Monday, December 19, 2011

Unlimited Hold’em

Can, 'Unlimited Edition' LP (1974)Was up late last night, following both the finale of the third Epic Poker League Main Event and the $10,300 buy-in “High Roller” event on PokerStars.

The latter was part of the 10th Anniversary festivities over on Stars, running alongside the big Sunday Million that drew over 62,000 players and sported a whopping $12,423,200 prize pool. Meanwhile, the High Roller attracted 187 players, making for a $1.87 million prize pool over there, well above the event’s $500,000 guarantee.

The High Roller event featured deep starting stacks (200 big blinds) and 30-minute levels. Meanwhile, the last day of the Epic Poker League “mix max” event also found the final players super-deep, averaging nearly 167 BBs to start. On Sunday they played down from five to two players -- Andrew Lichtenberger and Chris Klodnicki -- at which point those two then played a best-of-three heads-up match.

They carried their stacks over to heads-up from when Joe Tehan busted in third, which meant Klodnicki started with 3.47 million and Lichtenberger 1.526 million. The blinds were just 6,000/12,000 when they began, meaning Klodnicki had almost 290 BBs and Lichtenberger a little more than 127 BBs.

Klodnicki beat Lichtenberger in their first match, taking more than three-and-a-half hours to do so. And then they reset the stacks and rolled back the blinds and did it all over again.

Such deep stacks of course allowed for more “play” at the end of these tournaments, which meant players were able to engage in a lot more post-flop challenges of one another. Most definitely got the sense in both tourneys that skill was at a premium, particularly at the very end.

I’d spent the better part of the day watching NFL football, enjoying the constant action of that game which also requires a great deal of skill but for which luck plays a role, too. As I followed the much more serene-seeming poker through the night, I couldn’t help but think what a tough sell these tourneys really were as “spectator sports.”

Kind of a paradox, I suppose, that in order to show most definitively the skill poker can require, one has to slow down the game to a point where only the most dedicated players or fans would be willing to watch.

I noticed a railbird at one point in the High Roller tournament jokingly refer to the game they were playing as “unlimited hold’em.” As the tourney dragged on into the wee hours of the morning, it did start to seem like it could go on and on and on -- as though not only was there no limit on the betting, but no limit on the amount of time they were willing to take to decide the sucker.

Eventually ends would come for both the High Roller and Epic Poker League events. And I guess both in a way demonstrated how the appeal of poker played at its highest level is certainly not unlimited.

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