Monday, November 07, 2011

Impressions (2011 WSOP November Nine, Day 1)

Thinking about last night’s coverage of the 2011 WSOP Main Event final table some today. Three impressions to share.

One, stopping with three left rather than play down to heads-up was a definite plus. Helped make for a reasonable length of day on Sunday, and also ensures something extra to look forward to on Tuesday.

Two, Ben Lamb certainly enjoyed some good fortune last night, but so did Pius Heinz and Martin Staszko.

Lamb’s “run good” may seem at times to outweigh that of others. And without having hit a lucky river with Qd8d against O’Dea's Ac9d to avoid going out in sixth, we wouldn’t be talking about the cherub-faced Oklahoman’s continued chance at the bracelet. But he’s as deserving as anyone at this point to be there, and I think whomever emerges on Tuesday is going to be regarded as a worthy winner.

Three, the 15-minute delay did have some effect on the play, especially early on when players might have played a touch tighter than they would have without it, but probably less so than it might have seemed.

I’m thinking in particular of what might have been the most important hand last night, the tide-turning one (Hand #39) in which Pius Heinz took more than 17 million chips from Eoghan O’Dea (see the 2:55 p.m. mark in yesterday’s post). Heinz rocketed from eighth to second in that one, while O’Dea tumbled from second to eighth.

Was probably the most interesting hand of the 178 they played last night, kind of faintly echoing (with lesser stakes and consequences) of the infamous Joseph Cheong six-bet shove with A-7 against Jonathan Duhamel’s pocket queens at last year’s final table.

The blinds were 300k/600k (ante 75k) when Heinz opened for 1.3 million from middle position. Ben Lamb called from one seat over, then it folded back to O’Dea who made it 4.1 million from the small blind. Heinz just called, Lamb folded, then the flop came 8c8d4c.

O’Dea led for 4.6 million and Heinz called, then the turn brought the 2c. O’Dea led again for 8.2 million, after several minutes Heinz shoved, and O’Dea quickly folded. We then got to see Heinz had QsQc and O’Dea AhQd.

A while later Phil Hellmuth came back in the booth. Incidentally I thought Hellmuth’s commentary early on was mostly fine, though became less useful especially late when they were four-handed and he seemed mostly reduced to firing off generic comments about players needing “to step up their games” and the like. Meanwhile, Antonio Esfandiari was quite good throughout his time on the broadcast, as was Lon McEachern.

Anyhow, Hellmuth had ducked out mid-afternoon, then came back about an hour after the big O’Dea-Heinz hand. Asked about the new chip leader Heinz, Hellmuth alluded to an earlier hand in which “he made a nice king-jack move,” then suggested O’Dea played Hand #39 they way he did because of the earlier hand.

“They tried to bluff him because they had read the king-jack hand earlier in the session,” said Hellmuth (confusingly referring to O’Dea as “they”).

The earlier hand had happened almost exactly 30 minutes before (Hand #29). In that one, Phil Collins opened with a UTG raise to 1.3 million (just over 2x the 600,000 big blind). Then Heinz reraised to 2.9 million from three seats over and it folded back around to Collins who thought a while, then let it go. We then saw Collins had Ah7h, while Heinz had KsJh.

This was the only previous hand in which Heinz had won with K-J. He’d won four hands prior to Hand #29, then none between then and Hand #39. In none of earlier hands he had won did Heinz do anything especially out-of-the-ordinary. (And really, the K-J “move” wasn't all that out-of-the-ordinary, either.)

In one he’d gotten a walk. In another, Heinz opened with QdTd and won the blinds and antes. And in a third he opened from the button with KhQc, was called by Staszko with pocket sevens, then c-bet the A-Q-2 flop to take it down.

The only other hand Heinz won was with A-A, a hand from the second orbit against O’Dea who held pocket nines (Hand #14). Heinz actually played that hand quite cautiously, checking the turn with an overpair and nut flush draw.

So Hellmuth was clearly talking about that one three-bet by Heinz versus Collins, and suggesting that O’Dea was firing those post-flop barrels from out of position with ace-high because he’d seen Heinz three-bet open from late position with K-J. O’Dea was consulting with friends on the rail between hands, as were the other players, although it’s conceivable O’Dea didn’t even know about the earlier hand when the one with Heinz came up. And if he did, I’m not convinced it had made that big of an impression on him. Much, much else going on in his mind during Hand #39, I’m sure.

That said, the delay and hole cards being shown surely had some effect last night. And I imagine going forward as this sort of “almost live” or maybe truly live poker starts to become the norm players will begin to incorporate the extra information more and more into their thinking.

For more impressions of the effect of the 15-minute delayed broadcast, see this piece from Oskar Garcia in which Lamb calls it “a whole different form of poker” while Heinz says the added info is “not too important, actually.”

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