Monday, December 17, 2012

Travel Report: Sands Bethlehem DeepStack Extravaganza Main Event, Day 2

Yesterday’s Day 2 at the Sands Bethlehem DeepStack Extravaganza Main Event saw players push through eight 75-minute levels and the field cut down from 70 to 16. The money bubble burst at 18, and in fact the two most intriguing hands of the day came right on the bubble when 19 players were remaining, both of which involved chip leader Chris Klodnicki.

Klodnicki was one of a handful of familiar faces in the field at the start of the event. Eventually we have gotten to know nearly everyone, but he was among the few pros playing whom we regularly see elsewhere. He only bought in once, accumulated chips throughout Day 1a to end as the leader, then ended yesterday’s Day 2 on top of the final 16 as the only player with more than a million chips.

My blogging partner Mickey Doft was reminding me that Klodnicki made a deep run in the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event, finishing 12th (for $591,869) and just missing the first November Nine. He was barely featured in the ESPN coverage that year, and so kind of flew under the radar as he accumulated more cashes over the next few months, including winning a couple of events in Atlantic City (one a WSOP Circuit one).

Klodnicki kept cashing and making deep runs, including finishing runner-up to Chris Bell in the WSOP-C Harrah’s Atlantic City $10K Regional Championship in 2010. In fact, Ketan Pandya and Micah Raskin were also at that final table, finishing third and fourth, respectively. Pandya was the last elimination in our event last night, finishing 17th, while Raskin returns today to a healthy stack.

By the 2011 WSOP (where he cashed six times), everyone definitely knew him. Then in December of last year he had a big win in the last event staged by the ill-fated Epic Poker League, earning over $800K for winning the Mix-Max event. This year was then highlighted by Klodnicki’s second-place finish to Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi in the $50K Poker Players Championship at the WSOP, earning him his largest career score of $896,935.

Klodnicki already had a big chip lead with 19 left last night, and he continued to add to it by leaning on others and pressuring them with his big stack during bubble play. One wild hand eventually developed in which Klodnicki managed to get Vince Baldassano to fold his ace-high flush on a paired board with a river shove, and afterwards revealed he only had two pair. Read about that one here in a post titled “Tricky Klodnicki.”

The other memorable moment yesterday came in what proved the hand that burst the bubble, when a short-stacked Abhinav Asija reraised his stack of just under 10 big blinds with pocket tens and Klodnicki thought a while before calling with A-Q-suited. A ten flopped, but Klodnicki rivered Broadway to eliminate his opponent.

The painful way the board ran out for Asija was interesting enough in that one, although Klodnicki’s subsequent explanation that he really would have preferred to keep the bubble going was also enlightening. He talked about it a little after the hand, then when play wrapped up for the night he continued to explain how he felt like he really should have folded in that spot. He was the chip leader by a wide margin at the time, in fact, with nearly 1.1 million when no one else had more than about half that amount.

I’d love to hear Klodnicki talk about those two hands, say, on the Two Plus Two Pokercast or the Thinking Poker podcast, as I think they illustrated a lot about the dynamics of bubble play and perhaps some factors that many players aren’t necessarily aware of or consider. They also helped further the impression we’d already developed early on Day 1a that Klodnicki had an edge over most of the players in the field when it came to tournament strategy.

Klodnicki’s clearly the favorite with 16 remaining, although there are several other savvy players left as well. The plan for today is to relocate up in the poker area of the casino for today’s final day, which will be a dramatic difference in terms of ambience (noisy and dark rather than quiet and light). Will be curious to see how that plays out and how players adjust.

Check over at PokerNews for live updates from today’s final day at Bethlehem, where Mickey and I will be chronicling it all and Joe Giron providing the great pictures (like the one above) to accompany our posts.

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