Could it be the last November Nine? Who knows? With the advent of “almost live” coverage of the event, one wonders whether the WSOP will bother to continue with its routine of delaying the final table months and months in order to allow televised coverage to catch up with the tournament.
Nor has the whole use-the-extra-time-to-grab-some-sponsorship-dollars thing panned out much at all for players, particularly post-Black Friday. Think about how much of the November Nine talk during the past three years revolved around who PokerStars, Full Tilt, and UltimateBet had patched up. Not anymore.
Today viewers will be able to watch every hand of the 2011 WSOP ME final table on a 15-minute delay with hole cards. (Cards will be shown after hands complete. See the section “Going ‘almost live’” in this post for more details.
The show will be available via a variety of outlets. In the U.S., we’ll be able to watch on ESPN2 starting at 12:30 p.m. Vegas time (3:30 p.m. ET) -- just a little while after the first hand is dealt. The show is scheduled to go straight through to 7:00 p.m., then take a 90-minute break when the remaining players go to dinner, then resume at 8:30 p.m.
Everything will also be streamed online on ESPN3.com here in the U.S. (for those who have access). Outside the U.S., some viewers will be able to watch on some ESPN’s international networks. Non-U.S. folks can also watch online over at the WSOP.com site where they will have full access.
Here is the full schedule for today, per the media guide (all times Pacific):
The plan is to stop tonight when they get down to three players, meaning it is unlikely they’ll get all of the way to those last levels. Indeed, last year the Main Event was all over with by Level 41, and the year before it ended during Level 40. It’s also unlikely they’ll be able to keep everything to the minute as planned, although with ESPN directing things, perhaps they will.
Here are the starting stacks and seating assignments for the final table:
Seat 1: Matt Giannetti (U.S.) -- 24,750,000
Seat 2: Badih “Bob” Bounahra (Belize) -- 19,700,000
Seat 3: Eoghan O'Dea (Ireland) -- 33,925,000
Seat 4: Phil Collins (U.S.) -- 23,875,000
Seat 5: Anton Makiievskyi (Ukraine) -- 13,825,000
Seat 6: Sam Holden (U.K.) -- 12,375,000
Seat 7: Pius Heinz (Germany) -- 16,425,000
Seat 8: Ben Lamb (U.S.) -- 20,875,000
Seat 9: Martin Staszko (Czech Republic) -- 40,175,000
I’ll be watching today, and will come back here from time to time today to add thoughts to this post as the sucker plays out. Call it an “almost live” blog.
Meanwhile, Dr. Pauly handicapped the final table earlier in the week, so if you’re looking for some more poker pregame to peruse, check out his “Betting Guide to the 2011 November Nine.” I also wrote up a final table preview for Betfair poker that includes various info about the final nine.
Also, for a more comprehensive blog on this here Main Event final table, be sure to follow Jesse May’s post over on The Poker Farm where he has already managed to share a few thousand words’ worth of insight several hours before the first hand.
See you back here in a while.
10:30 a.m. (Vegas time)
A little less than two hours away from the first hand. Even though I am on the east coast, I’m gonna use PST for the time stamps.
Here is a photo just snapped and tweeted by my buddy Jonathan Boncek (@boncekImages). Jon-Bon is there at the Penn & Teller Theater today to shoot photos for PokerNews.
Was just listening to Andrew Feldman, Lon McEachern, and Bernard Lee breaking down the final nine on the most recent episode of The Poker Edge, a good way to get reintroduced to the final nine players. Check that Jesse May blog as well as he’s offering thoughts about each of the nine, too.
Also, I mentioned that non-U.S. folks will be able to watch everything on WSOP.com. For viewers looking for information about ESPN’s international networks, those in Latin America can check Espnplay.com, if you are in Australia look at Espn3.com.au, and those in New Zealand can check out Espn3.co.nz. Seems like they’ve got everything pretty well covered so that everyone who wants to will have some way to watch.
