Monday, May 05, 2014

The Marathon Match

Thoroughly enjoyed that crazily long final chapter of Season 10 of the European Poker Tour that concluded just after six in the morning on Saturday in Monaco. I’m speaking of the Main Event that saw a final table last 18 hours or so, with heads-up between Antonio Buonanno and Jack Salter going on for something like 10 hours including the breaks.

The PokerNews’ guys provided hand-for-hand coverage, and the live blog shows that after 74 hands at the final table six players had been eliminated. From there Buonanno and Salter would play an incredible 237 hands (!) before Buonanno finally prevailed. Made me think back to a WSOP event I covered back in 2008 in which Joe Commisso beat Richard Lyndaker for a bracelet after 209 hands of heads-up.

Salter had the lead to start their battle and would hover between 100-120 big blinds for a long stretch while Buonanno would vary between 60-80 big blinds. Salter then opened up a larger lead as they coursed through the one-hour levels, and after getting very short (to about 12 BBs or so) Buonanno doubled up twice, then a third time to grab the advantage.

Salter took the lead back after chipping away for several hands, Buonanno pushed ahead again, then in Hand #297 came a kind of turning point in the match when Buonanno managed to draw out runner-runner two pair, then got the young Brit (who’d flopped top pair of sixes) to call a big river bet.

It was a hero call, and while I certainly did not watch every hand closely, it was probably the first significant misstep Salter had made in the long duel.

After that Buonanno had about a 3-to-1 lead, and a little later Salter would face another big river bet in Hand #310, with a call this time putting him all in. Buonanno had the goods again on that one (he’d made a full house) while Salter had top pair, but after nine minutes in the tank the latter found a fold. (That is the hand pictured above.) Salter would get his chips shortly thereafter in Hand #311, however, with Kd7d, but Buonanno had As4h and when the Italian’s hand held up he’d won.

The two combatants might have encouraged viewers to accept certain stereotypes by the way they played, as the younger Salter (with his rail full of fellow players) was the aggressor and seemingly better-skilled player and the older Buonanno (with only his wife cheering him on) more passive and appearing less likely to be able to keep up with an agile opponent. Thus while it took a long time to get there, the ending wasn’t necessarily predictable, but I think it is probably safe to say the pair were fairly evenly matched, all things considered.

Like I say, I can’t really judge either player too closely having come in and out of the coverage -- and in fact watching the last hour of it the next day after it had ended -- but one has to give both credit for inordinate patience. And endurance, too.

I sometimes wonder how it is that I can still find watching poker for hours on end an interesting thing to do. The EPTLive guys -- in combination with the reporting both on the PokerStars blog and at PokerNews -- help a great to keep it interesting and allow attention to be paid on a variety of levels, from casual tabs-keeping to intense scrutiny of strategic considerations.

A good show all around. Enough to continue to keep me hooked.

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