The top of the leaderboard heading into play today is compelling for a couple of reasons. For one, Ana Marquez of Spain leads the way, the only woman left in the event. And Chris Moneymaker is right behind her in second.
Marquez currently has only one small cash in a Venetian Deep Stack event last summer on her poker resume. Meanwhile, everyone knows Moneymaker’s previous biggest cash -- his first one, too. Interestingly, the $2.3 million due the winner of the 2011 PCA isn’t that far from the $2.5 million Moneymaker earned for his 2003 WSOP Main Event triumph.
Will obviously be highly interesting to see if Moneymaker can stick around for the final table of this one. Such is the lot of the man who remains the most famous amateur ever to win the WSOP Main Event.
Intrigue automatically builds whenever Moneymaker comes within shouting distance of a big final table or bracelet. Heck, even when he survives half the field with an above-average stack, the former Tennessee accountant necessarily gets our attention.
I remember at the 2009 WSOP where I helped cover the big “Special 40th Annual No-Limit Hold’em Event,” the one with the big $40,000 buy-in. A small, tough field of 201 entered, and after Day 1 just 89 remained with Bruno Fitoussi on top and Moneymaker in second place. (Had a bit to say about that at the time here.)
If you recall, there was a lot of hype built up around that one, the biggest buy-in NLHE event in WSOP history. And all eyes were on Moneymaker on Day 2. He made it through the dinner break still in relatively fine shape, but lost a big all-in race versus Tony G with pocket queens versus A-K, then ran pocket tens into Ted Forrest’s K-K to get bounced shy of the money in 38th place. (Wrote a little about Moneymaker’s exit from that event here.)
He’s well in the money this time, though. And seemingly well positioned to make it to that final eight. Adding to the building excitement here is the fact that the PCA Main Event final table is going to be broadcast from start to finish, beginning on ESPN3.com at 5 p.m. Eastern time, then moving over to ESPN2 at 10 p.m.
That’s right! Same-day, final table action right there on our teevees!
I’m not completely sure about how the coverage will be handled, though it sounds like we’ll be seeing the event on a one-hour delay with hole cards being shown along the way. The EPT Live team headed by James Hartigan will be there for the ESPN3 stuff (with Daniel Negreanu commentating as well), then I believe Lon McEachern and David Williams will be in a studio providing some input as well once things move over to ESPN2. A glance at the ESPN2 schedule shows that the network has nothing scheduled for the next eight hours, so it appears the plan will be to show every hand of the sucker right down to the conclusion.
Poker nuts like you and me will enjoy the show regardless of which eight players make it to the final table. But you gotta think if Moneymaker is there, too, there are going to be a lot more eyes on ESPN2 late Saturday night.
Listening to the latest ESPN Poker Edge podcast with Andrew Feldman and Bernard Lee (the 1/12/11 episode), it seems once again that poker finds itself situated in that same awkward, uncertain spot it has been for some time now -- the game’s popularity is obviously continuing to rise, but trouble looms.
Feldman and Lee talked a bit about Moneymaker’s deep run and how fascinating it would be should “the stars and moons align” (as Lee put it) and the 2003 WSOP ME champ somehow take this one down.
The pair also noted how the turnout of 1,560 for the PCA Main Event, while impressive, hadn’t reached the 2,000 or so some had predicted for the tournament. Since the PCA ME field has traditionally been filled by online qualifiers, Feldman and Lee interpreted the turnout as having perhaps been affected by the fact that the “growth of the online [poker] world is really slowing.”
All of which would make a Moneymaker final table appearance -- or even a victory -- all the more curious to watch, both for the drama it would create down there at the Atlantis and for whatever “effect” might subsequently ensue.
In any event, I know I’ll be checking in again today over at PokerNews as well as at the PokerStars blog (from which that pic of Moneymaker at the 2010 WSOP comes, btw) for ongoing coverage of the PCA ME.