Last year I did an “almost live blog” of the WSOP ME final table (Day 1 & Day 2), essentially sharing reactions as I viewed the “almost live” coverage. Not sure I’ll be able to pull something similar off this time, for a couple of reasons.
One is that I’m going on just a couple of hours’ sleep as it is, having sat up all night following that All-Star Showdown match on PokerStars last night (and this morning) between Isaac Haxton and Alex “Kanu7” Millar. The other is I am trying to get my act together for a big poker writing trip to Macau for the big Asia Championship of Poker. I’ll leaving for that one on Thursday, assuming of course no hurricanes get in the way. (More on that here before I go.)
All of which means I am already running low on mental energy to do any sort of writing tonight, and probably would do well to preserve and recharge what little I have left before making that long, long, long trip to Macau. Not that the world needs another scribbler scribbling about the WSOP Main Event final table, as there will be no shortage of that happening over the next couple of days.
I do feel a little more locked in this year than was the case last year, though, probably because I followed the ESPN coverage a little more closely this time and did ultimately enjoy a lot of what I saw. Still kind of pine for 441 Productions’ handling of the WSOP from before, but I nonetheless found a lot of this year’s coverage (by Poker PROductions) fairly compelling and a step up from 2011.
I’m more familiar with the final nine players, too, and while watching these last few weeks’ worth of ESPN shows was reliving a lot of what happened during those last couple of days of play in July.
Chip leader Jesse Sylvia (1st, 43,875 million) is predictably listed at the sportsbooks as a favorite, and he certainly seems like a capable player who has an idea how to use his chips. I remember him excitedly talking to his friends on a break during his big Day 7 rush about hoping it wasn’t all a dream, which was a fun memory from the last day of play this summer.
Meanwhile, Greg Merson (3rd, 28.75 million) obviously stands out as a contender, with the associated sidebar story of his run at the WSOP Player of the Year (only possible with a ME win) adding another slight layer of intrigue.
Of the others, the short stacks Jeremy Ausmus (9th, 9.805 million) and young Jake Balsiger (8th, 13.115 million) are both likable guys who’ll obviously need some help to climb into contention. The extrovert Robert Salaburu (7th, 15.155 million) is also kind of a character who I’m remembering appeared to dominate the secondary feature table during the early part of Day 7. Come to find out from the ESPN broadcasts he picked up A-K like four times or something -- and seemed to connect with the board each time -- so that perhaps partly explained the rapid chipping up he enjoyed that afternoon.
Of the two older players, I’d be inclined to suggest Michael Esposito (6th, 16.26 million) has a better chance than Steve Gee (5th, 16.86 million) after remembering a few of Gee’s hands from July, but both are obviously big underdogs. Gee does have a WSOP bracelet -- the only player other than Merson to boast of such -- and so I suppose might have some ideas about finishing the deal.
I imagine Russell Thomas (4th, 24.8 million) also has some extra knowledge heading into tonight thanks to his training with Jason Somerville et al. (I think Thomas and Esposito are the only real non-pros at this final table, unless we want to count the college student Balsiger, too.)
And while most are focusing on the lone non-American Andras Koroknai (2nd, 29.375 million) as the villain who knocked out Gaelle Baumann and Elisabeth Hille (and who fortunately survived a helluva blunder in that infamous all-in-and-muck hand), he, too, has experience closing a big event, having won the $10K WPT L.A. Poker Classic in February 2010. In fact, the $1.78 million first prize the Hungarian took there is the biggest cash any of the final nine has ever previously enjoyed.
Lots of good storylines, I think, and of course more will emerge tonight. Like I say, I may just watch and enjoy rather than try to narrate anything as it goes, taking a turn as a spectator for once. That said, I’ll hold out as an option the possibility of jumping back on here if I see something that compels me to do so.
In any event, those who do watch, enjoy it! And feel free to let me know what you think about it, too.