/1,200 (16.67 big blinds), and Level 5 to 1,000/2,000 (just 10 big blinds). Looking through the live blog, it appears most first round matches were done in less than an hour, meaning few got to Level 5.

Round 2: In the second round, players took all 40,000 chips they had won in the previous match to the table, but the blinds started at 300/600 (again, 66.67 BB each). Level 2 was 400/800 (avg. 50 BB), Level 3 was 600/1,200 (33.33 BB), Level 4 was 1,000/2,000 (20 BB), Level 5 was 1,500/3,000 (13.33 BB), and Level 6 was 2,000/4,000 (10 BB). Given the similarly superfast structure, most second round matches were again done in less than hour, with probably no more than around 50 hands played in many of them.

Round 3: Here players started with 80,000, with the blinds at 600/1,200 in Level 1 (again, 66.67 big blinds each). The blinds then ramped up similarly: Level 2, 800/1,600 (avg. 50 BB); Level 3, 1,000/2,000 (40 BB); Level 4, 2,000/4,000 (20 BB); Level 5 3,000/6,000 (13.33 BB); Level 6, 4,000/8,000 (10 BB). I think John Juanda and Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier might’ve actually made it all the way to Level 6 in their third round match, which necessarily ended in a sequence of shoves from which ElkY emerged the victor.

Round 4: Players began with 160,000 here, and the blinds for Level 1 were 1,000/2,000, meaning for the first time in the tournament players began with a whopping 80 big blinds apiece. For yesterday’s matches, I’m not seeing the rest of the blind schedules, but I’m assuming they followed a similar progression as before. That would mean here in the quarterfinals, Level 2 had blinds of 2,000/4,000 (avg. 40 BB), Level 3 had 3,000/6,000 (26.67 BB), Level 4 had 4,000/8,000 (20 BB), and so forth.

The David Williams-Sammy Farha match was over by the end of Level 1, when Williams flopped a full house, then Farha rivered a better boat. And the Huck Seed-David Oppenheim match looks like it ended right at the start of Level 2, with the pair choosing to take a pocket eights-vs.-AQ race. Phil Hellmuth got knocked out in the middle of Level 1 when he ran his pocket queens up against Grospellier’s pocket rockets. Only the Daniel Negreanu-Vanessa Rousso quarterfinal lasted longer than 15 minutes or so, taking just under an hour (it appears). Negreanu built a 2.5-to-1 chip lead, but Rousso came back to advance.

Round 5: Players had 320,000 chips each to start the semis, and the blinds began at 1,500/3,000. That means 106.67 big blinds each, by far the biggest starting stack (both literally and relatively speaking) to this point. For Level 2, the blinds were 2,000/4,000 (avg. 80 BB). I’m not sure, but it looks like they might have been 4,000/8,000 for Level 3 (40 BB), then 5,000/10,000 for Level 4 (32 BB). In any event, they made it all of the way to 20,000/40,000 in the Farha-Seed match, meaning the pair had just 16 big blinds between them at the end.

Round 6: Rousso and Seed each started with 640,000 chips, and the blinds here were set at 3,000/6,000 for Level 1, meaning players again enjoyed 106.67 BB starting stacks. Not sure how the schedule proceeded from there, but I assume it resembled what they had in the semis. It appears in both matches it took Seed just under an hour to defeat Rousso.

So, yea, a sequence of crapshoots, no doubt. Over the three days, Seed probably collectively made a higher number of good choices along the way than anyone else, and thus deserved the half million in cabbage he got for taking it down. But really, it is hard to look at a tournament like this as offering much conclusive evidence of anything much.

Or, to put it another way...

Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

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