Friday, June 13, 2008

2008 WSOP, Day 14: Reporting from the Eye of the Hurricane

Reporting from the Eye of the HurricaneWhat a night.

The final table of Event No. 19, the $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event won by Vanessa Selbst, will likely be remembered as one of the craziest, most manic, and most entertaining final tables this summer. By the few of us who saw it, anyway.

Working conditions were not ideal, but we managed. They played out this final table not in the mini-arena-slash-staging area where they shoot the televised tables (that’s where Daniel Negreanu was busy winning his bracelet in Event No. 20). Rather, they had the final nine of Event No. 19 gather around just another table right outside the arena, tucked in a corner somewhat away from the hustle and bustle of the Amazon Room.

That meant very little access for railbirds, which would become an issue as the night wore on. It also affected how we covered the proceedings. Rather than remain stationed at a desk from which we could watch the action, we had to set up our workstations on chairs off to the side. Not too cool (or convenient), and frankly it meant our coverage would necessarily be slowed down as we always had to run back and forth from the table to our laptops. Nothing we could do about it, though.

As it turned out, we still managed to report every bustout hand and all of the major hands for the entire final table. Things got particularly hairy once it got down to heads-up and Jamie Pickering, the eventual second-place finisher, started raising pots without looking at his cards. That’s when the crowd really started to grow larger. And louder. Both players had a number of supporters among the group gathered along the ropes. And the drinks were flowing.

We actually ended up reporting almost every hand of heads up -- certainly all of the significant ones. Which was an example of overcoming huge odds, in my opinion, given the conditions and the scene. Here’s a post I filed just after the third hand of heads-up play:
Insanity at the Final Table
The third hand of heads up began with Pickering having about 950,000 to Selbst's 1.3 million. The two talked a bit about chopping the cash and playing for the bracelet, but couldn't come to terms and the hand was dealt.

“RAISE POT!!!” cried Pickering, again without looking at his cards. An incredulous Selbst checked hers, and made the call.

The flop came AhQs3d. Selbst checked. Pickering again bet the pot, still having not checked his cards. “Have you really not looked?!” asked Selbst. She made the call.

The turn was the Jc. This time Pickering checked. It was Selbst's turn to put on the pressure. She bet the pot.

Thus ensued about ten minutes' worth of hilarity as Pickering contemplated whether or not to call, or perhaps raise the pot again. He also had to decide whether or not he was going to look at his cards.

Finally, amid the shouts of the 70-80 spectators we have gathered around, he gave in and looked at his hand.

“Oh, sh*t! I'm dead!” he said. “Five-king-eight-two!”

“RUN IT FOUR TIMES!” came a shout from the rail.

“I've got a shot at a wheel,” he said. Finally, amid the ever-rising craziness surrounding the table, he let it go. Selbst showed Q-7-7-9, not much, but better than what Pickering had folded.

Selbst has retaken her commanding chip lead.
What did I leave out? Not too much. During that long delay when Pickering was deciding what to do, he did offer once again to split the prize money with Selbst. “Not anymore,” she said. Fact was, when they had been discussing the chop just before this hand, Pickering didn’t seem to understand that since Selbst had a chip lead, she didn’t want simply to split the money 50-50. Maybe he did understand it, but was pretending not to. (Or maybe he’d had one too many.) That’s why the deal couldn’t be made.

I typed all this up in less than five minutes, ran back over to the table (trading spots with my partner), and watched another hand which I then posted ten minutes after this one. With nearly a hundred drunks howling at the top of their lungs as my ambient soundtrack.

Pickering actually managed to take the chip lead via this unorthodox strategy, and in fact Selbst would have to draw out on him in a later hand to avoid elimination. Selbst is a hell of a player, and most definitely earned the bracelet she won tonight. (And I am most definitely glad she won.) But she also had to gamble (a lot) along the way, and especially there at the very end. In the wrap-up post, I described her having “to negotiate her way through the land mines of Pickering's no-look pot-sized raises to take home the bracelet.” Kind of the perfect end to a PLO tourney, really, well capturing the spirit of the “action game.”

I was glad to have been there.

I remember before I came out to Vegas talking to someone about what I’d been hired to do. After I’d explained what the WSOP was, how tourneys worked, and how I’d be reporting hands and happenings as they occurred, my listener thought a moment and asked what I thought was a very reasonable question.

“And there are people who are interested in that?”

I laughed. “Incredibly, yes,” I replied.

Because I know 99% of the world could care less about this stuff. But then there are those who do care about it. A lot. I know. I’m one of them.

It can be pretty damn deflating (sometimes) to see how hypercritical a very small percentage of this already small group can be about the coverage. Hell, I’m critical of it, too. I know it could be better, given different conditions.

But I also know it is pretty much a miracle that there is any coverage at all, let alone this kind of minutely-detailed chronicling of the actions of a few people gathered around a table tucked away in the corner of a ballroom in Vegas.

Day off tomorrow. Chance to recharge, refuel. To tell you the truth, I’m already looking forward to Saturday.

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Blogger Unknown said...

I'm jealous that you got to see and report on that final table, especially the heads-up portion. I was "watching" via the updates and was glued to them, exclaiming out loud things like "No way!" and "WTF?!?". Not sure if I'm giving Pickering too much credit, but after seeing Selbst run over everybody, maybe he saw her across the table from him and calculated his odds of beating her AT POKER at around 1 in 4, and decided that the chances of his cards blindly beating her cards gave him better odds. If that's the case, you can't argue with the strategy too much...

Keep it up and enjoy your day off!

6/13/2008 9:43 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

I had exactly the same thought, Kelly -- that Pickering knew flipping coins was going to be his best shot at the bracelet. Almost worked, too.

Fact was, he played some terrific PLO (as did the third-place finisher, Statkiewicz) leading up to heads up, including a terrific hand earlier where he'd flopped aces full and got the max. from Selbst.

When heads up began he was whooping it up all right -- and indeed, had had more than a few. But I did feel as though he knew what he was doing.

6/13/2008 3:05 PM  
Blogger RaisingCayne said...

Love the blog Shamus! Keep up the good work! (After enjoying your day off.)

6/13/2008 5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This WSOP is turning out some exciting final tables. I wish ESPN could show same day on a delay or the next day.

Is ESPN even going to air this final table?

I'm glad we have you guys reporting and describing what it's like there though.

6/13/2008 7:13 PM  

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