Friday, September 07, 2007

2007 WSOP Final Table Hand No. 9: “You Certainly Started Out Gambling”

Jerry Yang at the final table (photo by Flipchip)So I mentioned a few posts back how my buddy had passed along a copy of the ESPN pay-per-view of the 2007 WSOP Main Event final table. I was able to watch the first six or seven hours of it live over the intertubes back in July. Still, I was anxious to go back and see the beginning again (knowing now how things turned out) and also the lengthy endgame which I had missed before.

As I move my way through the long, long show (15 hours or something?), I’m occasionally going to come here to talk about particular hands. Will likely be posting about other things along the way (including Holden’s Bigger Deal, which I’ve nearly finished). In these posts about particular hands, I’m mostly going to try to avoid the obvious ones -- e.g., bustout hands, hands that will surely get a lot of play on ESPN’s edited version of the final table, and so forth. Instead I’m going to stick with less pivotal hands that I think are still interesting and/or revealing, and about which there hasn’t been all that much commentary. (Always trying to keep things fresh over here at HBP.)

Gonna make an exception with this first post, though, and talk about what has probably already become the most discussed hand from the final table. You know which one. The one where Lee Childs laid down those queens.

The PPV begins with a brief, slightly awkward interview of Jamie Gold in which the reigning champ is asked the question “What do you think these players are feeling right now?” Gold replies he believes everyone will likely start slowly while the players try to figure each other out. “But then again,” he says -- somewhat prophetically, one must admit -- “there could be a crazy person like me who just goes after everybody right from the beginning, so you never know.”

Player introductions follow, with Hevad “Rain” Khan’s oddball histrionics apparently signifying his desire to be that “crazy person” referred to by Gold. Play finally begins, and we soon see eventual champ Jerry Yang making those big raises and reraises as he takes down several pots right away -- never once having to show a hand.

Watching this with knowledge of the outcome, one can’t help but chuckle at how often Phil Gordon and Ali Nejad seem to go out of their way to point out Yang’s relative inexperience -- and lack of ability -- when compared to the other eight players. Gordon repeatedly calls Yang “a weak player” and a “very tight player” during the first few hands, adding that “almost without exception” everyone he has talked to told him Yang was the weakest player at the final table.

Kind of reminds me of seeing the Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson 1990 bout on ESPN Classic a couple of years back. During the first round or two, the announcers seem barely to recognize Douglas’s fast start, and instead just keep repeating platitudes about Tyson’s invincibility. Eventually it dawns on them that Douglas is having his way with Iron Mike, and by the last rounds they have come around to realize what’s happening. I imagine those few folks who happened to see the live broadcast of the Appalachian State-Michigan game last weekend probably heard something similar after Michigan scored on their opening drive. Nothing remarkable here, folks. Move along. Goliath wins again. Never mind that little dude with the slingshot . . . .

By the time we get to Hand No. 9 -- the last hand of the first orbit -- Yang has already won four hands and increased his chip stack from 8.45 million to somewhere around 13.8 million. That put Yang in 5th place overall, and also gave him a slight chip edge over Lee Childs sitting at Yang’s right with about 13.3 million.

Blinds are 120,000/240,000 (with a 30,000 ante). The hand begins with Childs making a 3xBB raise to 720,000 from UTG. Yang calmly places a chip on his cards and thinks for a moment. Gordon and Nejad comment on how deliberately Yang acts, and Gordon even goes so far as to compare his stoic, inscrutable demeanor to that of Chris “Jesus” Ferguson. Finally we hear that tinny voice emerge from behind his raised hands.


Yang stands up and pushes 2.5 million chips to the center. He’s gone through the same motions every time he has bet, giving the impression that he is too short to reach over his stack to push chips. (Maybe he is -- I believe I read somewhere Yang’s only 5’3”.) The table quickly folds around to Childs who rechecks his cards, takes a look at Yang, then looks at the table in contemplation. Yang’s head is turned directly towards Childs, and even though he is wearing sunglasses, it’s obvious he is looking directly at Childs. Gordon comments that such behavior usually connotes weakness, or at least a desire not to be called. After almost exactly a minute, Childs does make the call. The pot is 5.63 million.

The flop comes 7c4d2c and Childs, chin resting on folded arms, doesn’t move for ten seconds or so. He sits up and puts his hand over his mouth, then finally bets 3 million. Before Childs can even get his chips to the middle, Yang has already declared he’s all-in.

Yang took about four seconds to make his move. Childs will ultimately take nearly four minutes to decide what he’s going to next. He walks away from the table. He comes back and places his sunglasses on the wide brown rail. He rubs his hands together. He rubs his eyes. He rubs his mouth. He’s in agony.

“You’re starting out pretty aggressive here,” he comments in Yang’s direction. He continues to think aloud. “Don’t know if you caught a really big hand or are on a draw or you have nothing.” Yang remains motionless, leaning forward with his hands covering his mouth.

“I’m sorry fellas,” Childs apologizes to the table. We hear Raymond Rahme’s baritone telling him “No problem.” “Take your time,” someone else chimes.

Finally Childs has made his decision. “I’m going to show you some respect, Jerry,” he says. “I think you’re . . . I think . . . ah gosh . . . I don’t know . . . I’m gonna fold this.” He shows his queens. “Wow,” says Rahme. Childs immediately second-guesses himself. “You didn’t have me beat,” Childs says. “I think I made a bad laydown.” “Bad laydown,” Rahme echoes.

Childs is a wreck. He goes over to his buddies on the rail, shakily explaining “I just [want to] survive . . . I don’t know where I’m at.”

The hand well over, Childs keeps looking at Yang. As the other players toss out the antes for the next hand, most have wide eyes and half-formed smiles. Clearly this hand has planted all sorts of notions in the heads of those sitting around the table. Childs keeps examining Yang. “You certainly started out gambling,” he exhales. Yang is now in 3rd place with over 20 million chips. And they’ve played exactly one orbit.

Simply a thrilling hand, particularly at such an early stage of the final table. Yang has since told Gordon on The Poker Edge he held pocket jacks. Have to say I enjoyed the hand a lot more not knowing what Yang had. And really, it didn’t matter. Much more important was that slight chip advantage Yang had before the hand began. If I were to interview Yang, I’d be interested to learn if he was aware of that fact -- that he had Childs covered there. Seems to me that made all the difference.

Like I said, I’m going to keep watching and now and then come back to talk about particular hands, meanwhile posting about other items along the way.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

man, that recap was better than actually watching poker tv. Great writing. I always find it hard to write poker "scenes"

9/08/2007 5:46 AM  

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