Before things got started some were putting the over/under for our day yesterday at 10 hours, which seemed a reasonable line given the deepness of the stacks. Turned out to be way, way off, primarily because everything changed on just the second hand when the two chip leaders, Patrick Houchins and Brian Ali, got involved in a massive pot that saw Ali double through and left Houchins the table’s short stack.
In the blog I described that “first round action” as Ali delivering a “gut punch,” and a little later when six players were eliminated in a one-hour stretch -- five by Ali -- it was hard to avoid the boxing references amid all the knockouts. Especially when Ali took out Ellis Jeff Frazier (in fourth). No shinola!
Suddenly after just three hours it was heads up, at which point Ali and John Andress showed a lot of patience for nearly an hour until a cooler-type hand (two pair versus a straight) ended things with Ali the champion. For more details, here’s a link to yesterday’s blog, and here’s Nolan Dalla’s write-up of the finale over on the WSOP site.
At one point during the day I finally decided that Ali and Frazier, both in their fifties, actually seemed to play very similar styles (conservative, tight-aggressive), although Ali’s big stack and Frazier’s short stack gave Ali a lot more freedom to see pots and thus made their similarities less obvious.
They also were two especially friendly guys. Didn’t speak directly to Ali, but in his demeanor at the table and his interview afterwards he struck me as a very likable fellow. When WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla asked him about how it felt to win, he said how winning the lottery would be nice, but winning a tournament like this in which you use skill to defeat “a bunch of really, really good players” was immensely more satisfying.
I did talk with Frazier some before the start of play. He thanked Rich and I for the coverage, saying some very nice things about it and explaining how his wife and family were at home following it excitedly. He said how his wife was carrying the laptop around the house refreshing constantly for updates.
I wasn’t surprised to hear Frazier saying those things about his family, having read his bio sheet where under “Interesting Things About You” he’d written “Best family person could have -- wonderful,” while also mentioning having “great poker player friends.”
There was one other 50-something at the final nine, Roland Isrealashvili, the fellow who actually won the WSOP Circuit Atlantic City Main Event last year when it was a $5,000 buy-in event. I believe he’s originally from Georgia (of the old U.S.S.R.), and I remember him and Ali talking some about on Day 2 about the old Cold War as Ali was in the military in the ’70s.
At one point yesterday Israelashvili had me thinking of Rodney Dangerfield, both because of a very distant resemblance and the fact that he was delivering one-liners fairly constantly throughout the day. Had the table cracking up over and over, and when he busted in fifth you could tell by the way the others wished him well that everyone very much enjoyed his presence at the table.
Israelashvili also delivered some insight about one key hand early on, too, that I found interesting.
Houchins would eventually battle back from that early hit to finish third in the tourney, but had to get very lucky along the way, particularly in one key hand versus Albert (A.G.) Winchester. In that hand, Houchins had open-pushed all in from middle position, and another player in late position thought for a couple of minutes before finally folding. During that period there was a question about Houchins’ exact stack that took some time to answer (he had 551,000 left). It then folded back to Winchester in the big blind who called. Houchins had pocket fours and Winchester had woken up with A-A, but Houchins spiked a miracle four on the river to survive.
Winchester took the blow very well and also had a “that’s poker” smile on his face after he busted soon thereafter in eighth. Some time later discussion of the hand had revived, with Israelashvili saying he knew that Winchester had aces even before he called.
“How could you know that? He was the big blind?” questioned others. It did seem a far-fetched claim, perhaps another one of Israelashvili’s jokes. He then explained that he knew at least that Winchester had a big hand and was going to call what was at the time about a 15-big blind shove. His reasoning? When the question arose about Houchins’ stack size, Winchester had answered it exactly, showing that while the late position player was tanking he’d been paying close attention and was interested in the hand. Circumstantial evidence to be sure, but it seemed to convince the others at the table that Israelashvili might be on to something.
The other six guys all fell into the more typical demographic for these things, most in their 20s and most playing a lot online as well as live (as revealed by their table talk on both Days 2 and 3). They were also -- as I was mentioning yesterday -- mostly very witty guys, matching Israelavshili with several funny contributions themselves.
To give a quick example, I’ll just share some of the responses by Winchester from his bio sheet. Aged 23 (I think), he listed his occupation as “degenerate.” Under “Notable Poker Accomplishments” he wrote “I wish.” Then, for “Interesting Things About You,” he had Rich and I in stitches at his one-sentence response: “I wear pink shirts and listen to Taylor Swift.”
So lots of fun yesterday, and ending early wasn’t so bad either. Gave me a chance to play a little in the poker room (I’ll write some about that later in the week), then rest up for today’s day of travel. Definitely a different, more relaxed vibe on the WSOP Circuit than one encounters at the WSOP in Vegas during the summer. And it was great working with both Rich and Nolan again.
Haven’t gotten to see much of Atlantic City, I’m afraid, though I think I’ve experienced enough to confirm some of the generalities I’ve heard about the place. Might share some of those thoughts, too, later in the week.
Looks like check-out time is approaching, so I better get packed. Thanks for following my little travelogue here the past few days. And good luck!