Dr. Pauly has made the scene there at the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino and has himself a live blog up and running. Check it.
You know the PokerNews guys are going to blog it all today. So, too, will there be frequent posts over at BLUFF and elsewhere. In fact, the WSOP has lifted that rule about posting once per hour that normally applies during the WSOP Main Event, so there should be no lack of info about what is happening at the Rio all over the interwebs today. Looks as though the player introductions are already underway.
I’m wondering whether the combination of being able to bet on the November Nine right there at the Rio -- something new this year -- and this 15-minute delayed broadcast (with hole cards) might potentially combine to create some issues.
You’ve got people there watching the action who have bet their own money on the outcome. Those folks are no doubt going to be wired enough to know pretty much as soon as the rest of the world does what players were holding in recently played hands. (As will the players themselves, too, of course, once they consult with their respective rails, actual and virtual).
I’m not saying anything untoward is necessarily going to happen. I assume any spectators who become inappropriate with their encouragement -- i.e., who start advising players how to play a bit too specifically from their seats there in the Penn & Teller Theater -- will be dealt with as necessary. But it seems more likely that not that we’ll see some incident that throws an integrity-threatening wrinkle into the proceedings.
It’s an entirely unique situation for the WSOP Main Event. As Jesse May has noted already today in his live blog, these guys “are about to become the world’s most expensive guinea pigs.”
Yachting has concluded on ESPN2 and the show is finally underway. Lon McEachern and Antonio Esfandiari quickly introduced the scene and the “unprecedented” plan to provide comprehensive “same day coverage on a 15-minute delay to protect the integrity of the game.” The nine players were then shown all introducing themselves in prepackaged intros.
“This is truly the world’s game... you can get whamboozled anywhere on the globe,” said Norman Chad before rattling off the various places -- from seven different nations -- from which the nine players hail. He then delivered the “shuffle up and deal” and at 12:38 p.m. we’re seeing the first hand being dealt amid a lot of hoots and hollers among the crowd.
On the first hand, Phil Collins limped in from early position and all folded back to Bob Bounahra in the big blind. A jack flopped, and Bounahra check-folded to Collins’ bet. After the hand was over, we saw Collins had and so had hit the flop, and Bounahra had and had not. In fact, “queen-jack suited” was the first holding Esfandiari suggested Collins might have had when he limped.
Time to settle in.
As was the case back in July, not seeing the hole cards during the hand (but only afterwards) makes for a lot more interesting analysis. All of the action is very clear thus far and the graphics work well. Cannot really hear any table talk, but it doesn’t appear there has been much, anyway. Would be nice to see stack sizes during hands (as they’ve begun doing over on the Epic Poker League broadcasts), but all in all everything is very clear and easy to follow.
I also like how the actual time of play -- always exactly 15 minutes behind thus far -- is shown up in the right-hand corner. I can tell already I’m probably going to be focusing more on the ESPN2 show than the updates on PokerNews or Twitter.
Play pretty tight during the first orbit. After nearly four months of waiting, it is no surprise to see no one in any special hurry here at the start.
They have made it to the first break on the broadcast. We just saw Hand #11 in which O’Dea took a few chips off of Heinz. The board ran out and afterwards we saw that O’Dea had flopped a monster with . Heinz had but K-Q -- he check-called the flop bet, both checked the turn, then Heinz folded to O’Dea’s river bet.
Martin Staszko still leads with about 40 million, but O’Dea is edging closer, up to 38.7 million. Meanwhile, Heinz has slipped to ninth just behind Holden with right at 12 million.
They have begun Level 37 (75k/300k/600k). On Hand #14, you could clearly see Pius Heinz’s right hand shaking as he put out the stack of lavender chips on the river with the board showing -- a bet of 2.3 million into the 6.825 million pot. His lone opponent, O’Dea, thought for a while, looking over a couple of times, before folding.
