Wednesday, June 29, 2011

2011 WSOP, Day 29: Split Day

Split DayWoke up today after six straight days of work, all around 14 hours’ long or so. After lying there in a bit of a daze for a few moments I realized I have a day off today.

Was thinking all week today’d be the day I would try one of those deepstack tourneys they have each day at the Rio, but am probably not going to do so, for a couple of reasons. Energy too low (not that I’m necessarily going to find a day when that isn’t the case). And I could probably do well to avoid the Rio for a day, if possible, although I have a feeling I may end up over there to meet folks at some point. As long as I stay out of the Amazon Room, I should be okay.

The Amazon Room was where I found myself yesterday racing back and forth all day and night and early morning, helping cover a couple of different events -- the final day of Event No. 45, the $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em event & Day 2 of Event No. 47, the $2,500 Omaha/8-Stud/8 event. Which meant I was circling the “mothership” all day, the scene of jubilant noise and celebration over Andre Akkari’s win in Event No. 43 (a $1,500 NLHE event), then later for the finale of Event No. 45. For details on the Brazilians' raucous response to Akkari’s win, see Dr. Pauly's account of the “Carnival at the Mothership.”

I stuck with the last day of the $1K NLHE until it reached the final table, then a need arose over at the O/8-Stud/8 event, and so joined my buddy Chris “Homer” Hall and ace reporter Mat over there.

One interesting bit of trivia to share from the $1K. I mentioned a couple of days back a player kind of randomly requesting a high-five from me -- not from winning a hand or anything, but just because I was there -- then saying something about his plan to become famous one day. That was during the earliest stages of the event, when there were still more than 2,500 players with chips.

Turned out the guy actually final tabled the sucker. At dinner break I saw him in the Poker Kitchen, and we laughingly recalled that earlier exchange. He said how he appreciated the coverage and was hoping to make a name for himself in poker, and I told him if he kept making final tables, that would surely happen. I wished him luck and let him know I was moving on to another event after the break.

Incidentally, since the topic has come up here and there (see, for instance, Jon Katkin’s op-ed over on Pokerati from earlier in the Series), I should perhaps point out that as a reporter I never, ever cheer for players in an event I’m covering. A huge no-no, really, that I think most of those who’ve done this stuff a while come to understand.

Event No. 45 final tableI have friends who play, certainly, and perhaps a few pros who I’m always glad to see do well. But I never even begin to share such predilections while on an event, and really, to be completely honest, I don’t care much one way or another who wins these things. It’s a little like the way I watch most NFL games (not involving my woeful Carolina Panthers, that is). I almost never pull for one team or another to win, but primarily find myself just looking for a good, well played game. Same with the pokers.

Getting back to my day, I left the Event No. 45 final table to join the O/8-Stud/8 which included a lot of great players and characters. As I was reacclimating myself to reporting split-pot games (not as easy as it looks!), I overheard a lot of very interesting table talk.

There was Mickey Appelman opining on the relatively poor state of the poker economy (in his opinion). Jerry Buss was being quizzed about certain NBA players. Jerrod Ankenman -- who won a bracelet in 2009 (in an event I happened to cover) -- talked about how the uniqueness of winning a bracelet has diminished greatly, marveling at how a hundred or so have probably been won since he got his. His buddies Bill Chen and Matt Hawrilenko -- both of whom have bracelets (two for Chen) -- were railing him for a bit late in the evening. And Barry Greenstein shared views about the reasons behind that no-headphones-once-the-money-is-reached rule.

Speaking of reaching the money, when they were one elimination away and playing hand-for-hand, Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler kept getting up and walking up and down the row of tables, noting the stack-sizes of the other players. Kessler is well known for his frequent min-cashes, although he’s made some deep runs, too, including gathering a third WSOP runner-up finish this year (in Event No. 15, $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em).

Kessler also has a reputation for extreme nittiness, which helped create a context for a funny Omaha/8 hand in which he raised his button, got some comments about “giving action” from the others, and the blinds folded. He showed a couple of aces and a deuce, which led Abe Mosseri to say to Kessler “Every time you get a good hand, your forehead lights up!”

Nikokai Yakovenko’s table talk was most engaging, I thought. He shared some interesting thoughts about the differences between Omaha/8 and Stud/8, noting how the former causes more heartbreak when players fail to make their hands whereas in Stud/8 they are mostly “resigned” to their fates. He also shared some stories regarding his having made the final table last year at WPT Foxwoods (he finished fourth) and how that experience went. It sounded like a positive one for him, although he did note how the whole “reality show” thing kind of takes away from the poker.

Jerry BussOn the subject of spectacle, my two events yesterday couldn’t have been more different, ambience-wise. On the one hand there was the glitzy, game show-like spectacle of no-limit hold’em final tables, replete with spotlights, announcers, cheering crowds, and carnivals at “motherships.” Then there was the O/8-Stud/8 event -- a group of guys, many older, talking softly and playing cards deep into the night.

Two days in one, it was. Will try to measure myself out a mix of excitement and relaxation again today. Probably best to have more of the latter, I imagine.

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