When I do watch, however, I’m almost always entertained. Definitely one of the better poker shows out there at the moment.
The website for the show is excellent, by the way. All of the episodes are neatly organized with descriptions and ready to watch. There are extensive statistics on there regarding the play of both the pros and the amateurs -- the “Loose Cannons,” as they are called. Plus, you can replay hands in a hand replayer and call up the video for each and every hand. It’s the kind of extensive coverage you’d think the WSOP might want to start pulling together for its Main Event final table (or other events’ final tables, too), enabling all sorts of post-game analysis for us poker junkies.
I did get a chance recently to watch Week 10 of the show’s current season. Was encouraged to check it out after hearing all of the buzz about an unusual scenario that developed during that week’s episodes.
An amateur named David Fishman was the Loose Cannon that week. As the show’s format dictates, he was staked with $100,000 and given an opportunity to play 150 hands of no-limit hold’em against a table full of pros. The blinds ($200/$400) and antes ($100) are significant, forcing a lot of action. Any profit Fishman made was his to keep, and if he happened to make more profit than any of the other Loose Cannons, he’d additionally win a handsome $50K PokerStars NAPT prize package.
Through 96 hands -- that is, through the beginning of episode 4 (of 5) -- Fishman had managed to chip up nearly $20,000 from his starting stack. Then came a huge hand between the amateur and Phil Hellmuth in which Fishman rivered a Broadway straight and somehow got the Poker Brat to pay him off with his two pair. Here’s that hand:
See Fishman shaking there as he waited to see if Hellmuth would make the call? And then Hellmuth does! Awesome stuff.
When the hand was over, Fishman was suddenly up to $240,200 -- a $140,200 profit -- which meant a couple of things. One, with 53 hands left to be played, he already had life-changing money sitting in front of him. Secondly, he had pushed into the lead in the race for the NAPT package, and if he could end the session without losing too many chips, he’d probably win that, too. (Only a couple of weeks remained in the season for other Loose Cannons to beat his total winnings.)
“Can the Loose Cannon Decide when to leave the cash game if they’re doing well?” So asks a question on the FAQ page of the Big Game’s site. The answer is no. The amateur “must remain in the game,” continuing to commit blinds and antes as the 150 hands play out.
So, what would you do if you were in Fishman’s spot? Would you tighten up here? A little? A lot?
For the next 16 hands, Fishman folded mostly raggedy hands. Then came Hand No. 114. Phil Laak opened with a raise from middle position with pocket sixes. Jason Mercier, new to the table, called the raise from the button with pocket fours.
Then Fishman, in the small blind, looked down to see his hand -- .
He looked again. Then he folded. No shinola!
As it happened, the flop gave Laak quad sixes, so looking at it from a results-oriented point of view, Fishman saved at least whatever chips he might’ve put in preflop on the hand, perhaps even more. Still, folding pocket aces... in a cash game... wild stuff to watch.
I love the conversation after the hand. (As I say, you can dial it up on the Big Game site easily enough.) Fishman tells the table what he folded. “No,” says David Williams with a grin. “Was it really?” he then adds, starting to believe. “No way,” says a completely stone-faced Mercier, not completely aware of the dynamic that had evolved after Fishman’s big double-up. You can tell, though, that the pros were starting to believe -- and understand -- the play by the time the next hand is dealt.
Hand No. 121 brings Fishman yet another dilemma when he’s dealt pocket kings on the button. It folds to him, and he limps for $400, saying he’ll see one flop if the blinds will allow him to do so. The small blind -- a businessman named William Perkins -- raises with . Then Williams reraises from the BB with A-Q, and Fishman gets out. A queen flops, and Williams ends up taking the hand right there.
“I would have had you there, David,” says Fishman, then revealing that he had been dealt K-K. “Come on,” says Mercier. “I don’t know you yet... these guys know you,” he says, pleading for some further explanation. “Are you legit?”
“Yes,” says Williams. “He’s telling the truth,” he confirms as he stacks the chips. “He’s legit.”
Fishman would fold his way through the rest of the session, ending with $229,600 (i.e., a $129,600 profit).
Was interesting to hear some of the talk on the podcasts about the show and Fishman’s decision to fold rather than risk what he’d won.
Over on the Ante Up! podcast (the 12/9/10 episode), the hosts marveled at Fishman’s having folded aces preflop, but ultimately endorsed the play. They were a little less supportive of the decision on the Two Plus Two Pokercast (episode 151, 12/7/10), with co-host Adam Schwartz in particular decrying the play as way, way too nitty for his taste.
“I’m not saying you have to raise,” said Schwartz. “[But] he mucks the aces, and I want to puke.... My mouth is open and I’m like ‘What just happened?’”
I guess I would tend to agree more with the Ante Up! guys, understanding Fishman’s decision not to risk what for him was a huge windfall. In any event, I think that even though the last two episodes of the week were mostly taken up with relatively non-interesting hands between the pros, it still made for some riveting poker, especially thanks to the pros’ ongoing discussions regarding the Loose Cannon’s refusal to gamble.
Besides, I think we all can agree that seeing Hellmuth lose -- and cry afterwards -- always makes for good TV.