The hands? Heinz had two red aces, and O’Dea 9-9. (Heinz had actually checked the turn there with the overpair and nut flush draw and O’Dea checked behind.) That one pulls Heinz up out of the cellar and to about 16 million.
Phil Hellmuth has joined McEachern and Esfandiari in the booth. His first comment is to say he’d predicted play would be tight early on, and that has certainly been the case.
Hellmuth is suggesting that the 15-minute delay is actually keeping players in line even more, avoiding too many “creative” plays (e.g., a loose three-bet with a mediocre hand) since such plays will become known by their opponents in such short order. Esfandiari agrees, and it does seem like a reasonable point to help explain the relatively tight play thus far.
Other factors are keeping ’em tight, too, of course. Indeed, as they are pointing out, all nine have essentially established tight images for themselves during the first hour-and-a-half.
They are starting now to show chip counts during hands. Occasionally they’ll stream across the top of the screen in a way that resembles what the positions of cars during a NASCAR race. (In fact, they are also streaming NFL scores at the bottom of the screen and other sports news, including what is happening at today’s race, thereby furthering the impression of that similarity.) During hands they’ll sometimes show how much players have behind, such as in this one (Hand #22) between Bounahra and Staszko.
Within moments of Hellmuth making that observation about the tight play, both Makiievskyi and Holden shoved their short stacks, getting no callers. Then both Heinz and Lamb three-bet opponents off of hands preflop with holdings that were weaker than those they were up against.
Vanessa Rousso has replaced Hellmuth in the booth.
After checking Twitter and PokerNews during the commercial, I was curious to see what Heinz and O’Dea held during the huge Hand #39 that ended without a a showdown. Heinz opened, Lamb called, O’Dea four-bet from the small blind, and Heinz called, forcing a fold from Lamb. Pot 10.775 million.
The flop came . O’Dea leads with a bet of 4.6 million, and Rousso is saying O’Dea’s body language suggests he’s strong. After some thought, Heinz calls, making the pot almost 20 million.
The turn brings the -- a third club. The commentators all think we’re looking at two big pocket pairs. O’Dea again leads, this time for 8.2 million. The hoody-wearing Heinz riffles chips for several minutes. The longer Heinz tanks, the more the commentators are convinced that O’Dea is feeling comfortable and Heinz much less so.
At the four-minute mark, Heinz makes what Rousso calls the “muck face” -- i.e., he looks like he’s going to fold. Then, boom... he’s all in! For 16 million. O’Dea folds immediately! The hands...
Wow. Heinz up to 44 million-plus, edging close to the leader Staszko. O’Dea way down to 11 million-ish; only Holden has less. What a hand.
Heinz -- considered by many the most aggressive player of the final nine -- has climbed from seventh to the chip lead after just 45 hands. He is closing in on 50 million.
They have reached the end of the level and the next 15-minute break. After exactly 50 hands, all nine players still alive. Here are the counts heading into Level 38 (100k/400k/800k):
Pius Heinz -- 49,950,000
Martin Staszko -- 43,525,000
Matt Giannetti -- 26,525,000
Ben Lamb -- 21,675,000
Phil Collins -- 15,775,000
Badih "Bob" Bounahra -- 14,025,000
Eoghan O'Dea -- 13,025,000
Sam Holden -- 11,225,000
Anton Makiievskyi -- 10,200,000
Sam Holden is out in ninth, KO'd in the first hand back from the break. He three-bet shoved with and Lamb quickly called with . The first four community cards were clubs, and that was that.
“I think I’m happy with how I played for the most part,” said the curly-headed Holden to Kara Scott afterwards. “I had a really good time.... Things didn’t quite work out for me at the final table, but I’m very pleased with the experience.”
Chips for “Benba” (as you can hear his fans calling). He’s up over 34 million now, good for third.
Relatively big hand just now between Matt Giannetti and Bob Bounahra. Bounahra opened from UTG and it folded around to Giannetti who after a long pause called from the big blind. Both checked the jack-high flop, then Giannetti led both the turn and river, with the cigar-chomping man from Belize calling him on both streets.
