Sunday, June 14, 2009

2009 WSOP, Day 18: Poker Is a Skill Game

Poker is a Skill GamePhil Ivey has passed through some of the five World Series of Poker events I have helped cover thus far this summer at PokerNews. He did make a relatively deep run in one of them, finishing 18th in Event No. 13, the $2,500 No-Limit Hold’em, but that’s the farthest I’ve seen him go. So I haven’t been able to watch first-hand his most obvious successes at this summer’s Series.

Last night Ivey claimed his second bracelet of the 2009 WSOP, winning Event No. 25, the $2,500 Omaha/Seven-Card Stud Hi/Lo after earlier winning Event No. 8, the $2,500 No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball. That makes seven WSOP bracelets altogether for Ivey, all in non-hold’em games.

Ivey bested a field of 376 to win the event last night, including a number of tough competitors like Ming Lee (whom he beat heads up), Carlos Mortensen, Dutch Boyd, Jon “PearlJammer” Tuner, Steve Wong, Blair Rodman, Chad Brown, Raymond Davis, Gavin Smith, Chau Giang, Hoyt Corkins, and the Black Widow of Poker herself, CK, who finished 39th in Event No. 25. (Way to go, CK!)

There were 147 entered into Event No. 8, which also included some very tough opponents like John Monnette (who fought Ivey well heads up), Yan Chen, Eric Kesselman, Layne Flack, Tony G, David Grey, Freddy Deeb, Vanessa Rousso, Barry Greenstein, Erick Lindgren, and Archie Karas.

That’s just mentioning the names of some of those who cashed in these two events -- there were a number of top level players (Alaie, Seidel, Juanda, Matusow, Lisandro, Mizrachi, Mercier, Clements, etc.) who played in these events but didn't make the money.

Some react with seeming astonishment, their jaws dropping at the news that Ivey has won two bracelets already this summer, and that now two players (Ivey and Brock Parker) have achieved the feat of winning multiple bracelets in a single Series. But it shouldn’t be that amazing. While there is certainly always going to be an element of chance, no matter which game we’re talking about, poker is a skill game. And Ivey has mad skills.

Phil IveyWhat I heard from those who watched Ivey’s final table last night was an overwhelming sense that once he managed to get off the short stack and get a few chips, it seemed inevitable that he’d eventually win, strictly because of how well he was able to control the action.

Had a similar feeling the other night when I watched Brock Parker win his second bracelet, especially once it had gotten to heads up. Like watching a basketball game with ten players on the court, one of whom is just obviously a step ahead of everyone else.

I’ve witnessed this phenomenon time and time again at the several final tables I have gotten to cover at the WSOP over the last two years. I’m thinking in particular of players like Phil Galfond, J.C. Tran, and Layne Flack and how they won their bracelets last summer. Nine guys sat down, but one obviously had something on the other eight. Same was the case for Vanessa Selbst at her final table last summer, that PLO event she won, although her dominance in that event seemed to begin well before the final nine, as she emerged as the clear favorite with probably 50 or more players left.

No, it shouldn’t surprise us too much to see the same players back at these final tables, and the same players taking them down. When I got home early this morning (about 3 a.m.), I did as I normally do and turned on the teevee for a while as I tried to wind down mentally from the long day of scribblin’ and chip-tallyin’. Watched ESPN and saw highlights of Albert Pujols hitting two home runs for the Cardinals yesterday, and Torii Hunter hitting three homers for the L.A. Angels.

When we watch a baseball game and see a player hit that second (or third) home run, our initial response is always to be a little awe-struck. Man, oh man -- he did it again! But it shouldn’t surprise us. These guys are good, they have skills. And they’re playing well, seeing the ball, timing their swing just right. Of course he did it again.

That’s where Phil Ivey is at right now. And Brock Parker (still alive in the round of 64 of Event No. 29, the $10,000 World Championship Heads Up No-Limit Hold’em event). And a few dozen others playing every day over at the Rio this month.

Even this limit hold’em event I’m presently covering -- which, to be honest, has evolved into a little bit of a card-catching contest here in the latter stages -- is nevertheless a clear test of good decision-making and players’ ability to outwit one another.

The structure of this LHE event has been kind of interesting to watch play out. Players began with 4,500 chips and stakes of 50/100, meaning everybody had 45 big bets with which to start. By the start of Level 3, we’d only lost a handful of the 643 who began the tournament, so when that level began (with 100/200 stakes), the average was around 20 big bets each.

Despite the fact that players began to be eliminated at a very fast clip thereafter, the blinds/stakes rose rapidly enough to make the average about 11-12 big bets per stack by dinner time on Day 1. Most of last night the average had dipped down to 9 big bets and below, and when they begin play today the average will be just a little over 8 big bets per player. Which means about half of the 15 players who return today are really only good for one big hand (if that).

Even so, there’s still skill involved here. It isn’t strictly a card-catching contest. Each player’s decisions, relative to those of his opponents, will determine how the sucker is going to go. It remains fascinating to watch in such close proximity people playing poker at such a high level. We see our share of poor play, no doubt, but there’s a lot to admire going on here, too.

Back at it again this afternoon, as I help Change100 see Event No. 26 through to its conclusion. Unless Ivey is winning another bracelet in some other event -- in which case you might well want to follow that -- come on over to PokerNews’ live reporting page and see it through with us.

Labels: , , ,

4 Comments:

Blogger BWoP said...

Thanks Shamus!

6/14/2009 3:15 PM  
Blogger Mike G said...

You know Phil Ivey has to be good when so many journalists are creaming in their panties over a guy with the personality of a can of soup.

6/14/2009 5:13 PM  
Anonymous BJ Nemeth said...

Ivey actually has a really good personality. He just doesn't let it out in public; he saves it for his friends and when he isn't the center of attention at a tournament.

6/15/2009 12:26 AM  
Anonymous Chase said...

I heard Ivey was a pretty cool guy too. I heard Gavin Smith is really nice too...i think he is playing in the sports legends challenge? Maybe his personality will come out then.

6/15/2009 9:37 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer Posts
Older Posts

Copyright © 2006-2014 Hard-Boiled Poker.
All Rights Reserved.