Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Looking Back: 2009 WSOP November Nine on ESPN

Moon looks backThoroughly enjoyed ESPN’s rapidly-produced, two-and-a-half hour repackaging of the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event final table last night. Liked the features and rhythm of the thing. Thought Norman Chad had a few genuine zingers in there, adding to the fun. My favorite was probably when Steve Begleiter put in the first reraise in that infamous Hand No. 90 versus Darvin Moon, and Chad quipped “That’s a big bet, particularly in this economy.” That was some good funny.

Did appreciate the extra half-hour, mostly taken up with the heads-up battle in which Joe Cada outlasted Darvin Moon. Actually by the very end of the show I was starting to feel like it didn’t really need to be much longer than it was. Perhaps having followed the action so closely as it happened made me less eager to see every hand again, but I think two-and-a-half hours of this sort of thing is probably plenty.

Liked the sportsmanship at the very end quite a bit. Also thought Phil Ivey came off as the coolest cat ever.

Joe Cada, 2009 WSOP ChampWas also thinking quite a bit during the show of the whole “luck-vs.-skill” contest once again, wondering now and then how it all might have appeared to those less familiar with what happened during the 364 hands and/or those who are less versed in poker, generally speaking. Did the selection of hands make it look like poker was a game of skill? Or did it come off as a drama-filled series of coin-flips in which chance ruled?

One of the most interesting aspects of poker, actually, is how difficult it is to say definitively whether in any given hand “luck” or “skill” prevailed. Outcomes are driven both by players’ actions and the cards dealt. In fact, two people watching (or playing) the same hand may likely come away with differing opinions about whether a hand was skillfully played or “played itself.” And it goes without saying that a person’s judgment is also highly influenced by his or her own poker-playing experience and knowledge.

I made a note last night of which hands were being shown. Of the 364 total hands, we got to see 32 on the telecast. Not going to rehearse all of the details of each hand here (you can read about them further on the PokerNews live blog), but here is a list with hand numbers and brief reminders of the action. You decide whether in each hand “luck” or “skill” seemed more important:
  • Hand No. 11 -- Moon limp-reraises with Ac3d from late position, forcing Schaffel to fold pocket nines in the big blind
  • Hand No. 14 -- Ivey’s all-in shove with pocket kings forces folds from Cada (pocket tens) and Shulman (pocket fives)
  • Hand No. 44 -- Akenhead survives going all in with K-Q versus Buchman’s A-K by spiking a queen on the river
  • Hand No. 45 -- Moon’s crazy play with A-4 versus Saout’s sorta crazy play with J-2 in which the latter fortunately flopped two pair; “I messed up big time,” said Moon afterwards
  • Hand No. 53 -- Cada’s loses a lot with 6c3c versus Moon after flopping a flush draw, then not getting there
  • Hand No. 54 -- Schaffel doubles up with pocket aces versus Akenhead’s pocket kings
  • Hand No. 59 -- Akenhead eliminated when his 3-3 can’t catch up to Schaffel’s 9-9
  • Hand No. 68 -- Schaffel eliminated with pocket aces versus Buchman’s pocket kings when a king flops, then Buchman makes quads on the turn
  • Hand No. 90 -- Moon’s crazy flop fold getting 8-to-1 or something versus Begleiter (see discussion here); Moon did have KhQc, it turned out, and Begleiter AsQs (overs, straight outs, and nut flush draw); and did Moon tell his wife he had queens afterwards???
  • Hand No. 92 -- Shulman folds pocket nines to Ivey’s all-in reraise with K-Q offsuit
  • Hand No. 106 -- With ace-high, Ivey pushes Begleiter off his pocket sevens on the river after a scary group of community cards had arrived
  • Hand No. 112 -- Ivey raises UTG with pocket jacks, Saout reraises from the button with pocket sevens, and Ivey folds (I believe this was the very last hand before the dinner break)
  • Hand No. 122 -- Shulman takes a big chunk from Cada when his A-K outlasts Cada’s A-J
  • Hand No. 131 -- Cada survives with pocket fours against Ivey’s As8c
  • Hand No. 153 -- Saout and Begleiter get all of the Frenchman’s chips in on an 8h3c9h flop; Saout has the flush draw, and Begleiter a pair of eights; the flush comes
  • Hand No. 175 -- Moon’s A-Q eliminates Ivey who had A-K after a queen flops; loved Ivey’s line when the turn brought a trey: “Close.”
  • Hand No. 187 -- Moon again uses A-Q to eliminate Begleiter, whose pocket queens turned to mush after an ace came on the river
  • Hand No. 195 -- Cada survives, spiking a set with pocket treys versus Shulman’s J-J
  • Hand No. 199 -- Cada’s pocket rockets survive versus Moon’s K-9 offsuit
  • Hand No. 236 --Shulman eliminated when his pocket sevens lose race to Saout’s A-9
  • Hand No. 259 --Buchman wins a big chunk of Saout’s stack after heavy betting on a ten-high flop; Saout had a ten, but Buchman had the better hand with A-A
  • Hand No. 264 -- Buchman loses a bunch back to Saout with A-Q versus the Frenchman’s A-K
  • Hand No. 271 -- Moon (KdJd) eliminates Buchman (Ad5c), turning a king
  • Hand No. 272 -- Cada survives, spiking a set with pocket deuces versus Cada’s Q-Q
  • Hand No. 276 -- Saout eliminated with pocket eights versus Cada’s A-K after Cada rivers a king
  • Hand No. 277 -- Moon slowplays pocket queens in first hand of heads up; ends up winning a decently-sized pot versus Cada’s 9-9
  • Hand No. 288 -- Moon check-raises with air on flop, then turns a queen to make top pair, ends up getting Cada to call a big value bet on end
  • Hand No. 293 -- Cada turns top two pair with QdJd and forces Moon to fold his fourth-best pair on the river
  • Hand No. 323 -- Moon pushes Cada off of his A-Q with a preflop four-bet; Moon says “I had a monster,” but it was A-J
  • Hand No. 347 -- Moon and Cada both have J-9 offsuit, but Moon’s aggressive betting gets him the pot on the turn
  • Hand No. 356 -- With the board Tc5d9hTd, Cada makes the big call with all of his chips with Jh9d; Moon has 8s7s, and Cada’s hand holds up
  • Hand No. 364 -- Cada wins the bracelet when his pocket nines outlast Moon’s QdJd
  • So what was your impression? Or your impression of how other viewers might have seen the show? Does poker look like roulette, or chess?