By the end the board read 3-J-6-5-5 (no flush possible), and while Bounahra thought about whether to call the river Esfandiari put him on a middle pair. “If he can beat a jack, I'm quitting poker,” Esfandiari added.
After another minute the Magician then surmised that Bounahra probably wanted to make a hero call -- and he was right. Bounahra did call, and had to muck his pocket tens after seeing Giannetti's J-8.
That one dropped Bounahra to the bottom, eighth of eight with a little over 8.5 million. Meanwhile, Giannetti climbed a touch over Lamb and back into third with about 35.5 million.
Down to seven now. Makiievskyi open-shoved his short stack of 10.5 million with K-Q and leader Heinz quickly called from the big blind with pocket nines. The flop was good for the Ukrainian, coming , but the turn cruelly brought the .
Makiievskyi looked upwards in disbelief, then could only smile as a red seven on the river sent him out in eighth.
In his exit interview with Scott he was obviously disappointed, but in reasonably good spirits. She asked him about the crowd and whether it affected him, and he said it didn’t really although the noise during hands wasn’t necessarily ideal.
Heinz is up over 61 million now. Shortly after that one they showed that lucky hand from Day 8 in which Heinz sucked out with K-J against John Hewitt’s A-K with 11 players left.
Hellmuth is back in the booth and making more observations about how the 15-minute delay is affecting the play. For example, that hand in which O’Dea tried to push Heinz off the queens (see 2:55 p.m.) came about 30 minutes after one in which Heinz had three-bet preflop with a so-so hand and gotten a fold. Hellmuth's point is that O’Dea knew about the earlier hand when he got aggressive against Heinz in the later one. It's possible, I suppose, although the way that one played out I can't really buy O'Dea making his move strictly based on that one sorta-bluffy preflop three-bet from before.
Meanwhile, Belize Bob has been eliminated in seventh. Down to less than 4.5 million (less than six big blinds), he reraise-pushed with A-5 and was called by Staszko who held A-9. The board blanked, and Bounahra is out.
In his exit interview, Scott asked him about the hand with Giannetti (see 4:05 p.m.), and Bounahra said he “put him on an ace-king or ace-queen or an underpair” and not jack-eight. You get the feeling he isn't too disappointed with seventh, though. “I came here to have fun, and I will have fun tonight, no matter what” he said with a wide grin.
Six left. Half are American.
Pius Heinz -- 52,500,000
Matt Giannetti -- 49,075,000
Martin Staszko -- 45,750,000
Ben Lamb -- 31,600,000
Phil Collins -- 15,375,000
Eoghan O'Dea -- 11,625,000
Kind of an epic suckout just now as Phil Collins survived with against Lamb's . (See details here.) He and Lamb essentially switch stacks there, with Collins up close to 30 million and Lamb back down to about half that.
“Sorry bud,” said a very reserved and cool Collins to Lamb afterwards. Lamb was also pretty stoic-looking following the hand. You can tell he was disappointed not to win the hand and knock out a tough opponent, but only barely. Both these guys -- really all of the November Niners -- have been nothing but professional from the get-go.
You could also make out Collins saying one other thing after the hand -- “First time all in.” He’s referring to the entire Main Event (no shinola).
The last hand of Level 38 saw a preflop all-in confrontation between the two short stacks, Ben Lamb and Eoghan O’Dea.
O’Dea opened with a raise, Lamb shoved, and O’Dea thought for almost three full minutes before making the call. Lamb had and was the one at risk versus O’Dea who held .
Decent flop for Lamb, the board bringing him a flush draw and in fact making him a slight favorite with two cards to come. The turn was a black four, but the hit on the river to save Lamb. He bumps back up over 29 million while O’Dea goes to the break with less than 3 million.
