Thursday, September 10, 2009

When Winners Lose, and Losers Win

Roland de Wolfe mucks a winnerBeen following from afar the progress of the European Poker Tour event in Barcelona and the World Poker Tour one over in Cyprus. Have buddies reporting from both tourneys, and so have had some extra interest to follow the coverage from both.

The big news out of Cyprus seems to be the low turnout -- just 181 players for the $10,000 buy-in main event, although a number of “name” guys made it to the Mediterranean island (including several Full Tilt pros). F-Train has some thoughts about the turnout and the event as a whole. They are currently down to their next-to-last day over there, with Layne Flack, Nenad Medic, and Huck Seed all still alive with two tables remaining.

Meanwhile, they just finished up over in Barcelona yesterday, where 479 players made it for the main event. That one had a €8,300 buy-in -- the equivalent of a little over $12,000. Most of the PokerStars guys followed the EPT and played in that one. The 20-year-old Carter Phillips, a PokerStars qualifier, won the event last night. Everyone will next be getting together over in London for the WSOPE which starts a week from today.

Roland de Wolfe of the U.K. finished 15th at EPT Barcelona, despite losing a controversial hand on Day 3 of the event in which he mucked a winner, and his opponent showed a loser. That’s right. Strange stuff.

The hand was a blind-vs.-blind hand in which German Tobias Reinkemeier (who’d go on to finish 30th) was in the small and de Wolfe in the BB. Not sure what happened preflop -- someone had raised and the other called, as there appears to be a small pot built up. The flop came AhTc7c. Looks like Reinkemeier checks, de Wolfe makes a bet, Reinkemeier check-raises, and de Wolfe calls. The turn is the 9h. This time Reinkemeier makes a sizable bet, and de Wolfe calls. The pot is about 100,000 at this point.

The river then brings the 4h. Reinkemeier checks, de Wolfe quickly bets 95,000, and Reinkemeier thinks for a moment then calls. De Wolfe’s expression shows he thinks he’s beat, and he turns over one card -- the Kc -- making as though he’s ready to muck. He says “king-high” a couple of times as well. Reinkemeier -- who hasn’t shown his hand -- says he wants to see de Wolfe’s hand, and a resistant de Wolfe does not comply. Instead he pushes his cards forward to the point where they are touching the mucked cards.

Once de Wolfe’s cards touch the other cards -- this happens very quickly -- Reinkemeier triumphantly flips over his Qc6c -- a busted flush draw, just queen-high! The dealer then digs de Wolfe’s cards out and turns them both over -- he had Kc8d, not even a draw, but king-high was in fact the best hand. The floor is called, and after a lot of discussion the pot is awarded to Reinkemeier. No shinola! See for yourself:

Obviously de Wolfe made a mistake by forcing his cards into the muck, even if he (very reasonably) thought his king-high had to be beat. So the hand pretty clearly illustrates the lesson about not mucking your cards without making sure you don’t hold a winner.

What I think about, though, when I watch this hand is how challenging it is for the reporter standing alongside the table charged with telling the world about what happened. I wrote a bit about this phenomenon back during the WSOP in a post called “Seeing Is Believing.” “When you see a hand like that, you start distrusting your senses,” I wrote, noting how sometimes your instinctive response is to check with someone else if what you saw really and truly occurred.

That this particular hand was captured on video -- and interviews with the players about the hand were conducted as well -- is terrific. Makes the story of the hand all the more compelling. And believable.

Because without the video, would you believe it?

Both players do very strange things here. De Wolfe mucks before seeing his opponent’s hand. And Reinkemeier calls a nearly pot-sized bet on the river with queen-high. In the interview afterwards, Reinkemeier explains how he believed de Wolfe’s range there at the end was polarized -- either he has a flush or air -- and that since he’d seen de Wolfe muck bluffs without waiting for his opponent to open his hand before, he knew he could call and perhaps win even if his queen-high was the worst hand. (A translation of some of what Reinkemeier is saying appears a few pages into the 2+2 thread about the hand.)

Like I say, the hand makes me think of situations where I’ve watched and reported on hands in which players call huge bets with very little (e.g., ace-high or king-high), or hands in which players muck without waiting to see opponents show their hands.

The latter situation can be especially perplexing when it comes to reporting, as the “story” of the hand seems somehow incomplete -- as though there’s a loose end there still dangling afterwards. A “showdown” in which no cards are shown? I saw this happen a few times at EPT Kyiv, in fact, with players mucking as soon as their opponent’s called their river bluffs. (I mentioned one example in a post from Day 1b, actually.) Most disorienting for the observer, particularly if he or she is charged with the task of explaining it all to someone who wasn’t there to see it.

But I suppose that challenge is part of what makes reporting from these tourneys more interesting, too. You think you’ve seen it all. You’re standing next to a table watching another boring little blind-vs.-blind hand unfold. Snoozerama....

Then, suddenly... the world turns upside down! A winner loses and a loser wins! Madness!

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Blogger TripJax said...

Truly odd. I want to say that Wolfe should win because he announced his hand - at least a portion of it - with King high; however, he is charged with protecting his cards until a complete decision is made.

The other dude was a dumb ass for showing his Queen high when the pot was going to be awarded to him.

Thanks for sharing Triple S.

9/10/2009 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

The thing about poker is that the best player isn't always going to win and the person with the best hand always isn't going to win.

It's the game within a game element which makes it the fantastic and complex game it is.

9/11/2009 3:57 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

Roland must act first. He can table his hand (which means face up) or muck his hand.

He did neither for the longest time; this is what precipitated the situation. He announced king high, then showed his king, hoping Tobias would either muck or show him the winning hand, after which Roland wouldn't have to show his other card.

Tobias correctly waited for Roland to complete his action - which he finally did - by MUCKING his hand (he physically inserted his cards face down underneath the cards that were in the muck).

Meanwhile the dealer got involved by trying to stop Roland from mucking and then retrieving the hand. Why he did this I don't know, but it's possible that he interpreted Tobias's actions as having asked to see the hand. I don't know what the rules in Barcelona are regarding this, so I can't say whether he did the right thing or not.

However, the fact that the hand was retrieved does not change the fact that the hand was dead (as I understand that these were the rules for the tournament - that moving your cards over the pass line constitutes a dead hand).

Anyone who says that Kremser made the incorrect ruling isn't being logical. He is the tournament director. The tournament is run by his rules. Presumable, he knows his own rules.

Another thing I don't like is the whole ethical/angle shooting charge against Tobias. This is a serious tournament. Tobias follwed the rules to the letter - he tried to gain an advantage within the rules - that is what poker is all about. He spotted a weakness in his opponent (that Roland tends to turbo-muck his called bluffs) and exploited it within the rules. He should be commended for this.

9/12/2009 6:07 AM  
Anonymous Bob@ThreeRiversPoker said...

It boogles the mind that de Wolfe has the balls to argue this ruling after the fact. He doesn't want to show his hand when called, decides to show only half of it when prodded, then mucks the hand entirely when his opponent rightfully wants to see both cards. Then he wants it back when he realizes he would have won? What an asshat.

9/12/2009 12:01 PM  

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