Wednesday, July 10, 2013

2013 WSOP, Day 42: Running Good, Catching Hands

Much as players in a poker tournament will experience occasional stretches of “run good” or being “card dead,” so, too, will those live reporting a tournament undergo periods when “good hands” are dealt to them one after another and others when their timing is off and they keep witnessing non-newsworthy orbits’ worth of hands being folded.

Day 1s of large field tourneys -- or, in the case of the Main Event, Day 1 flights, Day 2 flights, and even Day 3 flights -- often present this challenge, since a reporter frequently finds him or herself wandering around a large group of tables, say 20 or 30 or even more, looking for hands or other stories to report.

The Main Event has such a deep structure there are many patient players who will go hours at a time during the first couple of days without getting involved in a big showdown with a significant pot at stake. Thus if you’re only passing by that player’s table once a half-hour or so, it can be easy to miss those moments when the player is actually doing something worth reporting.

For me there were a few dry stretches yesterday that came up while covering the “Day 2a/2b” flight of the 2013 WSOP Main Event, but for the most part my timing was pretty good and I had plenty to report as things went along. In fact, I had one short little “rush” (so to speak) lasting half an hour in which every time I went back out on the floor I’d find myself walking right up to another especially interesting and highly reportable hand.

One of the hands was a standard all-in situation involving PokerStars Team Pro Toni Judet in which he’d gotten A-A and an opponent a couple of seats over had K-K and the pair predictably got all of Judet’s below average stack in the middle before the flop. Alas for Judet, a king spiked on the river and he was eliminated.

Just minutes later I saw and reported on a more interesting hand involving Phil Galfond in which he’d opened from early position and got two callers behind, then the small blind three-bet and he and the other two all called. Galfond then flopped a set of eights, called the small blind’s flop bet (while the other two got out), then called his opponent’s turn shove with an overpair of queens and won a big pot while scoring an elimination.

Again, it was kind of a standard situation, although given how deep the players were one might have imagined Galfond’s opponent perhaps found a way to avoid getting felted in the hand. (Easy to say, hard to do.) But from the standpoint of a reporter looking for interesting hands involving known players, it stood out as a nice “find” among lots of less notable hands.

But the most interesting hand of that half-hour -- and as it turned out, of the entire day -- came between 2012 WSOP Main Event champ Greg Merson and Wilfried Harig, who was sitting to Merson’s right. I happened to be there to watch this one with Tim Fiorvanti of BLUFF who once again was compiling another of those start-to-finish pieces following Merson’s entire day.

During the hand we were trying to remember Harig, as he definitely seemed like someone we’d encountered before, and in fact it was shortly afterwards that we all remembered him as last year’s 15th-place finisher in the ME. As it would turn out, post-hand table talk helped ensure anyone standing nearby would know who Harig was.

Like the Galfond hand (which came a little later), this one saw a player raise and a couple call (including Harig), then Merson three-betting, only in this case Harig was the only player to stick around for the flop which came 5s9s8h. That’s when the pair surprisingly bet back and forth enough to get Harig’s big stack all in and almost all of Merson’s, too.

Merson had top two pair with 9d8d, but Harig had 8c8s for a set. Then the turn stunningly brought the 9c to give Merson the better full house and leave Harig drawing dead. Harig graciously shook Merson’s hand and left, and that’s when he reminded the table how he’d knocked out Harig last summer in the ME after the latter had committed his stack with pocket aces versus Merson’s king-jack, and Merson flopped a king then turned a jack.

As it happened, it was an uncanny reprise of poor Harig’s final hand in the 2012 ME, and that made for an interesting post punctuated by Merson’s own tweet regarding it.

Like I say, watching and reporting on that hand was part of a fun, brief sequence of “event highlight”-type hands that had more to do with having the good fortune of being out on the floor rather than behind the laptop at the moments they were occurring than anything else. As in poker, there’s certainly some skill involved in being able to anticipate when and where interesting clashes are more likely to occur. But luck is an obvious factor, too.

Today it’s back at it for Day 2c in which those surviving from the large field that played Day 1c will be returning. (All of the different flights will finally join together for tomorrow’s Day 3.) The larger field means more tables and players, and probably more hands of note will be happening, too. Here’s hoping I can “run good” -- both figuratively and literally -- and catch as many good hands as I can.

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