    (Photos courtesy the great FlipChip, natch.)

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    Anonymous PokerLaz said...

    It's definitely not Chess and definitely not Roulette!

    There is no question in my mind that poker is a game of strategy and skill, in which luck plays a big part in the short term but will not stop the best players from rising to the top.

    11/11/2009 10:03 AM  
    Anonymous Holdem Poker Chat said...

    Like you I also looked at how the hands shown would be perceived, sadly I saw more luck then I would have liked. Anytime I watch poker on TV and hear the word luck I cringe.

    11/11/2009 1:28 PM  
    Blogger Unknown said...

    I think I answered your last question in my blog, but maybe I went over the top with it. I saw it as a luck fest by the way ESPN showed it and thought Everyman would have to see it that way too. What do you think about my post?

    11/11/2009 2:43 PM  
    Blogger The Shrink said...

    Nice up close of the hands shown. Something I used to really look closely at, thanks for that detective work.

    11/11/2009 7:21 PM  
    Blogger J.T. said...

    I was impressed by Darvin HU Not so much before that.

    11/11/2009 7:27 PM  
    Anonymous Eric Stoner said...

    With editing and production, we are left with the most interesting hands that a "normal" "average" audience would get and appreciate. We saw how "lucky" Cada was to win the thing. I also like to think that Cada genuinely appreciated the tough match that Moon gave him.

    Someday, I would like to view the entire final table end to end...for me, the story is better told unabridged.

    The presentation last night was like the other presentations before it - skill will win, but sometimes luck is needed along the way.

    11/11/2009 9:06 PM  
    Anonymous Home Lighting said...

    Nice information, Thank you for posting this article.

    11/12/2009 2:24 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hand 131 is the most important, the Ivey A8 vs cada 44. If Ivey wins that race, cada is eliminated and Ivey has over 20m chips.

    Just shows one hand really can alter an entire tournament

    11/12/2009 4:26 AM  
    Blogger Unknown said...

    They should offer the entire final table with Bluff's dubbed in commentary on DVD.

    Strangely I see myself sitting down to watch almost the whole thing if it came out.

    11/12/2009 10:03 AM  
    Anonymous Francis said...

    It's unbelievable how different the game is when you know what the players are holding.

    11/13/2009 1:42 AM  
    Blogger Ingoal said...

    My take on the final table show by ESPN is this: it looked more like bingo than poker in most hands...that being said, it's not ESPN's fault that some players, especially Cada, were lucksacking their way...I mean how good can someone run? REALLY GOOD is the correct answer...and as it's part of the game, I came as no surprise that there were monster-suckouts...the editing made it that you thought every other hand was one though...

    11/15/2009 6:45 AM  

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