Monday, August 18, 2008

Worryin’ About Hurryin’: The 2008 WSOP Main Event Final Table

Was catching up on some podcasts over the weekend and heard Gary Wise’s interview with David Rheem on Wise Hand Poker (the 8/13/08 episode). Rheem is one of the so-called “November Nine” who made the delayed final table of this year’s World Series of Poker Main Event. You might remember Rheem from his appearance at the Event No. 4 final table (the $5,000 Mixed Hold’em event) shown on ESPN a couple of weeks ago. He entered that final table the chip leader, but ended up going out in fifth.

You might also recall back in July an article appeared in the South Florida Sun Sentinel reporting Rheem had an outstanding warrant in Hollywood, Florida for apparently having failed to appear in court in 2003 on a misdemeanor trespassing charge. Less widely circulated was a subsequent report that the 2003 warrant is apparently no longer valid.

I had heard Rheem interviewed once before on the Two Plus Two Pokercast (Episode 32, 7/14/08), but on Wise’s show Rheem mentioned something new. When asked his thoughts regarding the 117-day delay before the WSOP ME final table, Rheem admitted that when he began the tournament, he had no idea such a delay was scheduled.

According to Rheem, following Day 2 he had a decent-sized chip stack and was discussing the tournament with some friends. “They were, like, ‘you know, once you make the final table, you make a three-month break,’ and then, you know, I almost lost money on it because I didn’t believe them. I was like ‘I’ll bet you money that you don’t!’ And then when their arm was out ready to shake my hand, I knew they were serious.” Rheem said he then went to the Tournament Director to confirm, and that’s when he first found out about the delay.

There was no hurry, I guess. Not like it really mattered on Day 2.

Rheem seems pretty likable. So do his fellow final tablists Dennis Phillips, whom I heard interviewed on Phil Gordon’s The Poker Edge (7/24/08), and Craig Marquis, who appeared on The Poker Edge as well (8/7/08). Listening to their interviews got me wondering about where things stood heading into that final table, still nearly three months away.

Play stopped in the early morning hours of July 15th with exactly 21 minutes and 50 seconds left in Level 33. That means these guys played over 65 hours of poker to get to this point in the tourney. The blinds are currently 120,000/240,000 with 30,000 antes. Here’s what each player will have in front of him when the first hand gets dealt on November 9th:

2008 WSOP Main Event final tableOn the World Series of Poker website, there’s an article dated July 15th that purports to give final table seat assignments, but that information is incorrect. As Dennis Phillips mentioned on The Poker Edge, they will be drawing for seats five minutes before play begins on Nov. 9th.

I listed the number of big blinds each player currently has as well as the “M” or ratio of one’s stack to the current total of blinds and antes -- i.e., the “cost per round” figure popularized by Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie in their Harrington on Hold’em series.

On the most recent episode of The Poker Edge, Phil Gordon suggested that “the pace of play at that final table is going to be ridiculously slow.” He was referring to the fact that when it came to players like Marquis -- whom he said was “not exactly short-stacked, not exactly desperate yet” -- “you’ve got 40 big blinds, there’s no hurry.”

Indeed, if one looks at the “M” ratio of the nine players, a lot of them are still in that “Green Zone” (an “M” of 20 or higher) in which Harrington and Robertie say “all moves are available.” However, Arnold Snyder, in his discussion of “chip utility” in The Poker Tournament Formula 2, would certainly disagree with the notion that “there’s no hurry” when one is down to 40 big blinds.

For Snyder “full utility” is only possible when one has 100 big blinds or more, a situation only Phillips and Demidov currently enjoy. That, says Snyder, “is the minimum stack size required for unhampered post-flop play, including information bets and more advanced moves on later streets or against more aggressive deep-stacked opponents.” Snyder describes a stack size of 60 big blinds as still “competitive,” though not “fully functional.” Stacks of 30-60 big blinds have “moderate utility,” and below 30 makes one’s utility “low.”

Of concern here for players other than Phillips and Demidov is the fact that 20 minutes after they start play on November 9th -- i.e., probably less than one orbit -- the blinds and antes will be moving up to 150,000/300,000 plus 40,000. That means unless a player like Marquis picks up a pot within those first few hands, he’s down to 30 big blinds and “low utility” (according to Snyder’s rubric).

Gordon’s comment reminded me that he had said something similar last year at the start of the 2007 final table. Indeed, that final table also began with 120,000/240,000 blinds and antes of 30,000, with roughly the same total number of chips in play. After the first hand of that final table -- in which Jerry Yang raised to 1.4 million from under the gun, was called by a late position player, then took the pot with a big bet on the flop -- Ali Nejad spoke of the 630,000 that was in the pot before each hand began and how that was a decent-sized prize to go after.

“Yeah, but the blinds are very small in relation to the stack sizes here,” answered Gordon. “There’s not a single player at the table who’s ready to just push under the gun or raise all in…. It would surprise me greatly -- unless there are just some huge hands, like aces versus kings or something like that -- to see any elimination here in the first three or four hours of this tournament.”

Anybody remember where we were after four hours last year? No less than four players -- Philip Hilm, Lee Watkinson, Lee Childs, and Hevad Khan -- had already busted.

We’ve a long time to wait, still. But I tend to believe we’re probably gonna see some serious hurryin’ once we get there.

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Blogger RaisingCayne said...

Phil Gordon's a nit though... if he made up the whole November Nine there wouldn't be an elimination in the first 12 hours.

I think the answer is somewhere in between last year's rapid pace, and his prediction for this year.

But of course... we'll see!!!

8/18/2008 7:33 PM  

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