The two hours last night -- in which the final 18 players played down to nine -- were particularly intriguing, with lots of non-bustout hands shown. This was the first time all tourney that ESPN had all of the remaining players sitting in front of hole card cameras, as both the main feature table and the secondary table were equipped. So they had a lot of flexibility to pick and choose hands beyond the nine in which players were eliminated, and I think they made some good choices.
One of the more surprising hands to see was a bustout hand, actually. I’m talking about the one in which Ian Tavelli opened to 450,000 from under the gun (not quite a 3x raise, as the big blind was 160,000), then was reraised to 1.35 million by Steve Begleiter sitting to his left. Thanks to the hole card cameras, we see that Tavelli had pocket nines and Begleiter pocket kings. When the hand began, Tavelli had about 7.7 million and Begleiter about 20 million.
Then we watch James Akenhead, who I believe had around 8 million or so, look down at in middle position, and after a short think decide to toss his suited Big Slick. Next in line comes Eric Buchman in the hijack seat, who had something like 16 million, and we see him folding pocket tens. Joe Cada then looks down at pocket jacks (!). Cada takes a gander around the table, and he also chooses not to commit any of his 14 million chips or so.
A lot of big hands, and it seemed surprising to see that trio all choose to step aside. I have no idea what sort of image Tavelli had there, as he hadn’t been at any of my tables, so perhaps that UTG raise meant something. I had been watching Begleiter quite a bit just prior to his having been moved over to the main feature table, and while he had shown a willingness to gamble now and then, his amateur status might’ve made his reraise with the entire table left to act especially menacing. And perhaps Phil Ivey sitting in the big blind had some effect on how things went in that hand as well.
Ivey folded, however, Tavelli pushed, and “Begs” called. His kings held, and Tavelli was gone in 17th.
I’ve said before how I was at the secondary table that night (along with F-Train). Interestingly, once they had gotten to 18 and gone to two tables, the next four eliminations all took place at the main feature table. Then we went to dinner, and after coming back the next three -- Ben Lamb (14th), James Calderaro (13th), and Billy Kopp (12th) -- all happened at our table. Lamb and Calderaro’s eliminations were fairly anticlimactic, as both had gotten very short-stacked just prior to their bustouts.
But Kopp’s... well, as discussed here before, that was something different.
When watching it live, everything happened so quickly there really was no time to react or feel any sort of anticipation. It was essentially “hmm... the two big stacks at the table are mixing it up,” then suddenly Kopp was standing up and wincing, then walking away.
I’m assuming you watched the hand -- in which Kopp lost 80-plus big blinds -- and so I won’t rehearse the details. You can read F-Train’s write-up of the hand here. Also of interest is Ryan Nelson’s interview with Kopp from September over on PokerNews, in which Kopp explains what he was thinking at each stage of the hand. (Incidentally, contrast Kopp’s approach here with that of the folders over at the main feature table.)
Watching the hand again last night was a little disorienting, that massive doom cloud hanging over Kopp’s head kind of affecting my focus. (Don’t, don’t, don’t!) One thing I was able to notice was that ESPN’s editing didn’t seem to alter the timing of the hand all that much.
That is to say, if my memory serves, the amount of time each player appeared to take to make each decision was pretty much what you saw last night. In other words, I believe Kopp really took about a half-minute there before announcing he was all in, and Moon about 15 seconds or so to make the call.
Kevmath was noting on Twitter last night how eerily quiet the crowd seemed after the hands were revealed. That I remember as well. WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla was working alongside F-Train and myself that night. When the hands were revealed, it took us all a couple of beats to realize what was happening.
“He’s drawing dead?” asked Dalla quizzically. “He is,” we answered unsteadily. It didn’t seem possible.
Kopp had a small, vocal cheering section there, but Moon’s wife (shown on ESPN a few times) kept as reserved as her husband. So no big roars at Moon’s win, and really, Kopp (and his supporters) took less time storming out of there than it took the rest of us to piece together what we’d just seen.
Good stuff, for sure. And now I’m totally hooked to see how it plays out this weekend. As was the case last year, Bluff Magazine will be doing some sort of live audio commentary with graphical updates of chip counts. And, of course, PokerNews will be there as well, finishing out the live blog for Event 57.
Best wishes to all my buds heading out to Vegas and the Rio this weekend to cover the sucker. You know I’ll be following.
(EDIT [added 11/5/09]: As Sean G points out in his comment, a highly interesting twist to the big Moon-Kopp hand was the fact that Moon apparently did not realize the board had paired with that deuce on the turn. See the follow-up piece over at PokerNews for further details.)