Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Looking Back on That Long Last Day

Looking Back on That Long Last DayLast summer I helped report on the 2009 WSOP Main Event all of the way through the last day of play -- that is, I was there reporting on hands during that final Day 8 when they played from 27 players down to nine.

Right up until play began at noon that day, all of the talk had been that we were looking at a long, long day-slash-night-slash-morning of play. In fact, I had a flight scheduled at 8 a.m. the following morning, and people were telling me I might not even make it. I actually took my bags to the Amazon room just in case I might have to leave directly from the Rio to McCarran Airport.

However, the last day of play went much, much more quickly than anyone anticipated, ending before 11 p.m. that night. (I got to go back to my hotel room and spend one last night there before flying out the next morning.)

As you know, things went differently on Day 8 this year, with play lasting almost until 6 a.m. local time -- a close to 18-hour-plus day, all told. I was curious to take a look at the stack sizes and see if there were any obvious explanation for why the day went so quickly in 2009 and took so long this year.

In 2009, there were 6,494 players entered in the Main Event, meaning a total of 194,820,000 chips in play. That means when we came to that last day when there were 27 players left, the average stack was a tad over 7.215 million. They were right at the end of Level 29 when they started that day, where the blinds were 50,000/100,000 and the antes 10,000.

In other words, the average stack when they began Day 8 last year was about 72 big blinds. Even when they moved up to Level 30 (which only took a few hands), where the blinds moved to 60,000/120,000 (ante 15,000), the average stack was still 60 big blinds. That fact, coupled with the two-hour levels, is what made everyone believe it was going to take a long time to get down to nine players.

But it didn’t work out that way. There were done before we’d even reached the end of Level 33 -- in fact, they played just about exactly four levels’ worth, or eight hours of poker, to get from 27 to nine.

This year, there were more players in the Main Event -- 7,319 -- and so more chips in play, i.e., 219,570,000. That meant with 27 players the average stack was about 8.132 million. They’d gotten to Level 30 by the beginning of Day 8 this year (60,000/120,000/15,000), so the average stack to start out on Saturday was a little less than 68 big blinds. They had most (more than 90 minutes) of Level 30 to go, actually, so the fact was the stacks were a tad deeper this time than last, though not by a heck of a lot.

But this year it really did take until sunrise to settle who would be the November Nine. They ended play close to halfway through Level 36 -- that is, they played about 12.5 hours’ worth of poker, which coupled with all the breaks ended up lasting something close to 18 hours altogether.

I haven’t read through the entire live blog from this year’s Day 8, but I do see there was one hand not too long after ten-handed play began when it all could’ve ended much sooner. Brandon Steven -- who would finish in 10th place more than four hours later -- doubled through Michael Mizrachi.

Clearly there were a few more patient players this time around, folks like Hasan Habib nursing their short stacks as long as they possibly could to move up a spot or three. And Mizrachi -- the “Grinder” -- who showed an ability to grind from way back on Days 3 and 4 of the Main Event when he carefully preserved his below average stack.

I can’t claim to be especially familiar with the abilities of the nine players who made it through this year, but I’ll venture a guess that on average they may well possess a bit more savvy and skill than did last year’s group. And the fact that Day 8 lasted so darn long could be cited as part of the evidence to support that thesis.

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