The elimination of Matt Affleck in 15th place, coming at the end of the first hour last night, was the moment most of us were most curious to see. By rivering that straight, Jonathan Duhamel claimed a pot of almost 42 million chips, catapulting him into first place, which is where he’ll be when the tourney finally restarts this Saturday.
Was obviously the hand of the Main Event, thus far. F-Train did a nice job that night recounting the action for PokerNews. And Howard Swains produced a fine account for the PokerStars blog of both the hand and the scene afterwards, focusing in particular on the emotions experienced by Affleck.
ESPN did well covering the hand, too, I thought. If you haven’t seen it or don’t know the details, read the accounts linked to above. Or you can click here to see it on YouTube (I’ve linked to the start of the hand).
Vera Valmore and I were watching it together last night, and she noted how she didn’t like seeing them follow a dejected Affleck down the hall afterwards. But it was part of the story, and I thought it was all handled quite well. And the kid’s subsequent return to the table to shake everyone’s hands and wish them luck was a truly fine moment.
Three things kind of stood out for me as I watched the hand last night.
One was how once Duhamel called Affleck’s turn shove -- a decision that took the Canadian about five minutes, not less than 30 seconds (as it appeared last night) -- both players immediately asked the other what he held by guessing out loud, and neither player guessed correctly.
The board showed . “Tens and nines?” Duhamel asks Affleck, who tables his pocket aces in response. “Kings, right?” asks Affleck of Duhamel, who takes a few seconds, shakes his head, then tosses his pocket jacks onto the felt face up.
A second thing I found interesting had to do with the fact that Affleck, who normally wears prescription glasses, had misplaced them before Day 8. (I believe ESPN mentioned this at the beginning of last week’s coverage of the first part of Day 8.) I remembered Affleck being interviewed afterwards, and noting how he could see up close just fine, but had a bit of difficulty focusing when it came to the board cards.
I also wear glasses -- can function without them, but, of course, to do so is not ideal. As anyone who wears glasses and is forced to go without them knows, not being able to focus clearly on everything can lend a kind of “unreal” feeling to even the most mundane task. (Never mind the headaches.)
When the lands on the river, we see Affleck’s eyes widen. He holds still for just a moment, then puts his head down. I found myself thinking about how Affleck might have had to exert a little extra effort to see that indeed the card was a dreaded eight and not perhaps a nine or seven. Was all already plenty “unreal” for him, I am sure, but not having his glasses probably made it seem even more dream-like. (Or nightmarish.)
The third thing I noticed as the scene played out was how Duhamel in his dark hoodie and Affleck in his white Seattle Mariners jersey so easily appeared to inhabit the roles of villain and hero.
That feeling was probably reinforced a bit by Norman Chad’s commentary over the past few weeks, during which he’s repeatedly (and deservedly) complimented Affleck’s play while referring to him as “my boy.” And, of course, that involuntary, treacly smile of Duhamel’s after the river came, while obviously understandable, nevertheless encouraged such thinking even more.
I mean, really. The hood. The grim grin. Dude might as well have had a sickle under the table!
I don’t think of Duhamel as a villain, nor will I once play resumes on Saturday, although I suppose some might. Still, in that hand... was like watching Death duel with Antonius Block in The Seventh Seal!
Good stuff, ESPN. Definitely looking forward to the final chapter of this here drama.