That’s what I texted a friend late last night after Carolina hung on to beat New Orleans 23-20.
Was kind of a familiar story with the Panthers starting strong and continuing to maintain a big lead through three quarters, entering the fourth up 23-3. Then the offense just shut down altogether, having three straight three-and-outs to give the Saints the ball back over and over, enabling them to climb back into the sucker.
Thankfully Carolina was able to convert on a third down late -- the team’s only first down the entire fourth quarter -- to milk just enough time to make it difficult (though not impossible) for New Orleans to mount one last drive to attempt a tying field goal. The Saints came up short, and the Panthers eked out the win.
Meanwhile starting in the afternoon I had dialed up the streaming coverage of the World Poker Tour Montreal final table at the Playground Poker Club, following along with a lot of the poker world to see if WPT host Mike Sexton -- who brought the chip lead to the six-handed final table -- might win his first WPT title.
We all know Sexton pretty well by now, of course, given that the WPT is in its 15th season and he’s been there from the very start. He played a fairly prominent role during the poker “boom” of the 2000s (to which the WPT shows contributed significantly). And over the years just about everyone who has been around the poker world has gotten to know him in some capacity, his unofficial status as “Ambassador of Poker” being well confirmed.
I have covered Sexton in a number of tournaments over the years, of course. Also had the chance to help report on a few WPT events as well -- including at the Playground Poker Club -- at which I’ve gotten to chat with him about his years living in North Carolina and playing in underground games before moving out to Vegas. Not too long ago I read and reviewed his new autobiography, titled Life’s a Gamble, which filled in further gaps about his interesting life (and the history of the WPT).
By the time the game ended it was down to heads-up between Benny Chen and Sexton, with Chen enjoying the chip lead to begin their duel. I’d noticed a few hands go by in which Chen seemed to be running especially well connecting with boards, and his lead increased as a result.
Looking back through the WPT live updates, I see that Sexton nearly pulled even in an early hand between the pair, but Chen pushed back out ahead and maintained the lead over the first several dozen hands the pair played. At one point Chen had 17.775 million to Sexton’s 1.675 million, a better than 10-to-1 chip advantage. That’s an even bigger edge, percentage-wise, than the lead the Panthers had entering the fourth.
Sexton doubled once with Q-10 versus Chen’s 9-4-suited and chipped back a bit. But then Sexton fell back and found himself all in and at risk again, this time in a bad spot with A-4 versus Chen’s A-Q-suited. Fortunately for Sexton a four came among the community cards and he survived, and after 90 hands they were still going at it.
I ended up hitting the sack some time after that as they’d end up playing almost a couple of hours more. Sexton would double up two more times -- once with pocket kings, another time coming from behind with J-10 versus A-8 -- finally wrestling the chip lead away from Chen. It was just two hands later Chen would shove with K-J, Sexton snap-called with pocket queens, and the big pair held to give Sexton the title.
They played 158 hands of heads-up, and Chen had the chip lead for 156 of those hands. In other words, it played out not unlike some of these NFL games where one team is ahead for 59-plus minutes only for the other team to pull it out in the end -- as almost happened to the Panthers.
Kind of neat to see Sexton get this one. He’s been playing WPT events since the sixth season, and had made a couple of WPT final tables before. Easy to understand Chen’s disappointment, though, having had to endure the big comeback during which he had Sexton on the ropes for much of the endgame (not to mention everyone pulling for his opponent).
That’s the way these games go, where it’s often the case you have to work hard for these wins.