The Irishman will have less than 3 big blinds when Level 39 begins. They’ll be playing about half of this next two-hour level, then the remaining players will go on a 90-minute dinner break.
Pius Heinz -- 65,200,000
Matt Giannetti -- 51,675,000
Martin Staszko -- 38,250,000
Ben Lamb -- 29,450,000
Phil Collins -- 18,750,000
Eoghan O'Dea -- 2,600,000
During the break, ESPN2 showed a quick report that largely focused on Black Friday and its various effects while also mentioning a few other “year in review”-type stories.
Also during the break, Oskar Garcia tweeted this picture of the 500,000 chip, which is being put into play here in Level 39. Meanwhile, my buddy Eric Ramsey -- there at the Rio reporting for PokerNews -- also sent a tweet in which he posed a question: “Dinner break coming in 50 minutes. Anyone care to set odds on us being three-handed before then?”
After two hands of Level 39, Eric’s question appeared especially prescient. That’s because players busted on each of those two hands -- Nos. 99 and 100 of the final table.
First O’Dea was dispatched by Staszko when his Q-6 couldn’t catch up to the Czech player's pocket eights. Then Collins was knocked out by Heinz when his couldn’t outdraw the German’s pocket nines.
Boom, boom. Four remain. Might not even get to that dinner break.
Well, they did make it to dinner, meaning a later night for us here on the east coast. During the 20 hands played since Collins was eliminated, Lamb became especially active, winning nearly half the hands.
In one of the last just before the break, Staszko limped in from UTG/the cutoff and it folded around to Lamb in the BB who checked. The flop came 8-8-K rainbow and Lamb checked. Staszko quickly bet 1.2 million (just under half the pot), and with some deliberation Lamb check-raised to 2.6 million. Staszko collected chips, then made it 5.2 million to go, something Esfandiari said looked very suspicious. Lamb unhesitatingly made it 8 million, and the Czech folded instantly.
The cards? Staszko , and Lamb !
Here are the stacks going to break:
Pius Heinz -- 85,500,000
Matt Giannetti -- 50,325,000
Ben Lamb -- 46,300,000
Martin Staszko -- 23,900,000
Back on the other side.
The remaning four players are back in action and coverage has resumed on ESPN2.
David Tuchman has stepped into the booth now, joining Hellmuth and Esfandiari. Tuchman is saying it is Level 40, but they’ve actually still nearly another hour of Level 39 to go.
Each of the four players won a hand apiece during the first orbit, none of which saw a flop. Staszko is now down under 22 million (i.e., under 22 BBs).
All four of these players are clearly tough -- adjusting constantly, using aggression when appropriate, picking spots well. In other words, I think it is safe to say that whoever wins, there will be marginally less talk of the winner having luckboxed his way to the bracelet than tends to have come up during the post-"boom" era. Unless Benba wins, I guess, although amid all of his run-good the 2011 WSOP Player of the Year has certainly proven himself among the most skillful.
Kind of an interesting hand just now between Heinz and Lamb. Heinz completed from the SB, Lamb made it 2.7 million from the BB, and Heinz called. Heinz then led for 3.1 million following a flop, and Lamb called. Heinz bet again after the fell -- 6.3 million this time -- and Lamb let it go without much hesitation.
Heinz had and Lamb .
Shortly after that (Hand #146), Heinz four-bet Lamb before the flop (to 14 million), forcing a fold. In that one, Heinz had Q-8-off (better than Lamb’s 10-5-off).
Big double-up for Staszko, all in for 21.52 million with A-8 versus the 6-6 of leader Heinz.
As Heinz thought about the call, Esfandiari and Hellmuth agreed Heinz would be calling with a hand like pocket sevens or A-10 or A-9.
Two eights flopped, and the Czech's hand held. He's up over 44 million, while Heinz still leads with just under 75 million. Giannetti remains in second with about 56 million -- he's been second or third pretty much all day -- and Lamb is now the short stack with a little under 30 million.
