Friday, September 01, 2006

WSOP Final Table Hand No. 122: You Going All the Way?

In Hand No. 122, Richard Lee cruised past the point of no return . . . Have now made my way through five-and-a-half hours or so of ESPN’s pay-per-view broadcast of the WSOP Main Event final table. The commentary by Phil Gordon and Ali Nejad has been hit-or-miss, though I’d say they’re doing about as well as could be expected. The interview with Erik Friberg (out in 8th place) was more than a little cringe-worthy, peppered as it was with lots of awkward questions about Swedes. They also spoke with Douglas Kim (out in 7th); he seemed like a smart young man who had a decent idea of what he’d just been through. Two-time WSOP bracelet-winner David Grey came in and made some intelligent observations about the pressure the players were experiencing. And Phil Hellmuth stopped by to remind everyone how great he is.

(I’m not even going to comment on the Rochambeau nonsense Gordon and Nejad keep perpetrating on their unwitting guests.)

As far as the play goes, Jamie Gold had spent several orbits mostly keeping out of the way while others attempted to outlast the short stacks (Michael Binger and Rhett Butler). Then came Hand No. 104. Gold put in a preflop raise, got two callers (Paul Wasicka and Richard Lee), and with a board of QQJJ put in a smallish bet that made his opponents fold. Gold then showed his hand -- 3s2h. Gordon and Hellmuth both suggested showing the bluff to have been a poor decision on Gold’s part. A few hands later, Allen Cunningham made a spectacular call of another Gold bluff, calling a bet of 2 million on the river with ace-high. Thanks in part to that hand, Cunningham had built himself back up to 14.5 million or so (third place), while Gold still sat comfortably in the lead with 37.5 million.

Then comes Hand No. 122, involving Gold and the man in second place, Richard Lee. Lee had bled some chips during the previous orbit -- in reckless fashion (or so it appeared). During the last six hands Lee had lost around 3.8 million in chips, knocking him back down to 16.5 million. Hand no. 119 saw Lee raise to 800,000 from middle position and get called by Gold from the big blind. As he had done back in Hand No. 5, Gold checked in the dark. When the flop came 2h7h5d, Lee bet 1.1 million, Gold check-raised to 3 million, and Lee got out.

So there are a couple of trends worth considering as this pivotal hand begins. Gold’s early momentum had appeared to wane, particularly following Cunningham’s successful call. However, he had just won the last three pots (all without showdowns) and looked ready to reassume the role of table captain. Meanwhile, Lee’s chair might have become slightly less comfortable after the last round of play. I wouldn’t say he was steaming, but it’s clear he’d become anxious to make something happen.

The cards are dealt and the table folds around to Gold in the cutoff. He looks down, takes a quick glance across the table at Wasicka (in the big blind), then calls (for 240,000). Rhett Butler folds on the button. Lee, in the small blind, looks at his cards and announces he’s going to raise. He deliberates, then bets 1.2 million. Wasicka folds and the action is back on Gold.

Gold looks at his cards again, peers over at Lee for ten seconds or so, then says “I raise.” As we’ve seen before, Gold announces his intentions with a kind of dismissive air, as though he’s utterly unconvinced whomever he’s up against is too weak (lacking the cards and/or the courage) to face up to him. He raises to 4 million. Gordon claims Gold’s hands are shaking a bit as he stacks his chips and pushes them into the pot, but I’m not seeing it. Gold has to stand up, actually, to reach the chips at the front of his stack, and he remains standing, hands in pockets, looking down on Lee considering what to do next.

Lee spends a few moments moving his chips around and Gold abruptly asks “You going all the way?” Lee quickly replies “All in.” Gold eagerly shows QdQs. Lee turns over JhJs. Gold is ecstatic. We hear him telling his friends “I can only make the right play . . . I can’t do anything about what comes out.” Lee appears amiable, sipping his coffee and smiling as he asks the dealer for a jack. It’s obvious, though, that he’s less than thrilled.

The flop comes 3dKdKs. Lee is shown with his eyes closed, as if in momentary meditation. The turn is the 6h. Gold points at the dealer and says “no paint . . . nice and low.” The river is the Tc. Lee is done, and Gold now has over 51 of the 88 million chips in play.

What’s to say here? While the play perhaps does not descend to the level of Scott Lazar’s meltdown at the 2005 Main Event final table (where he blew through his entire stack in two hands calling all-in bets with K9-suited & QT-off), Lee clearly blundered when calling Gold's reraise. Lee was in much better shape than Lazar had been chipwise, and definitely should have finished higher than Lazar did last year. But he didn’t. Both landed in sixth place.

Following the hand, the five remaining players headed for the dinner break. I may well take a break, too, and save further posts about the final table for later. A person can only take so much rock-paper-scissors . . . .

Image: A U.S. World War II poster calls for all members of American society to contribute to war effort, public domain.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

An excellent discussion of the play. I haven't been lucky enough to see any of the coverage.

Nice to know, in a way, that even the top players can make dodgy calls. Gold appears to have hit cards every time he needed them and often when he didn't.

It seems that his victory was tainted not only by legal action but by his peers being very dismissive of his play.

I look forward to the next instalment :)

9/04/2006 2:00 AM  

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