Monday, July 20, 2009

The Big Rush (Afterthoughts on the WSOP’s Wild Windup)

STOP rushingWas catching up some on poker podcasts over the weekend. (By the way, am hoping to revive the Hard-Boiled Poker Radio Show here with a new episode in the next few days.) Particularly enjoyed last week’s Two Plus Two Pokercast (the 7/14/09 episode), recorded near the end of the evening last Monday as the Main Event was playing down to 64 players.

A lot of cool stuff in there in that show, including an entertaining interview with Brad “Otis” Willis (Rapid Eye Reality, the PokerStars blog, Up for Poker). There is also a discussion of a hand that happened right on the bubble during the Main Event in which a short-stacked player faced a dilemma having been dealt pocket aces but showing some reluctance to play them with just a couple of eliminations to go before the money. Found the latter extra interesting because the hand in question happened to have been one I reported.

At the start of the show the hosts, Mike Johnson and Adam Schwartz, spent the first five minutes or so puzzling over how quickly the Main Event seemed to be playing. What prompted them was a quote from Joe Hachem criticizing the “overaggressive style” many players seemed to be exhibiting in the tournament. What Hachem and others were seeing were many examples of players going ahead and committing their very deep stacks rather than demonstrating some patience and perhaps taking advantage of what Arnold Snyder refers to as their “chip utility.”

It was the same phenomenon Joe Sebok was recognizing last week when he sent that tweet with 265 players left saying “People are dropping like flies...they're focused on the average and not their stack in relation to the blinds.” I wrote about that a little bit in a post then, and gave an example of players “Flipping for Four Million.” The fact was, this sort of thing was not an isolated phenomenon -- we were seeing this happen over and over again all across the Amazon Room.

Johnson and Schwartz continued to talk about these hands wherein you’d see a raise, a reraise, a four-bet, a five-bet all in, and a call, then neither player would turn over pocket aces or pocket kings. Indeed, I recall reports of many hands like this. And this willingness of players to gamble it up with stacks of 50 or more big blinds was certainly a big reason why the tournament played so quickly.

Heading into that final day of play, when the 27 returning players had average stacks of over 7.2 million or 72 big blinds to start the day, absolutely everyone was predicting a marathon day. “It’s gonna take eight or nine levels,” is what Phil Ivey had said the day before. Over/under lines were being set at 4 a.m., 5 a.m., even 7 a.m. I even brought my bags to the Rio, anticipating the possibility of leaving straight from there for the airport to catch my 8:15 a.m. flight home on Thursday morning.

But it was all over before 11 p.m. They played not quite five levels on Day 8. Before the last hand of the night was dealt, the ten remaining players had average stacks of about 19.5 million, which at the time was over 80 big blinds. Of course, “average” doesn’t mean so much to the short stacks, but even the shortest stack -- James Akenhead -- had/has over 28 big blinds. So even as that last hand was being dealt, we still weren’t convinced it wasn’t going to be at least another full level or longer before the day was done.

But then Jordan Smith got dealt pocket aces -- the second time within an orbit -- and Darvin Moon decided to call both a raise and a reraise with his pocket eights. And Moon flopped his set, and got Smith to push his last 13 million or so, and -- boom -- that was that.

Of course, the hand that I keep thinking about from Wednesday night -- the one that sort of emblematizes the entire frenzied last day and indeed last few days of the Main Event -- was that one in which Billy Kopp went from second in chips with 12 remaining to the rail.

Kopp had something close to 22 million when that hand began, and I think Moon was the only player in the tournament who had him covered with about 24 million. (He certainly was the only one at that six-handed table who did.) In other words, the players each had more than 80 big blinds -- in fact, probably 90-100 -- when the hand began. The Kd9d2d flop was destined to elicit some action for sure, as Moon held QdJd and Kopp 5d3d.

But I remain dumbfounded at how far it went. And how quickly.

If my arithmetic is correct, preflop action meant the pot was 1.62 million when that flop came out. Moon checked, Kopp bet 750,000, and Moon called. New pot size 3.12 million.

The turn was the 2h, pairing the board. Neither player had the nuts to start with, and with the paired board their flushes -- even though it was six-handed -- had become all the more tenuous.

As it happened, both players played it like they had at least big full houses, if not the nuts. Moon checked. Kopp bet 2 million. Moon check-raised to 6 million. Kopp pushed all in. And Moon called.

