Always liked him in anything, and remember being particularly floored by Falk’s performances in those John Cassavetes films Husbands (1970) and A Woman Under the Influence (1974). And his turn as himself -- and, it turns out, as an angel -- in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987) is kind of a stunner, too. (That’s one I’m sure I’ll be seeing again soon.) The In-Laws (1979) was probably my favorite of the comedies in which he appeared, although anyone familiar with “Columbo” already knows he was especially agile at moving back and forth between comedy and drama.
It is also true that anyone familiar with Falk’s great detective character, Lt. Columbo -- whom I’ll admit probably influenced me as much as Chandler, Cain, and Hammett when it came to writing Same Difference -- well knows that line he often uttered, so much so it became kind of a catch phrase (and the title of Falk’s autobiography): “Just one more thing...”
Most episodes of “Columbo” were shaped similarly, with the murder being shown to the audience early -- giving us full knowledge of whodunit -- then Columbo being brought in to solve the case. Often he’d meet the murderer early on, and we’d watch as he got to know the person as part of his effort to solve the crime. The fun, then, wasn’t in figuring out who the killer was, but in watching Columbo gradually encourage the murderer to reveal to him what he or she had done.
Time and again, after interviewing suspects, Columbo would bid them adieu, then stop them from leaving with that arresting phrase “just one more thing” (pun intended). Catching them at a less wary moment, he’d then ask what was often an especially relevant (and/or leading) question, and invariably -- sometimes just to get away from him -- they’d share more than they’d intended to with the detective.
As I walked amid the tables yesterday, gathering hands and stories to report on Day 2, I found myself recalling both that phrase and the technique of giving your interlocutor (or “opponent”) a chance to let down his guard when trying to elicit information from him that he is reluctant to give up.
Happens in poker constantly, of course. In a variety of ways, too. There’s the outright questioning that happens when a player, contemplating a big decision (such as calling an opponent’s all-in bet), will quiz the opponent directly. Then there are the indirect forms of interrogation that the good players are conducting constantly. I found myself watching Daniel Negreanu a few times yesterday and the way he carefully watches each of his opponents as they act, looking for “just one more thing” that might tip off to him something they’d otherwise wish not to reveal.
Negreanu survived as one of the last 20 players to make today’s Day 3. Phil Hellmuth did not, going out in 36th after nursing a short stack for much of the latter part of the evening.
Hellmuth was interesting to watch, too, as always. I’ve covered him in a number of tournaments, and he never fails to entertain. Last night he was seated at a table near the rail, and a considerable crowd formed, all clearly having fun watching his irritation increase in direct proportion to his chip stack dwindling.
At one point a railbird, most likely after having imbibed a few, started calling out to Hellmuth in a hilarious, pleading sort of way.
“Phiiilllll,” he cried. “Where do you work out?”
Hellmuth was actually involved in a hand at that moment, and if he was at all bothered by the question he didn’t show it. The soliciting of information continued.
“Phiiilllll... tell us your secrets!!!”
That drew a laugh from the rail, and some grins around the table, too. Hellmuth continued not to let on he was hearing anything.
“Phiiilllll!” This time just the call of Hellmuth’s name was enough to get a laugh. This guy was worse than Columbo, always with another question.
“How do you dodge so many bullets?!?!”
Finally a break arrived and Hellmuth did at last acknowledge the rail in what appeared to be a somewhat uneasy attempt to play along. He was in a tough spot, though, unable, really, to say much to retake the dominant position he prefers. It was almost like his short chip stack -- which had fallen to less than a dozen big blinds -- was not only limiting his moves at the table, but away from the table, too.
Before his elimination, Hellmuth did play a curious hand in which he opened with a small raise from early position, an opponent reraised just a touch more than the minimum behind him, and then -- after much theatrics -- he folded.
Hellmuth only had about 55,000 at that point, with the blinds 2,500/5,000. He noted how the “rest of the planet” was incapable of making the fold, and as if to prove it he showed the hand -- pocket nines -- before tossing them to the dealer. (His opponent showed his hand, too: AK-suited.) Hellmuth would soon after get those chips in with ace-rag, be dominated by A-J, and depart into the night.
In contrast to Hellmuth, a little later Faraz Jaka was four-betting all in for 35 big blinds with 8-8 and losing a race with A-Q to go out in 28th.
Should be fun today. Not sure if these 20 will be playing down to a winner or not, as we’re bound by that so-called “ten-level rule.” Justin Filtz comes back to a stack of more than 2 million, which is about twice that of the fun-to-say Massimiliano Martinez in second. 2010 November Niner Matt Jarvis is in third, and there are a few other notables left in addition to Negreanu, too, including Shane Schleger, Jude Ainsworth, and 2010 WSOP ME champ Jonathan Duhamel.
Check over at PokerNews to follow along with the reports from Event No. 40. And once we get to the final table, you might peek over at WSOP.com to check out the live stream.
If you do look in on the stream, you could even catch a glimpse of me wandering about that final table. Probably appearing a bit rumpled. With pencil and pad in hand. Gathering pertinent information.