Time travel stories represent another category of SF that always intrigued me, especially those stories that used the conceit of traveling through time to explore ideas about what might be natural to us as humans and what is learned behavior or thinking. You know, stories that use time travel to show how particular cultures shape us into being and acting a certain way, with the move to the past or future forcing characters to question assumptions about themselves or each other. (See Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.)
You could say any attempt to write factually about something that has happened in the past is a little like traveling through time. Even writing up a hand report at a poker tournament involves imagining for a moment what you experienced a few minutes before.
In that case there are usually certain tangible facts that overwhelm the story and its significance, namely, the cards that were dealt, the bets that were made, and the ultimate impact of the hand on the tournament as a whole. Other elements might be worth including, too, as part of the effort to give a reader a sense of what it was like to have been there, standing nearby, watching what happened. But at the heart of it is an attempt to go back, to relive.
Last night I was helping cover Event No. 44, a $1,000 no-limit hold’em event in one corner of the Amazon. Meanwhile, across the spacious ballroom on the other side of the science-fiction-y “mothership,” there arose a complicated situation in Event No. 45, the $50,000 Poker Players Championship, surrounding a controversial pot-limit Omaha hand primarily involving Nikolai Yakovenko, Shaun Deeb, and Abe Mosseri. You’ve probably already heard something about this one, which came up last night right at the end of Day 2 of that five-day event.
Donnie Peters wrote up a detailed report of what happened (in two parts) for the PokerNews blog. In the first part, Donnie explains the complicated preflop betting that saw four players limp in, the small blind complete, then the big blind raise and the first three limpers call. Deeb then reraised with the rest of his chips from the button -- he had less than the amount needed to make a pot-sized raise, so he was all in. It folded to Yakovenko in the big blind who reraised over the top of Deeb’s raise, and only Mosseri called (after an especially long time in the tank).
The hands were tabled and the community cards dealt with Deeb winning the main pot and Mosseri the side pot. Then arose the real controversy over Yakovenko’s reraise over Deeb’s raise. According to Donnie, he’d said he was “all in” although he could only reraise the size of the pot. Which suggests he wasn’t really all in. And which also suggests Mosseri’s call wasn’t for all of his chips either (Yakovenko had Mosseri covered by a little), but for just whatever amounted to a pot-sized reraise. This despite the fact the players had played the hand as if it were an all-in shove and call.
At issue, then, was the side pot and how much Yakovenko really owed Mosseri after the hand. But the floor came over and apparently initially ruled that since Mosseri had only technically called a pot-sized reraise preflop, there should have been a betting round after the flop (there hadn’t been -- the five community cards were dealt out without any chances for post-flop betting), and thus “the turn and river would have to be rerun as the flop action hadn't been complete,” as Donnie reports.
In other words, it appeared as though they were going to try to go back in time (so to speak) to deal the turn and river anew, this time giving Yakovenko and Mosseri an opportunity to bet, raise, or fold. Such a ruling also meant Deeb was no longer safe. He’d survived the hand by flopping a set of jacks, then rivering a flush to beat Mosseri’s A-A-x-x and Yakovenko’s K-K-x-x. (I like how PN photographer Joe Giron used the fish-eye on that pic, adding a bit further to the weirdness of it all.)
See Donnie’s post for all of the specifics. He uses that initial ruling -- and Deeb’s understandably incredulous response -- as a cliffhanger moment, then comes back with the second part of the story in which the ruling gets overturned. There would be no redealing of the turn and river, after all. Also, Yakovenko was made to pay off Mosseri as though it had been an all-in situation even though Yakovenko couldn’t have raised all in, because that was essentially how the players had played the hand. (Sounds like a correct ruling.)
By the way, B.J. Nemeth additionally reported the hand for PokerListings. And both Donnie and B.J. did especially well, I thought, relating what happened clearly and thoroughly.
The controversy then continued when Yakovenko (crippled in the big hand) busted shortly thereafter and Phil Ivey was moved to the table to fill the empty seat. Because Mosseri had tanked for so long (possibly as much as 15 minutes, according to Donnie) and the subsequent efforts to get a ruling on the hand took a lot more time, players were unhappy they’d missed most of the last level of the night while other tables played on.
They’d already reached the point where it had been announced the clock would be stopped and only four more hands would be played. That’s when the table apparently proposed playing the last four hands of the night with Ivey, then have Ivey leave the table and allow them to play 15-20 more minutes to make up for hands lost before.
Ali Eslami explained it all to Donnie, using what I consider the line of the night to explain the players’ thinking. It would be like "going back in time to fill the space," Eslami told Donnie. The floor wasn’t going for that, though, and after four hands with Ivey the day was done.
Love that line. Probably a very good thing they weren’t allowed to go back in time to fill the space. All of us in the Amazon Room might have gotten swept up into a black hole or something, jettisoned out into a different dimension entirely.
Man, it would’ve taken forever to get a decent ruling if something like that had happened.
In the end, then, there were a couple of moments in the story where people had seriously entertained the idea of “going back in time” to redo things. In the first, the floor actually ruled they’d be redealing a turn and river in the big hand, then changed their minds. In the second, it was the players coming up with the idea of going back and reliving a section of Level 10, but that plan didn’t materialize either.
Not that you really can go back in time. Not really. Still, the desire to do so more or less possesses us so frequently. Happens constantly in poker tournaments. And in poker tournament reporting, too.
Probably says something about human nature, this desire we have always to go back and “get it right” or at least do things differently.
But no, the present is where we must remain, spending much of our time thinking about what has happened. And what might have been.