Sunday, July 12, 2009

2009 WSOP, Day 46: Go With the Flow

Still image from the video 'Go With the Flow' by Queens of the Stone Age (click image to watch video)“Let the game come to you” is a phrase you often hear in sports. And poker. Opportunities will arise. Be patient. Don’t force it. Pick your spots. Be able to adjust and react.

Those playing in a tournament as huge and unwieldy as the World Series of Poker Main Event have to be able to go with the flow. Not only are you going to be faced with countless opponents, decisions, and dilemmas at the tables, but as we’ve already seen many times, the actual staging of the tournament is also probably going to present new variables, curveballs, and unpredictable situations with which to deal.

So go with the flow. Same goes for those covering the sucker. Let the game come to you.

Where to begin?

Day 4 of the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event -- the day the cash bubble burst -- was full of drama and excitement, as you’d imagine. A good bit of chaos, too.

At that press conference I attended a couple of days ago, WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack had said he did not anticipate there would be any more diverging from the five-levels-a-day schedule for the remainder of the tournament. So it was a little surprising when before the start of play yesterday Tournament Director Jack Effel announced that they would be playing four levels or until 400 players were eliminated, whichever came first. Then Effel added that the dinner break would come after the third level, after which he said something about coming back from dinner for the last two levels -- which would make five. Which didn’t exactly add up, but there we were.

As it happened, we’d only play three levels. And we’d stop before 400 players were eliminated. And there never was a dinner break.

Tables broke at a rapid clip during the first two-hour level as we approached the magic number of 648 players remaining -- those would be the ones making the cash. We’d just tripped over into the second level of the day when the tournament clock was stopped and the tourney started to be played hand for hand. That was with 653 players left, meaning there were something like 73 tables in play.

As you can imagine, with so many tables, it took quite a while for one hand to be completed at every table -- something like eight or nine minutes, on average. We’d lose a couple of players on the first hand or two, then two more on a single hand (Hand No. 4 or 5, I think). Then it would take several more hands for that fifth one to go, as there ended up being 13 hands played during hand for hand, which took about an hour and 50 minutes, all told.

The Bubble BurstsJust before hand for hand began, the PokerNews site began to become increasingly slow to load pages, then finally went down altogether. Too many readers trying to load the site at once, I believe. We were down for about a half-hour or more in there, but actually the timing wasn’t all that bad since the action had slowed for hand for hand.

Another wrinkle that came up during that stretch involved ESPN limiting or forbidding PokerNews access to tables during hand for hand. ESPN really runs the show when it comes to the Main Event, something all of the other media understands fairly well, I think. In any case, it was more than a little strange to be there reporting on something we could not access for a site that was not currently accessible.

You’d think all of these factors -- the schedule being constantly revised on the fly, tables breaking and players being reseated all over the room (and since we were trying to track every last one of them, we were noting where each one went), the site slowing down and then going out altogether, having limited access to the tournament itself -- would’ve made for a day of high stress and anxiety.

But really it wasn’t. Not for me, anyway. And from what I could tell, most everyone on the reporting side of things just went with it. There are things you can control, and things you cannot. No sense fretting over the latter too much.

We again produced a massive amount of content over on the live blog regarding Day 4 -- somewhere in the neighborhood of 240 posts in just three two-hour levels, despite that period in the middle where the site was down. Of course, the day itself got stretched out a bit because of hand for hand, with extra time added to the tourney clock. Still, a damn lot of scribblin’, that.

I happened to report Phil Hellmuth’s elimination hand at the end of the day. A short while before, F-Train had posted a hand of Hellmuth’s in which he’d lost a big chunk. I thought I’d heard something about Hellmuth having had pocket aces in that hand -- in any event, he clearly appeared to have had an overpair. And he played him slow, trying to trap, and got burned.

Then came Hellmuth’s last hand, when he definitely had pocket aces. And again he tried to slowplay before the flop, and again it didn’t work out too well for him. A player made a standard preflop raise, and Hellmuth chose just to call behind with his A-A. Then three more players called. Not good for aces.

Phil Hellmuth as Julius CaesarAs we all know, Hellmuth arrived at the Main Event this year dressed as Julius Caesar, so I titled the post “The Fall of Caesar -- Hellmuth Out,” and made a crack in there about whether or not Hellmuth might have thought “et tu” when all those players called before the flop. As it happened, Hellmuth ended up getting it all in drawing very thin on the flop, and two community cards later his day was done.

Hellmuth’s bustout was a fitting enough way to end the day, I suppose. We go forward now sans the Poker Brat, in search of new, different characters and stories. Because the sucker is changing constantly before us.

Nothing to do but see where it goes. And let the game come to you.

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