Would the $40K event be able to match the hype suggesting that we should expect the single greatest collection of no-limit hold’em players ever to compete for a WSOP bracelet? Would it necessarily create a let down (of sorts) once the event ended and most media types went away until July when the Main Event begins? Would it negatively affect turnouts for subsequent tourneys, given that a number of players were necessarily going to start out the WSOP $40K in the hole? And what if the turnout for this one fell short of expectations -- would that stifle early momentum for the Series as a whole?
As we reported over on PokerNews sometime during the middle of the afternoon yesterday, a total of 201 players ended up playing the $40K. Felt a bit anticlimactic at the time, although to be fair, earlier this month WSOP officials were projecting only 150 entrants in that WSOP Staff Resource Guide. Easy to say this morning, but 201 seems just about right, all things considered, and I’m going to guess officials are probably pleased they did manage to cross that 200-player mark.
Covering the WSOP, the Sequel
Our coverage of the day’s play over on PokerNews went reasonably well, I think. Kind of a challenge on the media side, too, to kick things off this way with what will ultimately be one of the more closely watched events of the Series.
Even with a relatively small field of 201, it is still a mighty trick to provide something resembling comprehensive coverage of what is going on, regardless of how big or small your crew happens to be. Some, I know, would like hand-for-hand accounts from every table, but that just ain’t gonna happen. And until the WSOP decides to issue name tags or create some other process by which all players are immediately identifiable, there is always going to be a lot of extra energy expended on Day Ones just trying to figure out who the heck is in the seats.
Of course, in this particular event, we had some advantages that we won’t have in later events. I’d estimate the members of our crew collectively were able to identify a good 75-80% of the starting field of Event No. 2 by sight, including several of the online pros whose faces -- and real names, even -- aren’t as widely known. Lists of starting seat assignments were distributed for this one, although like any such product created by humans, they weren’t error-free. But we had a nice head start, and it helped. Gonna be a bit harder once we get to those 2,000-plus player donkament fields, for sure.
Was fun to get back into the reporting. I was stationed in a corner of the media press box, on the front row, although now and then I’d climb out of my perch and get out on the floor to gather my own hands and/or color. For various reasons -- including the fact that for some events I’ll be working with fewer colleagues this time -- I’ll probably be doing a lot more of that this summer that last.
One big difference for me this year was the fact that having done it before, I was missing that large supply of adrenaline that comes from novelty. Our day began about 11 in the morning, and so once we crossed midnight and into that 14th hour, fatigue was setting in. Don’t really remember that being the case last year, when everything was brand new and thus stimulating enough to keep all systems on high alert until well after I’d pulled the rental car out of the Rio parking lot during the wee hours each morning.
The Moneymaker Effect, the Sequel (?)
Then again, as any poker player well knows, there’s a certain novelty to every tournament -- or session, or hand -- that keeps us engaged, curious, even fascinated. I, for one, am fairly intrigued by the fact that Chris Moneymaker is near the chip lead heading into Day 2.
“Moneymaker's here? Really?” I recall hearing someone say that early on Wednesday afternoon, expressing incredulity that he would be part of the elite field. But there he was. And he more than held his own. I didn’t see much of Moneymaker’s play yesterday, but did notice his stack steadily growing from beginning to end, ballooning from the 120,000 with which they started up to the 805,000 he had accumulated by the end of the night.
As players were bagging their chips about 1:30 this morning, I was watching Moneymaker seal his bag, write the amount on the side, then drop it on the table. He started to step away, but then reached over and picked it up once more, holding it aloft with one hand and cupping the other underneath as if to estimate its weight. He might have just been making sure the bag was fastened properly, but to me it almost seemed like the 2003 WSOP Main Event champ was taking a moment to appreciate an especially productive day’s work.
That sort of thing is important, you know. Being able once in a while to have the sense that you’ve done something well -- to take pride in your own achievements, regardless of what others might be saying about you. ’Cos really, in the end, that’s all that matters. As the existentialists will tell you, you make your own meaning.
I’ll admit I’m pulling for Moneymaker to keep it up today. And as some of us were discussing up in the media box yesterday, it would certainly be interesting should he actually go deep or even take the whole thing down. How would that play, ultimately, both in the poker community and elsewhere?
As this is a four-day event, we believe the plan today will be to play down to the money -- i.e., to 27 players -- which could mean a relatively shorter day for those us assigned to the event. On Saturday they’ll play down to nine, then Sunday will be that final table, the only bracelet event other than the Main Event that will get the full ESPN treatment.
The only other event on the schedule today is Event No. 3, the $1,500 buy-in Omaha Hi-Low Split-8-or-Better event. They’re projecting 916 entrants for Event No. 3 (in that Staff Resource Guide). I’ll go ahead and take the under on that one, although there were quite a few O/8 cash games going in the Rio last night, perhaps suggesting the game’s rising popularity. (They were able to finish up that Casino Employees Event last night, with Andrew Cohen winning the first 2009 WSOP bracelet.)
I guess I’ll go ahead and make some Fantasy Poker picks for Event No. 3 (in that Full Tilt Poker contest thingy I was mentioning yesterday), although it’s going to be hard to find 15 players among the 300 from which to choose who will even be entering this one.
How did I do with my picks for Event No. 2? Let’s see....
Of the 15 players I chose, four did not enter the event: Jacobo Fernandez, Cole South, John Phan, and Mark Vos. Of my remaining 11 horses, only three busted (Andy Bloch, Phil Hellmuth, and Greg Mueller), meaning I have eight players still in the running, four of whom were on my “A” team. Here’s who I have left, with their chip counts in parentheses: from my “A” team -- Phil Galfond (443,000), Nam Le (359,500), Sorel Mizzi (431,000), and Kirill Gerasimov (149,000); from my “B” team -- Justin Bonomo (738,000) and Antonio Esfandiari (292,500); from my “C” team -- David Benefield (70,500) and Brian Townsend (609,000).
The average chip count heading into Day 2 is about 271,000, I believe, so of these only Gerasimov and Benefield are hurting at the moment. Bonomo is near the chip lead, and if I had to pick one of these guys to make the final table, he’d have to be the one (with Galfond my second choice).
Am going to try to post another little something later in the day pointing you guys to some of the other sites I’d recommend following if yr interested in all things WSOP. Gets harder and harder for me to keep up with all of the blogs and podcasts when faced with these fourteen-hour work days, but I do have a few faves I am going to still try to check in on now and then, and wanted to pass those along.
Besides, of course, PokerNews’ live reporting, which cranks back up this afternoon. See you over there!