Saturday, June 22, 2013

2013 WSOP: Day 24: Year of the Player of the Year

Was a late one on Friday as I was on Day 3 of Event No. 35, the $3,000 pot-limit Omaha event here at the World Series of Poker where Jeff Madsen led pretty much the entire last day as they played down from 19. Madsen won his third WSOP bracelet and first since winning two in one week as a 21-year-old back in 2006.

Afterwards my blogging partner Rich and I marveled a little at how many of the WSOP Player of the Year winners seem to be thriving in 2013. In fact, four of them have won bracelets, counting 2004 WSOP POY winner Daniel Negreanu’s Main Event win at WSOP Asia Pacific. Madsen won the WSOP POY in 2006, Tom Schneider (who has won two bracelets this year) won it in 2007, and Erick Lindgren (who won a bracelet this week) won WSOP POY in 2008. Additionally, after the event completed last night, Jess Welman tweeted that seven of the nine WSOP POY winners have made final tables this year.

I liked Rich’s way of describing the trend. “Year of the Player of the Year,” he said. That pic above, by the way, is from the start of the 2008 WSOP (via Pokerati) and shows Madsen’s WSOP POY banner on the right and Schneider standing in the spot where his poster eventually would be hung that year.

I’ve been on two events thus far since I’ve arrived, won by Lindgren and Madsen. Good players repeatedly performing well in poker tournaments always inspires lots of talk about the game’s skill component, with results such as the ones we’ve seen at the WSOP this summer often becoming cited examples in a long running argument that the rewards in poker ultimately correspond to players’ relative decision-making abilities -- i.e., that poker is, indeed, “a skill game.”

Such results do not, however, work as evidence to support arguments minimizing luck’s role in the game. As dominating as Madsen was yesterday, there was a hand in which he was not involved that saw a short-stacked Scott Clements fail to earn a double-up after getting his last chips in on the turn with a 90% chance of winning only to bust in fifth.

For a good while before that hand, it appeared somewhat likely that Clements -- who like Madsen had won two bracelets prior to this event, both in Omaha games in fact -- would be the one eventually to meet Madsen heads up. Besides being the most accomplished players remaining, they appeared the strongest, too, and so it was hard not to anticipate such a conclusion.

But Madsen wouldn’t have to worry about Clements from four-handed on down, and after losing his lead momentarily just as heads-up play began with Douglas Corning, Madsen retook the advantage and more or less rolled to the win. That is him on the left from last night, still exhibiting that same characteristic pending-action pose with his left hand on his opposite shoulder as was captured in that banner photo from seven years before.

Such is often the case, that even in tourneys where a winner’s skill appears to have been unequivocally demonstrated, one still can’t deny the chance element in poker, especially short term. Sure poker “aintluckentirely (as the poker news site says). But it ain’t all skill, either.

By the way, that Phil Hellmuth blow-up I alluded to in yesterday’s post was in fact directed toward Madsen shortly after the latter had eliminated him.

Amid Hellmuth’s petulance -- which included him calling Madsen the “worst f***ing player ever” -- Hellmuth asked a question of the tourney’s eventual winner.

“How do you even have all those chips?”

Madsen didn’t reply, but the actual answer to such a question is always complicated, no matter how good the player with the chips is.

I’m back on another PLO event today, picking up Day 1 of the $5K PLO 6-max. (Event No. 41) on which I’ll be reporting from start to finish, an event that no doubt will have Madsen and Clements in the field. The higher buy-in will ensure a number of other strong players will be there as well when play begins later this afternoon. Click on over if you get the chance.

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