Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Travel Report: 2012-13 WSOP-C Harrah’s Cherokee Main Event, Day 3 -- Expectations

With about 20 players left in the 2012-13 World Series of Poker Circuit Main Event at Harrah’s Cherokee, my blogging partner Rich and I took a look at the remaining field. Quickly we decided upon three of the players as kind of standing out from the others, and agreed that the eventual winner would likely be one of the trio.

The three we chose were all younger (early-to-mid 20s) and had already shown enough competence and skill to distinguish themselves. And having covered so many tourneys between us over the years, we felt we had a decent feel for how this suckers usually go.

When writing about the WSOP-C Foxwoods trip a week ago, I’d mentioned how the eventual winner Kevin “BeL0WaB0Ve” Saul had already stood out well before the final table as the player to beat, and as it happened he’d go on to win. Had kind of a similar feeling this time about the ones we had picked.

As it happened, we were wrong with our guesses. Expectations thwarted, you might say. Kind of like when Rich and I were at Paula Deen's Kitchen a couple of nights before, and Rich found out the vegetable of the day was brussel sprouts.

The field at Cherokee this week likely included a number of first-time tourney players, or at least folks for whom the $1,675 buy-in event represented something special to them after years of home games and (much) lower buy-in tourneys. Such is one of the fun elements of the WSOP-C, namely, the way even the Main Event can bring in players who don’t necessarily participate in the other, higher profile tours or go to the WSOP in Las Vegas.

And I suppose, such is also the cause for the occasional surprise, too, when it comes to the way WSOP-C events sometimes play out.

As it would happen, none of the three we’d pegged would win, although one -- Daniel Weinman -- did finish runner-up. Speaking of Weinman and that Fossilman story from yesterday, Rich told me Weinman tweeted to him today “I forgot to get my rock back,” and it sounds like Rich will be returning it to him at another WSOP-C event stop.

Rather it was John Bowman, a 30-year-old amateur from nearby Hickory, North Carolina who won. Apparently (so we heard afterwards) he’d only played in his first tournament a few days before.

I liked Weinman, but I was still glad for Bowman and his excited buddies afterwards, despite the fact that Bowman sported a Duke shirt. Rich took some winner’s photos, and had me laughing pretty hard when he got everyone to deliver a boisterous “HELL YEAH!” for the camera.

But it was 69-year-old Raymond Weaver that had us raising our eyebrows time after time yesterday. Neither of us had thought he’d have much of a shot on Day 3. But he not only made the final table, he had an especially active first couple of levels that saw him chip up to more than 6 million at a time when no one else had even half that.

Weaver still had a big lead when three-handed began, but soon lost a hand to Bowman in which the latter doubled through Weaver, then quickly slid down before losing the last of his chips to Bowman to land in third.

Weaver definitely exhibited a lot of the familiar signs of older, amateur players, limping and calling a lot and occasionally going into super-tight mode at times when he might’ve been better off remaining aggressive.

But unlike Rick Hensley on Day 2 -- the player who managed to go from first with 201 left to elimination before they’d even gotten down to 150 or so -- Weaver had some good instincts and played relatively well. And his making the final table wasn’t such a fluke, we’d discover, as he already made one other WSOP Circuit Main Event final table last year (at Tunica).

So Bowman and Weaver surprised us, and all in all it was an interesting and entertaining final table to follow and report on, even if we were more than a little distracted by the news from the Boston Marathon from early in the afternoon. Talk about upsetting expectations. Reminded me of covering the Sands Bethlehem tourney back in December on the day of the Newtown shootings. Indeed, much of what I wrote on that day applies again here. Again it felt odd to be locked in that poker tourney cocoon while such terrible things were happening outside of it.

The tourney ended just in time for Rich and I to make it to the Ruth Chris in the casino before they shut their doors, and after rewarding ourselves with late night filets we finally got a decent night’s sleep before I carried him to the Asheville airport this morning. Had a fun visit with PokerGrump and Cardgrrl afterwards, both of whom now live in Asheville, then motored back home.

Am pretty spent after the last spell of traveling and working, but it looks like I’ll get to stay put for a while, perhaps even until June when I’ll head back out to Las Vegas for the WSOP. Was glad to have been there at Cherokee for this event, and from the looks of things the WSOP-C will most certainly be returning after what turned out to be a successful series that exceeded everyone’s expectations.

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