Thursday, June 11, 2009

2009 WSOP, Day 15: Live from the Rio, Part II (The Event No. 19 Final Table)

The final table of Event No. 19, the $2,500 NLHE Short-Handed eventLast night’s final table of Event No. 19, the $2,500 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Handed event won by Brock Parker -- his second WSOP bracelet in four days! -- was fun to cover for a few reasons.

For one, since the FT was six-handed, and since those six players all stuck around for the first couple of hours of play, we got a chance to become somewhat familiar with all of the players and thus perhaps get a little more invested in what was happening than we might have otherwise. During those first couple of levels, I was writing up posts that included short little bios of all six. So besides getting to know their playing styles, the personalities of the players started to diverge a bit, too, at least from where I was sitting.

Two of the six who made the FT are roommates, actually -- Clayton Newman and Alex Wilson. They are sharing a house with some other poker players in their early 20s this summer. Newman was short-stacked and ended up going out in sixth. Wilson seemed an especially confident player, although after we returned from the break, he’d push what was still a decent-sized stack with K-Q, got called by Joe Serock who held A-J, and thus hit the rail in fifth.

Serock was the chip leader for most of the final table. He had an interesting demeanor -- very stoic, responding with a sleepy, heavy-lidded look whenever the action was on him. He was the aggressor in terms of betting for much of the day yesterday, but when players began playing back at him he seemed to become somewhat tentative.

On the little bio sheet that tourney officials have the players fill out when they reach final tables, they are asked to list other interests and hobbies. In the space provided, Serock (who is 21 years old) wrote “I just play poker.”

As I was incorporating these little biographical tidbits in the live blog, I thought about how so many of these guys -- aged 21, 22, 23 -- seem not to have much else to report about themselves beyond the fact that they play poker (mostly online). Of course, how lengthy or interesting of an autobiography could any of us written when we were in our early 20s? What sort of memoir could you have written for yourself at that age?

The diminutive Russell Crane appeared to play a solid game from beginning to end, and I sensed the other players were always wary whenever he entered a pot. Was perhaps more often than not on the conservative side, but was doing an excellent job pushing his stack whenever he dipped into that range where he was too short-stacked to play after the flop, but not so much that he didn’t have fold equity. He played a gritty game to make it to third place last night.

Crane had some other hobbies listed on his sheet -- skateboarding, golf -- and I liked how he seemed in an indirect way to be expressing some enthusiasm when writing about himself. The table’s only 30-plus-year old player, Jesse Rios, also took advantage of the space provided to share some personal details. In that section he mentioned raising his two daughters, his enthusiasm for that endeavor clearly communicated with exclamation points.

Rios had the most expressive personality at the table, by far. He was really the only one at the table who would ever try to engage the others in any banter. At final tables played at the main feature table this summer, we are seeing waitresses come around every couple of hours with bags of Jack Link’s beef jerky for the players -- kind of a silly sight to witness being repeated night after night. Last night all of the players declined the offer except for Rios, who took several bags, then threw them to spectators with a big grin on his face. Definitely made the guy endearing.

Rios limped into several pots and would passively call a lot, especially when his big blind was raised. There was one hand in particular when Parker raised to 90,000 from the cutoff (the blinds were 20,000/40,000), and it folded to Rios who just called from the big blind. The flop came 4s9s7c, and Rios led out with a more than pot-sized bet of 300,000. Parker didn’t think too long before folding, at which point Rios showed his pocket jacks. (Rios ended up going out in fourth.)

It was five-handed at that point, and what was most interesting was how after the hand all four of the other players looked up at Rios with wide eyes, and continued to study him as the next hand was being dealt. You could sense how all four were suddenly thinking “those chips are gonna be mine.”

That said, I was still identifying somewhat with Rios and his scared-seeming play. ’Cos that Brock Parker... he’s definitely not a guy I’d want to play much from out of position. Or in position, for that matter.

Parker, with bald head and full beard and mustache, is a bit of an imposing presence, and he gave absolutely nothing away all night in terms of physical tells. No emotion whatsoever. There was one hand heads up when I caught him stifling a yawn, and I even mentioned it in the blog, it was so unusual to see.

Once it got to heads up, Serock had a 2-to-1 chip advantage over Parker. But Parker seemed to have control pretty much the entire way, chipping up, taking the lead, and eventually receiving the good fortune of being dealt pocket queens on the same hand Serock got pocket tens. Interestingly, while heads up lasted quite a while (a couple of hours), I only remember three or four hands being shown down, including the last one. Would love to know what Parker’s cards were. Was pretty clear Serock wasn’t picking up much in the way of good hands, but there was no way of knowing whether or not Parker did.

Parker’s achievement this week is quite remarkable -- two WSOP bracelets in four days, in the two consecutive events in which he registered. Both were in six-max tourneys, one limit hold’em and the other no-limit HE. The field was 367 in the first one, 1,068 in the second. The dude has game.

Like I say, a fun final table to cover, both because of the hands and players, but also because of the fun of working with Homer, my live blogging partner last night. We decided not to do hand-for-hand, though still ended up reporting probably 75% of the FT hands played. It was a good decision, I think, as it made for a much more interesting blog to read.

Back later.

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