Monday, November 01, 2010

Thriller in Vienna

EPT Live/PokerStars.tvSpent some time over the weekend looking in on and their live streaming of the EPT Vienna event. A lot of drama there, especially yesterday on Halloween at the final table. Daniel Negreanu was there, adding to the intrigue. He eventually finished fourth, while Michael Eiler, a 20-year-old German who won a Sunday Million back in the spring, ended up taking the trophy.

For those who haven’t seen it before, the EPT probably does the best job of anyone providing live video from their events. Have been at it for three years or so now, I believe.

They generally pick up the action on the penultimate day once the tourney has gotten down to three tables. On that day they’ll mostly concentrate on a feature table while sometimes looking in on the outer tables when big hands arise. Then on the final day they show every hand from the eight-handed final table until a winner emerges. No hole cards, natch, but one can see every bet and shown card, as well as listen to table talk and a lot of fun, informed commentary, too.

As I was watching this weekend, I was telling Vera Valmore how interesting and entertaining it can be to view these final tables live in this way, and how I probably prefer doing so over seeing the highly edited, packaged presentations of the WSOP or WPT she and I will often watch together. “It’s not for everybody, though,” I admitted, noting how the lack of hole cards, plus the long, relatively quiet stretches of hands without flops can prove tedious even to the most committed viewers.

It was following one of those lengthy, mostly unremarkable stretches that the hand of the day suddenly -- and thrillingly -- occurred yesterday, a huge three-way all-in involving Luca Cainelli, Negreanu, and Martin Hruby.

The blinds were 60,000/120,000 and they were down to five-handed when Cainelli, who’d been playing quite tight, opened for 280,000 from under the gun. Was a little surprising to see Negreanu flat-call the raise from the cutoff, and even more eyebrow-raising when Hruby, who also had appeared to have been playing somewhat cautiously, called as well from the button.

The blinds folded, and so the pot was up around 1.1 million or so when the flop came 8h5hKs. Cainelli bet 725,000, leading the announcers to speculate he had to have aces, kings, or A-K. Then, when Negreanu just called the bet, they figured Kid Poker might have a set or perhaps a king plus a heart flush draw.

EPT ViennaWhen Hruby didn’t immediately fold, they announcers began to express further amazement at what was happening. Was it a set-over-set-over-set situation? What three hands could produce this sequence of action?

Hruby took a good while before also just calling. Now the pot was over 3.2 million. Cainelli was down to 1,575,000, and I believe Hruby had just under 3 million left. Negreanu had both covered with about 5.6 million.

The turn brought the 9s, and Cainelli didn’t take much time before announcing he was all in. Negreanu leaned forward and he also relatively quickly said he was all in. The action was on Hruby, and once again, when he didn’t act immediately, the announcers were beside themselves with incredulity.

The Czech pro (like Negreanu a member of Team PokerStars, incidentally) probably took about 20 seconds or so before saying he was all in as well. I wasn’t sure how long he’d taken when watching the hand live, but they replayed the hand later and it was definitely a lengthy pause.

Then came another pause as all three players hesitated before showing their hands. Finally they did. Cainelli had pocket aces, Negreanu had Kd9d for top two pair, and Hruby -- incredibly, it seemed, after the way the hand had played out, as well as the time it had taken Hruby to call -- turned over 7c6d for the nine-high straight!

Negreanu was perturbed at Hruby, both for having taken his time to make the call as well as for not tabling his hand immediately after doing so. As they waited for the river card, Negreanu asked Hruby why he had “slowrolled,” but I couldn't really hear Hruby’s response. (I don’t believe Hruby speaks much English, actually.)

Cainelli was drawing dead, destined to finish fifth. Meanwhile, Negreanu needed a king or nine to outdraw Hruby. The river was brought a five, and Hruby claimed the almost 10.8 million-chip pot. Negreanu was left with just 2.6 million.

It would take a little while longer before Negreanu would bust, and afterwards in his Live interview he continued to express some some bitterness about Hruby’s “bad poker etiquette.” While his petulance wasn’t terribly endearing, his frustration was nonetheless understandable. Certainly added some extra drama, perhaps even more so after that episode of the Big Game from last week in which the subject of etiquette surrounded the interactions (and later commentaries) of Negreanu, Tony G, and Andrew Robl. (Wrote some about that here.)

It was more than a little strange for Hruby not to have acted immediately after turning his straight. I’ll admit when watching live I hadn’t quite noticed how long he had taken to act, probably because I was so preoccupied with trying to comprehend the sudden burst of action that the hand had produced.

I actually think Hruby might’ve been affected similarly, perhaps having been caught off-guard by having two opponents shove in front of him while he held the nuts. He might’ve even felt a moment of doubt about his own hand for a few seconds, I don’t know. In any event, I don’t believe Hruby intended to demonstrate “bad poker etiquette” on the hand, even if he technically did.

In any case, I thought the hand perfectly demonstrated how a well-produced, live streaming broadcast of a poker tourney (in real time, without hole cards) can be much, much more dramatic and entertaining than an edited version.

Seeing how long players take to make decisions helps convey the intellectual rigor the game demands much more obviously than is shown in the edited broadcasts. And, of course, getting to enjoy the suspense of discovering what cards the players hold -- drawn out even further in this case by Hruby’s apparent paralysis at the moment of crisis -- can add some thrills, too.

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Blogger Sean G said...

Great recap of a very dramatic hand. The viewing had been fairly slow up until that point, although the tension had been mounting as the blinds grew higher.

If Hruby weren't a pro, I would assume his slow action was due to the pressure of the big money and TV cameras. Could he have been concerned about the flush draw and/or full house draw? Taking a few moments to consider those things, and make sure you're reading the board right, in such a high pressure environment would make sense. His failure to flip the cards over after calling was pretty surprising, although again the pressure could do weird things I'd imagine.

I wonder what level of a pro Hruby is... maybe this is his first televised appearance, or first six-figure payday... but you'd expect someone sponsored by PS would have the sort of savvy that we armchair quarterbacks expect.

Finally, was nice to see Joe Stapleton and Amanda Leatherman there railing their buddy. Stapes really has moved up in the world!

11/01/2010 12:13 PM  

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