Okay, now they are starting Level 40 (200k/800k/1.6m).
Pius Heinz -- 73,800,000
Matt Giannetti -- 56,000,000
Martin Staszko -- 44,500,000
Ben Lamb -- 31,600,000
Sounds like they are indeed frequently telling the crowd to keep quiet during hands. Was wondering way back this morning whether or not that would be the case, particularly considering many of those in attendance not only are following coverage online, too, but have bet on the outcome. (EDIT [added 11/8/11]: Vin Narayanan of Casino City Times kept a live blog on Sunday as well, and he comments frequently on the rowdy crowd and the efforts to shush them. See his 11/7 article, “Shhh. We’re trying to play a poker tournament.”)
In hand #158, Heinz and Giannetti built a pot of exactly 30 million by the turn, then checked both of the last two streets. Final board K-K-7-Q-9. Heinz showed Q-8 suited -- a lot of chips for him to get in before pairing up on the turn. Giannetti mucked his hand, which we got to see -- 8-8.
Esfandiari has taken off, with Norman Chad joining Tuchman and Hellmuth. Meanwhile, Staszko has now moved into second place after winning a huge one versus Heinz.
Staszko opened from the button for 2.5 million and Heinz called from the BB. The flop came , and Heinz check-called Staszko's 2.5 million c-bet. He'd check-call a bigger bet -- 7.5 million -- after the turn.
The river was the and Heinz checked once more. This time Staszko bet 13.75 million, pushing the total pot up over 40 million. Heinz tanked for about four minutes, during which time Hellmuth put him on A-9 or A-8.
“All Heinz is thinking is ‘Does Staszko have it or not?’ and ‘Can I make this thin call on the river or not?’”
Finally Heinz decided he could not make the call and let his hand go. We see he had . Third pair, ultimately. But Staszko hadn't gotten there until the river, which as it turned out gave him the nuts -- he had .
Heinz slipped to about 79 million on that one, while Staszko moved up over 58 million. Giannetti remained just under 40 million, and Lamb a bit below 30 million.
It’s fashionable to joke about Ben Lamb running good, being a luckbox, having a horseshoe up his ass, what have you. He certainly has experienced some good fortune today, including an opportune river card to avoid being eliminated in sixth (see 5:50 p.m.). And in the past as well. But he’s also pretty obviously a helluva player.
That said, the night has ended with Lamb scoring a couple of hands off of Matt Giannetti in which skill didn’t matter all that much.
In the first, Lamb four-bet shoved for 26.8 million with and was insta-called by Giannetti who held -- the hand that he’d doubled up with twice at that ten-handed final table back in July. But here two hearts flopped, a third came on the turn, and the river was no matter. Lamb was up over 55 million, and Giannetti was in the danger zone.
Giannetti would double through Staszko on the next hand. Then Lamb called off more than 10 million chips’ worth in a hand versus Heinz before folding the river, enabling the German to move up over 100 million.
Then, in Hand #178 of the final table, there arose another preflop all-in confrontation between Giannetti and Lamb. The former was risking his last 12 million with . But there was Lamb, running good, and tabling .
The flop brought not one but both of the other kings, and that was that.
Here’s how the payouts went today:
4th -- Matt Giannetti ($3,012,700)
5th -- Phil Collins ($2,269,599)
6th -- Eoghan O’Dea ($1,720,831)
7th -- Badih “Bob” Bounahra ($1,314,097)
8th -- Anton Makiievskyi ($1,010,015)
9th -- Sam Holden ($782,115)
And here are the counts of the remaining three:
Pius Heinz -- 107,800,000
Ben Lamb -- 55,400,000
Martin Staszko -- 42,700,000
It’s late, so I’m going to wrap it up here quickly and save further musing for tomorrow. In the end we saw more than nine hours’ worth of “almost live” poker on ESPN2 today, and the show was terrific from beginning to end.
And the sequel comes Tuesday.