This was a televised tournament, meaning they had the whole crew there including Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten, and Lynn Gilmartin shooting all of the on-site footage that’ll end up going into the broadcast some months from now. That’s a shot of the trophy presentation above, with the WPT cup on which they etch the names of the champs appearing about as big as Van Sanford.
Van Sanford had the chip lead going into the final table, and among the final six definitely appeared one of the stronger players left. I’d also pegged Jason Helder as a likely candidate to win, although he ran into series of really unfortunate hands during the first two levels -- e.g., flopping two pair versus a set, flopping trips and chopping with an opponent who had the same hand, running pocket queens into pocket aces -- that made it hard for him to avoid going out in fifth.
Got a chance to talk to Helder some in the airport this morning who’s a friendly guy and a good player. He’s had some success over recent years including a dozen WSOP cashes and a final table, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him showing up at more final tables sooner than later.
Despite his age, Van Sanford has also racked up a number of cashes this year playing in Florida where you can play poker if you’re 18 or older. I didn’t really talk to him too much -- just a brief chat about a hand once -- but he struck me as very mature for his age. I also heard other players saying the same at the tables, including Mike Gracz and Jacob Bazeley who were making a similar comment to him as they got down to the last 18 or so.
On the dinner break the night before the final table I was sitting for awhile with Van Sanford and Farhan Madhani, the latter being another strong player who ended up finishing seventh in the tournament after clashing in a big hand with Van Sanford before going out (the one I’d asked Van Sanford about, in fact).
I liked overhearing Madhani giving Van Sanford good advice about handling things going forward, especially if he were to go on to win (as he did). Very cool, I thought, for a guy with more experience to help out another like that.
As I say, covering the final table was fun and as always it’s kind of a marvel to watch the WPT crew in action as they create all of the materials on the fly that will be put together in the edited show later. The fan boy in me can’t help but enjoy seeing Sexton and Van Patten seated over to the side -- just as they appear on the show -- delivering their commentary in bits and pieces along the way. It’s all impressive to watch, and highly entertaining as well.
Speaking of watching poker, I did get back in the hotel room in time to watch the finish of the WSOP Main Event and Martin Jacobson’s remarkable win. I’d actually picked Jacobson despite his eighth-place stack going in, and he obviously had to withstand some risky spots on Monday night in order to get chips with which to battle. But once he did, “MJ” was certainly playing above the rim the whole way, and emerges as a most deserving winner.
I managed to DVR all of it and so will likely have more to say about the November Nine once I get to sit down and watch it. Meanwhile, as much fun as Jacksonville was, I’m looking forward to getting back home. More to come this week from the farm.