Saturday, June 13, 2009

2009 WSOP, Day 17: It Was Fun

Laughter is the best medicineYesterday I helped cover the first day of Event No. 26, the $1,500 Limit Hold’em event. I like LHE, of course, and so didn’t mind drawing the event. In fact, I’m starting to think when the day comes that I do take my shot and sit down at one of these suckers, it will probably be in this very event.

But I understand why some players (and reporters) subscribe to the idea that the game -- as Barry Greenstein says in Ace on the River -- is like watching paint dry.

It was certainly a relatively more sedate scene over there in the Blue section where Event No. 26 was being played than it was on the other side of the Amazon Room last night. There were two final tables yesterday -- the $1,500 No-Limit Shootout (Event No. 22) and the $10,000 World Championship 2-7 Draw (Event No. 23) -- and both had attracted some raucous fans making lots of noise, particularly as we reached midnight and beyond, making the limit hold’em lot seem even more serene. Every few minutes a huge roar would erupt to punctuate a big hand over at the main feature table, causing the limit players to stop and look up before returning to their hands.

Partly out of necessity because of staffing, for some of the events PokerNews has scaled back coverage of Day Ones, meaning we don’t necessarily try to track all players’ chip counts, bustouts, and so forth from the very start, but focus on that more once we get to Day Two and the money. Not the case for all of the events, but for some of the lesser-profile ones -- like the $1,500 LHE -- that’s the strategy.

Even if it weren’t a matter of necessity, staffing-wise, I think it is a good call to be a little more selective early on in a tournament and try to report on items of interest rather than aim for some sort of pseudo-comprehensive coverage. Which truth be told, ain’t really feasible even if you had a dozen or more reporters assigned to the event.

So there were just a couple of us -- me and Neil, a terrific field reporter -- and we did our best to give some idea of what was happening, selecting mini-stories along the way to share and report.

2009 WSOP, Event No. 26One phenomenon I noticed early on was the fact that there seemed to be a lot more women in the tournament than in a typical WSOP event. I mentioned the fact a couple of times in the live blog, but tried not to make too much of it. In the blog, I suggested that of the 643 entrants, at least 60 were women. In fact, the number might have been even higher, which meant more than 10% of the field were women. That’s at least one per table, and indeed there were a few tables with two or three women playing.

In most open WSOP events, one finds less than 5% of the players are women. Indeed, in certain of the higher buy-in events with fewer players, relatively speaking, there will sometimes only be two or three women in the entire field. Even in the lower buy-in events one generally only sees a woman every three or four tables or so, if that.

I remember that $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event I covered last summer (Event No. 19), won by Vanessa Selbst. There were 759 entered in that one, and I’m pretty sure of that number there weren’t more than six or seven women there at the start. Selbst was the chip leader for a lot of the latter part of that tourney, when it got down under 100 players, and I think Kathy Leibert was the only other woman still in the tourney at that point (she finished 72nd).

Like I say, in the live blog I reported on this aspect of the tourney, but didn’t editorialize, as it ain’t really the place for such. I think it is probably an interesting issue to explore, and there’s probably some points to be made about the reasons why the fixed limit game might appeal more to women than does a no-limit or pot-limit game. (And, by the same token, how many men seem to prefer the no-limit games to LHE.)

I also found myself wondering as the night wore on how the presence of relatively more women in the field might have affected the overall atmosphere of the tournament, especially at those tables where there were two or three women seated. I said above that the LHE crowd was “relatively more sedate,” but that doesn’t mean they weren’t expressive or having fun. And, in fact, at some tables having fun seemed to be the main focus, with a lot of laughing and camaraderie, especially as we reached the last levels of the night.

You might have played in these kinds of games before -- I know I have. Low-limit poker where the players kind of seem to pull for each other to make their hands, as if it were blackjack or some other game where they weren’t playing against each other but against the house. I guess I shouldn’t assume the presence of the women helped create this atmosphere -- indeed, it could possibly be explained as more a function of the game itself. But it might have had something to do with it.

Shannon ElizabethFor most of the night I was seated within a few feet of a table where Shannon Elizabeth was playing, and much of the time there were one or two other women at her table as well. Lots of laughing and smiling going on there all night, and I don’t think it was all due to the men being spellbound by the attractive actress (although that’s certainly possible). Hard to explain it, but sitting a few feet away I could sense the whole night developing into this meaningful, shared experience for the players that was going to be a fond memory for them, regardless of how they finished the tournament.

That’s not to say people weren’t playing to win -- of course, they were. But unlike most tourneys, where you’re often looking at a collection of non-communicative individuals in constant conflict with each other, one had more of a sense of small “groups” genuinely relating to one another and enjoying themselves. Indeed, on more than one occasion I overheard players telling their tablemates with sincerity “it was fun” as they were busted from the tournament, and receiving similarly sincere well wishes in return.

I know some people feel like these sort of pleasantries aren’t really part of poker -- that the idea isn’t to socialize or “have fun,” but to win at all costs. I get that. But being surrounded by people who are making an effort to be friendly and engage one another in this way does make it a little more agreeable for those of us assigned to hang around them for 13-14 hours and report on what they’re doing.

I’ll be back for Day 2 later today. There are 124 players left (including a short-stacked Elizabeth and seven other women). Greenstein is still there, too, despite that thing he said about LHE and paint drying.

The plan, as usual, will be to play down to the final nine, or to stop at 3 a.m., whichever comes first. The blinds/limits are pretty high -- indeed, they have been since about the fifth level, in relative terms, with the average stack being only 10-12 big bets -- so I’m going to guess we lose a lot of folks fairly quickly, though I don’t know if we’ll get all of the way to nine today.

Follow along and find out over on PokerNews.

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Blogger Mike G said...

They say brevity is the soul of wit. Not very brief around here.

6/13/2009 5:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice article. It is nice to see something nice written about Shannon Elizabeth for a change. She has not been given credit that she deserves for her poker ability and she has a great personality.

6/13/2009 6:55 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Thx, anon.

So give up the blog and just send tweets, Mike?

6/13/2009 7:18 PM  
Anonymous isis1948 said...

I enjoyed your blog and also your positive comments about Shannon Elizabeth. She is so very down to earth and a genuinely nice person who also happens to play poker really well. I hope we hear more about her during this WSOP.

6/13/2009 7:42 PM  

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