Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2009 WSOP, Day 48: The 64 Player Question

64 players remain alive in the 2009 WSOP MEAnother highly interesting day at the Rio yesterday. It was Day 6 of the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event, when 185 players took five two-hour levels to play down to 64.

Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, J.C. Tran, Joe Hachem, David Benyamine, Kenny Tran, and Peter Eastgate were all were eliminated. But at the end of the day several big names remained with chips, including Prahlad Friedman (60th), Joe Sebok (56th), Blair Rodman (44th), Dennis Phillips (43rd), Tom Schneider (34th), Eugene Katchalov (24th), Jeff Shulman (12th), Antonio Esfandiari (6th), and Phil Ivey (3rd).

Darvin Moon is the chip leader with 9.745 million, but really anybody with at least a couple of million is still firmly in the hunt. Even a guy like Friedman, who begins the day with 860,000, is still (theoretically) going to be able to see plenty of hands before pushing the issue, as the blinds start at 25,000/50,000 today, with a 5,000 ante (Level 26).

In other words, this sucker is still just about anybody’s game.

The plan today will be to play down to 27 players, meaning 37 eliminations will need to occur before they call it quits. We lost 20 players during the penultimate two-hour level last night, then 17 more during the final two-hour level, so this morning I find myself trying to gauge just how long it will take to get to 27.

Average stacks right now are just over 3 million -- that’ll be 60 big blinds when we begin. When we started the previous level (with 81 players left), the average stack was 2.4 million -- also right at 60 big blinds at Level 25. That would suggest we’d lose around 17 again the first level of play today. That would leave us with 47 players to begin Level 27, at which point there’d be an average stack of nearly 70 big blinds. Let’s say we then lose a dozen players in Level 27 -- that would leave 35 to start Level 28 (40,000/80,000/10,000), again making the average stack about 70 big blinds.

To try to predict, then, I’m going to guess we get to 27 players by the end of three levels today -- although the truth is play could slow down much more dramatically and thus stretch out the day. Also, as we know, tourney officials have demonstrated a willingness all week to change the schedule on the fly. (Truth be told, no one really knew until we began the last level last night what exactly the plan was yesterday.) So once again, we’ll all be ready for anything.

FrustrationFrom the reporting side of things, the day was both especially fun and satisfying, and incredibly frustrating. Most who read this blog probably checked in on our coverage on PokerNews at some point yesterday, and if you did you might have called up the site during that hour-and-a-half late afternoon that the site had gone down. Too many visitors, apparently, which one would think could’ve been anticipated somehow. In any event, the site just couldn’t handle the overload, and down we went.

We reporters continued to write posts all through that period, then when the site finally came back up we published ’em all as quickly as we could with the appropriate timestamps, all the while still writing up more items. As was the case a couple of days before when we experienced a similar outage (for about 45 minutes, I think it was), everyone remained cool and calm -- nothing we could do, really, and so we just kept on scribblin’.

Certain stories are starting to become especially compelling at this point. Having Phil Ivey way up there with chips, as well as Antonio Esfandiari, is pretty damned intriguing in and of itself. Ivey making the November Nine would be incredibly beneficial to many, many folks in the poker industry, and Esfandiari making it would also be a coup (besides turning him into a top tier poker star). Dennis Phillips’ presence at this late juncture is also starting to emerge as another impressive story. There’s one woman left -- Leo Margets -- and she has a lot of chips at this point with 3.65 million. And there are certain players like Ludovic Lacay and Antoine Saout who are mixing it up a lot and thus adding some intrigue by helping ensure big chip movements.

Tom Schneider and Joe Sebok during Day 6 of the 2009 WSOP Main EventMany of the poker media and others are pulling especially for Tom Schneider, who has an average stack right now of just below 3 million, and Joe Sebok, who has exactly one million to start today. Schneider started well yesterday, then got moved to a table where the wild and aggressive Lacay was on his left. Schneider lost some chips there, but got ’em back at his next table after a big A-K versus A-Q double up. Sebok, meanwhile, did a fantastic job nursing his very short stack yesterday -- really he’s been doing that for three days of play now -- and will have 20 big blinds with which to work when we begin at noon today.

There are a few reasons why many are pulling for Schneider and Sebok. Not only are both especially friendly toward the media, but they have both been part of poker media, too, over the last few years -- Sebok most especially as the driving force behind Poker Road, but Schneider, too, via his involvement at Pokerati, his participation in the old (and terrific) Beyond the Table podcast, his book (Oops! I Won Too Much Money), and in other ways. Both are well liked by many fellow players, too, and along with many others left among the 64 are pretty obviously among the group of “good guys” most everyone wants to see succeed.

So lots of reasons to be interested in what happens today. Hopefully the server issues or whatever they were that affected the PokerNews site yesterday have been resolved and thus the site will be working well enough today, so head on over to the live reporting page and check it out.

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