Gee’s early exit didn’t surprise me too much. I was noting yesterday how I’d seen Gee make some fishy plays back in July. I was thinking of his “accidental call” on Day 6 (to knock out Nick DiVella) and a couple of hands on Day 7 when he’d done some overcalling and chasing at the secondary feature table.
Both Salaburu and Esposito were relatively tight during the eight or so orbits they lasted. Didn’t necessarily expect that of Salaburu, whom I’d seen appear aggressive on Day 7 (although as I pointed out on Monday, it turned out he’d been dealt a lot of big starting hands). Esposito I’d seen less of back in July, but it became obvious early on when he limp-reraised with pocket kings -- then limped a couple more times with his short stack -- that he was probably outmatched.
Esposito’s exit came in Hand #70. I watched about 15 more hands after that before popping in the tape and hitting the sack. (That’s right, we’re using the old school VCR here at chez Shamus.) As it turned out, then, none of the first three players eliminated last night necessarily distinguished himself as someone deserving better as far as his finish went.
By then it was pretty clear that Greg Merson was the most likely candidate to make tonight’s final three, with Jesse Sylvia (still leading) also appearing favored to join him. If I had to guess at that point who the third would be, I probably would’ve picked Russell Thomas who impressed with the big call with pocket queens against Gee’s 8-8 early on, although appeared to turtle up following that hand.
When I awoke this morning I avoided email, Twitter, and any other idle web surfing and watched the rest of last night’s action.
Andras Koroknai’s six-bet shove of 40 million-plus versus Merson with K-Q-offsuit (Hand #108), resulting in his elimination in sixth place, was surprising to say the least. The analysis by Antonio Esfandiari during the hand (and by Olivier Busquet during the break) pointed to an earlier hand (Hand #85) in which Koroknai had been five-bet out of a hand by Sylvia, a hand which had happened long enough before for the Hungarian to have learned that Sylvia had held but Q-J-offsuit.
In other words -- if indeed Koroknai was influenced by that earlier hand -- having the 15-minute delay with hole cards had a significant effect on one player’s decision-making, and thus (perhaps) the outcome of the table as a whole. In any case, the night would conclude with Gee and Koroknai being remembered for having made the biggest missteps.
Jeremy Ausmus played his short stack well early on to chip up and out of the danger zone before getting tripped up in fifth in a tricky hand versus Sylvia.
Jake Balsiger folded some winners early on, but as the night went on made several well-considered bets and raises to keep his stack reasonably healthy, too. Then came the last hand of the night (Hand #135) and that blind-vs.-blind confrontation when he benefited from some impatience from Thomas to knock the latter out in fourth.
I enjoyed the show, and look forward to more tonight. Recall that last summer ESPN started trying this “almost live”-type coverage at the WSOP, showing every hand and then revealing the hole cards for the last two players afterwards (for non-showdown hands). I believe it was earlier in 2011, at the pre-Black Friday PokerStars Caribbean Adventure -- where ESPN first tried the experiment. The WPT also began doing something similar with its streaming of final tables online.
Even so, watching unedited poker on the tube can be a grind. With the commercial breaks and overall slow pace, they were playing at a glacial clip of about 15 hands per hour. Tough stuff even for the most dedicated poker fan, I think. In fact, there was one stretch during the latter part of play (Hands #88-#103) where an entire hour went by without a single flop. I’m still a little amazed that ESPN devotes so much air time on one of its primary networks to the sucker.
As I watched last night and this morning, I thought about my “Keeping Score” post from last week. Unlike back in 1997, when Tom Sims (all on his own) kept track of and then reported every final table hand as he saw it, now we all can watch every hand -- repeatedly if we like -- and not only know all of the immediately observable action but hole cards as well.
It’s also possible to pull together an even more comprehensive “scorecard” of the ME final table, too, by looking both at PokerNews’ reporting and the ESPN video. Of course, even there a few small items fall through the cracks, such as the occasional bet amount and hole card. In fact, ESPN missed showing one quick raise-and-take hand altogether (Hand #86) while showing a little montage of knockouts.
Thus we can go back and say (for instance) that Merson picked up A-K exactly eight times in the 135 hands dealt last night (Hands #31, #35, #36, #70, #78, #99, #109, #118), including the two big knockout hands versus Esposito and Koroknai. He also was dealt A-Q three times (Hands #92, 95, 96). And he won all 11 of those hands.
Incidentally, K-K was dealt three times last night -- to Esposito (Hand #5), Salaburu (Hand #22), and Balsiger twice (Hands #53 and #119). Pocket aces were dealt but once, to Sylvia (Hand #88).
We were able to see Balsiger dealt pocket pairs nine times last night. In addition to getting kings twice, he was dealt 9-9 twice (#16, #29), 10-10 three times (#20, #67, #72), 5-5 once (#130), and 2-2 once (#131). Salaburu almost equaled that clip by getting pocket pairs four times in the 65 hands he played. We saw no other player with pocket pairs more than three times last night (although some could well have folded them without their hands being shown). Balsiger picked up A-K five times, too (Hands #8, #37, #57, #78, and #135).
Gotta believe Merson (1st, 88.35 million) is the betting favorite tonight, although really both Sylvia (62.75 million) and Balsiger (3rd, 46.875 million) appear savvy enough to break through, especially if the cards cooperate. In other words, it seems doubtful there will be any slip-ups as dramatic as those of Gee and Koroknai on Monday, but who knows?
Who do you think will be the 2012 WSOP Main Event champ?