Boom. I keep remembering Kopp’s pained reaction when he saw Moon’s cards -- he was drawing dead, and, really, it was his own doing that had gotten him there. Such a desperate feeling, there being one card to come, but it was already all over. I think Kopp might’ve waited long enough for that last card to be dealt, but he was out of there like a shot afterwards. Leaving us all behind. Wondering.

Kopp was sporting an UltimateBet patch and cap, and I recall also there were three people on the rail supporting him, including a couple of very attractive women. I knew they were supporting him both because they were occasionally shouting out cheers for “Billy” and “BK” and also because they, too, had UltimateBet patches on. (UB wasn’t the only online site that slapped logos on railbirds this year.) In fact, I distinctly remember one of them shouting out “UltimateBet” after a hand -- no shinola. The trio vanished as quickly as Kopp did following that last fatal hand.

I definitely feel empathy for Kopp -- can’t help it. Last week I described his expression afterwards as being one of “mute horror as though he was just then realizing he’d accidentally downed the glass with the poison in it and not the one without.” We’ve all made mistakes -- perhaps not multi-million dollar ones -- and experienced such oh-my-gosh-what-have-I-done moments in our lives, for sure.

By the same token, I can’t quite grasp what it is that spurred so many players go for those huge gambles time and time again. We ought to be used to it by now, though, as it happens every year at the WSOP Main Event, including at the final table.

On the Two Plus Two show, Johnson and Schwartz spoke a bit about how gambling it up is a way for amateur players to negate the skill advantage, but that really doesn’t explain a lot of these wild hands we saw go down. There’s something else going on in the Amazon Room when it gets down to 200, then 100, then 50, then 15 players. Something to do with the cameras, the lights, the crowd, the sponsorships, the prize money....

Something most all of us have never experienced (and never will). Meaning our empathy can only go so far, I guess.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Waldo's Wild Kingdom said...

I think I made the most money at the WSOP on that last day prop, when I got 3:1 from 3 different people on a midnight deadline. Sheep it.

I was in the same frame of mind as Mike and Adam watching the pervasive online-centred theory of watching chip average dominate whilst sitting flabberghasted at the fact that with more chips in play than have EVER been introduced at the WSOP ME...we were losing people faster than 1+ per 2 mins prebubble and shortly after the bubble frenzy it moved back to almost that rate at the end of day 4 and almost all of day five. Check the rate we blew past the payout hikes...its UNREAL. This is know 1k Stimument, but the Main Event...holy hell.

I think that the reason that you have an 'old' final table (and we should check this...it may be the oldest final table since Moneymaker in '03) is because those that got there understood that even as the 'short' stacks, they were still ok and did not mean to get desperate. And with that its almost unthinkable that our bubble boy "broomcorned" his way out of the event, but here did. (And was even protected with 9-3 off...) I would even wager a guess that if we had played hand-for-hand all day (gawddd may it never happen.) that the 5 hands pre-bubble were the longest we went without a bustout over the past three days. I know one thing for sure...I did three 10 min-ish interviews on Day 6...all of them were interrupted by bustout announcement (sorry, placement announcements) at least 3 times. Day 6. Avg stack had 35bb. Roughly 1 per 3 mins, sometimes in pairs.

What sticks out about the last hands with Moon is that he was able to accumulate a MASSIVE part of that stack with people shoving on him when he hit the nuts. I just did an interview with him where we discussed that and his words were along the lines of 'there were 6300 players that were better than me in that event, I just got really good cards a lot and got paid when they hit.' He even folded KK to a three bet (I saw this) once and later told me, he HAD to have Aces. Even if he don't, I don't want to lose half my chips to him if something happens.' Sure enough, he got him later. He payed 'about 4-5 hands every couple hours' all the way to the final table and the chip lead. Was it really that easy this year?

Ivey had three rough hands that, in 03-06 might have put you in desperation and panic mode...but was able to keep on kicking. Name the worst hand he showed down and to what?

This is a huge story...I can only hope it gets bigger.

7/20/2009 4:06 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Great post as always, Shamus.

That said, I don't fault Billy Kopp for the way he played the huge hand with Darvin Moon. Yes neither player had the nuts, but I think it is more than reasonable to expect that your flopflush is ahead, and even when the 2s paired on the board, I am still probably getting it allin there if my opponent forces me to.

That is just one massive-ass pot for a flush over flush using both of both players' hole cards.

Exactly the kind of thing that would've happened to me if I played in the Main Event.

7/21/2009 1:57 PM  

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