Saturday, July 06, 2013

2013 WSOP, Day 38: Number One and Number Two

Kind of a fun one last night, helping report on the last day of Event No. 59, the $2,500 2-7 Triple Draw in which Eli Elezra won his second bracelet after outlasting a bunch of other bracelet holders for the win including Daniel Negreanu who finished runner-up. Negreanu actually had the chip lead to begin heads-up play, but Elezra soon closed the gap and began catching hands to win in fairly short order.

From the start of the day yesterday Negreanu was asking about the WSOP Player of the Year race and how his finish in Event No. 59 might affect it. I haven’t done the math myself, but I believe if Negreanu had won last night he’d have retaken the lead in the POY race by a tiny margin, but by finishing second he remains in second behind $50K Poker Players Championship winner Matthew Ashton at the moment.

I helped cover this one from start to finish with my blogging colleague Kevin. After it was over I thought about one of the first posts I’d written for the event I which I reported about Negreanu chatting with Bill Chen at a neighboring table, using the post as an excuse to list the top hands in 2-7.

Before any of the 282 players who entered the event had busted, Chen was telling Negreanu about “number two” hands (i.e., 7-6-4-3-2 or the second-best hand in deuce-to-seven) sometimes being costly for him. Negreanu joked with Chen that he overplayed his number two hands, and to “stop being a victim” and to start “taking responsibility,” then uttered the phrase that I made the title of the post: “Number Two is Not Number One.”

Funny how Negreanu would eventually end up taking number two in the event and thus remained at number two in the WSOP POY race. And in fact on one of the key hands during heads-up play Elezra made a “number one” -- i.e., the nuts or a wheel (e.g., 7-5-4-3-2) -- to win what was a fairly big, decisive pot. Negreanu mucked, so we didn’t know if he had made a number two on that one or not.

After Elezra won I also thought about something that happened with about 40 players left on Day 2. I’d been standing near the rail at one of the outer tables when Elezra looked up and called me over. Reading my name off the credential hanging from the lanyard, Elezra grinned and said “You stay around here... you are lucky for me.” (Future players in tournaments I cover may wish to take note.)

Both Negreanu and Elezra are fan favorites, of course, and thus there was a nice-sized crowd on hand for the finish. I tweeted when it was done how it was hard not to pull for both of them at the end, and I meant it. While there were a lot of great players who made deep runs in this one -- and likable players, too -- I think if the rail had been asked which two were at the top of their list of those they wanted to see make it to heads-up play, for most Elezra and Negreanu would have rated number one and number two.

Both engaged the crowd repeatedly both during the pre-dinner break portion of play when they were on the secondary feature table and again afterwards when at three-handed they were moved over to “the mothership” for the finish.

A couple of times Negreanu asked people on the rail if they even knew what they were watching, 2-7 being a game foreign to many. He humorously delivered a rapid explanation to them how the game worked -- “the best hand is actually the worst hand and the worst hand is actually the best hand... get it?” -- and it was easy to see how his doing so added a lot to their enjoyment while watching, even if it didn’t necessarily increase their understanding of the game.

It was a good example of how personalities like Negreanu and Elezra help considerably when it comes to poker being a “spectator sport,” since in truth the actual game play was not something the majority of spectators -- even those with a knowledge of 2-7 -- could really follow that well from afar.

Speaking of poker being a spectator sport, the Main Event begins today, which means even larger crowds on the rail going forward. The ESPN production crew will be making their first appearance as well soon, as they haven’t been shooting any of the prelims. Again, their packaged coverage is going to start with Day 3 of the Main Event with the weekly shows beginning on August 6.

I’m also going to be joining the Main Event a little late, as I’ll be helping with the very last preliminary event for the next couple of days, the big $10K PLO that enters its second day today (Event No. 61). Looks like 169 are left from a big starting field of 386, among them NBA star Paul Pierce -- formerly of the Boston Celtics, now a Brooklyn Net -- who has about twice the average stack heading into today (no shinola).

Click on over to PokerNews for the next couple of days to follow along with Event No. 61 in between checking those Main Event updates to see who ends up number one in this one to win the last bracelet of the summer.

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