Saturday, May 26, 2007

Crawling Toward the WSOP

Boiled crawfish with cornVera and I went to one of our favorite places for dinner last night, a joint just a few miles up the road that specializes in Louisiana-styled cuisine. I had a big steaming heap of boiled crawfish, with some corn and potatoes thrown in as well. (Why do I feel a little like Roy West starting a column here?) Good stuff. Chatted with the proprietor -- a native of the Louisiana bayou -- about his crawfish boil formula, which besides the usual salt, cayenne pepper, lemon, garlic, and bay leaves also includes a “secret” ingredient he wasn’t at liberty to divulge.

We also talked about how crawfish is making a comeback this year after a meager, Katrina-affected 2006 season. Crawfish season generally runs from Christmas to the fourth of July, with the freshwater crustaceans gradually increasing in size as the season wears on. If you’ve never had crawfish, now’s the time (they tend to toughen up as they get larger). So named because they’re “crawling” fish, ya know. Like miniature lobsters, they are. Tasty little suckers.

We end up there every couple of weeks anyway, but I think we went last night because I’d spent part of the afternoon perusing the final results of the 2007 WSOP Circuit Championship Event in New Orleans, a.k.a. the Bayou Poker Challenge. Then I listened to Phil Gordon -- who placed fourth in the event -- interview the winner, part-time player Lou Esposito, on Gordon’s poker podcast, The Poker Edge. Gordon had been the chip leader for much of the tournament -- including all of day 2 (of the three-day event) -- and had a huge chip lead going into the final table (three times what second-place had). But a few cold decks landed him in fourth.

A bit of a disappointment for Gordon, although making fourth didn’t seem very possible when he was down to just 525 chips on day 1. On the show, Gordon tells about how he’d made a bad play about four hours in that put him on the super-short stack. With the blinds at 100/200 (level 3), Gordon was forced to put in his remaining chips from the big blind with K2-offsuit and found himself heads-up against AQ. The flop came KJT, giving his opponent the nut straight. Gordon was down to something like 2% to win. And even if he won, as Gordon explains, he’d only win 1,700 in chips in a tournament where there was nearly 3.5 million in play. After briefly noting his what his “tournament equity” was, Gordon calculates that “at that point . . . my chances of winning the tournament were 1 in 200,000.”

Well, the turn was a jack. And the river another jack, giving him the improbable full house. A couple of double-ups later he was back to 8,000 and on his way to an impressive, Louisiana-crawfish-like comeback.

That was the last WSOP Circuit event before the crown jewel of the poker year, the 2007 World Series of Poker, gets started next Friday at the Rio in Vegas. The schedule is packed, with 55 events in just 47 days. And all but one of those events will be completed by July 5th, so we’re looking at about two bracelets being awarded per day for all of June and the first days of July.

There’s already been a lot of talk about this year’s schedule, particularly the inclusion of a number of non-hold ’em and/or mixed game events. The very first event is the $5,000 buy-in World Championship Mixed Hold ’em Limit/No-Limit, with each of the one-hour long levels combining 30 minutes of NL play and 30 minutes of limit. Never tried before at the WSOP, so that should prove curious at least. Then on Sunday, June 3rd comes another new event, the $2,500 buy-in Omaha/Seven Card Stud Hi-Low-8 or Better (Event No. 5). As with Event No. 1, the games will change every 30 minutes. A total of 19 of the 55 events are designated by the WSOP as “new” this year, although some of those are not really new but simply feature different buy-in amounts than we’ve previously seen.

With the exception of the Main Event -- which is scheduled to feature eight “days” of play stretched out over nearly two weeks -- all of the events are being designated as either “two-day” or “three-day” events. Two different events will be starting most days, and thus there will be quite a bit of overlap with at least two and sometimes four or even five events happening at any given moment.

All of which means those pros planning to play as many events as they can better pace themselves. Otherwise, by the time the Main Event begins they’ll risk looking like this guy:



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