Monday, November 02, 2009

Post-Production is 20/20

Post-Production is 20/20Heard an interesting follow-up to that hand shown on ESPN’s coverage of the 2009 World Series of Poker last week, the one in which Phil Ivey mistakenly mucked what would have been the winning hand at showdown.

You’ve probably either watched the hand or heard all about it by now. With 24 players left, Ivey opened with a preflop raise from under the gun with 8s8d, and the table folded around to Jordan Smith who reraised from the big blind with Ad9c. Both players ended up cautiously checking down the flop, turn, and river, with the river As having put four spades on the board.

After Ivey checked behind on the end, Smith announced that he’d paired his ace. Ivey waited for Smith to show his hand, then surprisingly Ivey dropped his cards in front of the dealer, obviously not realizing he’d made a flush and thus held the better hand. The two million-plus chip pot went to Smith.

Barry Greenstein sporadically keeps an “audio blog” over on PokerRoad, and at the end of last week he spoke a bit about having talked to his friend Ivey about the hand.

Greenstein asked Ivey whether he knew about having mucked the winner prior to the hand being shown on ESPN, and Ivey said he did not. Ivey also said he was surprised no one called him before Greenstein did to tease him, but Greenstein explained that was because Ivey’s cell phone doesn’t work in Cabo, Mexico where he’s relaxing in preparation for the final table. (For those interested in Ivey’s “self-imposed exile” in Cabo, a recent “The Life of Ivey” video sheds some light.)

“I think this hand is never going to leave me,” Ivey told Greenstein, revealing that he does, in fact, at least have some awareness of how he’s perceived.

An ace on the riverWhat I found most interesting in Greenstein’s audio blog, though, was the Bear’s report that Ivey’s first response after having seen the hand was to ask “Is there a way they [i.e., ESPN] could doctor the hands?” He told Greenstein he didn’t remember there having been four spades on the board, and wondered if perhaps there could have been some funny business post-production. Greenstein said he guessed it was possible to doctor the footage, but he doubted that it had been done.

As I mentioned last week, Change100 was reporting from the feature table that day. Indeed, in her report of that hand, all of those board cards just as they appeared on ESPN. So yeah, not that we really would have suspected it anyway, but I think it is safe to say there was no post-prod doctoring here.

Ivey’s question reminded me of something I’ve witnessed from time to time while covering televised final tables at the WSOP. We all know how the productions are highly edited, well-crafted programs designed to be watched as a seamless narrative. Thus you can assume there are numerous examples of inserted reaction shots and the like that aren’t perhaps representative of the strict chronology of how events actually occurred -- and indeed, I’ve been able to pick up on a few of those now and then when watching the shows of tables I’ve covered. But I’m with Greenstein in the belief that there are never any outright doctoring of hands.

However, it does happen that there will occasionally be some on-the-fly “restaging” during the course of a televised final table. I’ve seen it happen several times that during a brief pause in the action, a dealer might be asked to repeat the dealing of a flop, turn, or river in order for ESPN to get a better looking shot. Perhaps the cards didn’t come out neatly enough the first time around, or the dealer’s hand was obscuring one of the cards from the overhead camera, and so a second take is ordered up. I recall one time watching this happen and the crowd reacting, obviously confused about what was going on. Then everyone had a laugh afterwards as it became clear they were watching a recreation of a hand that had just occurred.

'The Bear Blog' on PokerRoadIn his audio blog, Greenstein speculates that by the river Ivey had become convinced Smith was holding an ace in his hand, and so when the ace appeared on the river he’d completely overlooked the suits. Ivey said as much to Greenstein, noting how when it came to showdown, he was surprised to see Smith show A-9 offsuit, since Smith had reraised him from out of position. When he saw Smith’s hand, Ivey was, to employ one of Norman Chad’s favorite terms, “bamboozled.” So surprising it was to see his opponent’s hand, Ivey forgot his own.

Greenstein goes on to say how common it is to misread one’s hand, even among the pros, and expressed doubts that anyone who claims never to have misread his or her hand is telling the truth.

As I mentioned last week, Ivey’s misstep was hardly the biggest one that happened on that Day 8. Will certainly be watching tomorrow night. Indeed, there’s one hand in particular -- one which back in July I said “sort of emblematize[d] the entire frenzied last day” -- I know I want to see. Even if I know already how it turned out, and even remember all of the reactions of the individuals involved.

’Cos, well, those editors... they can do some neat stuff.

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Blogger Unknown said...

I don't think I've seen anything that looked like "restaging" in this year's coverage. However, when watching 2008's coverage, there were definitely instances that looked like there was another take done as they'd cut to some camera angle that was rarely used, or it just didn't look right.

Paul Phillips has noted of several instances where ESPN has creatively edited some hands:,All_Forums,&Words=&Searchpage=0&Limit=25&Main=1023856&Search=true&where=&Name=4936&daterange=&newerval=&newertype=&olderval=&oldertype=&bodyprev=#Post1027811

11/02/2009 11:17 AM  
Blogger Sean G said...

It is the sort of thing that Ivey will never live down, kind of like the Bear and his aces against Dwan. Of course, Ivey has all these results to back up his greatness, and this misread just goes to show he is human.

I love seeing that he's made a mistake. I've made a mistake as well with my hand. Therefore, I'm not really all that different a player than Phil Ivey. Real confidence booster there.

11/02/2009 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Robert Dudek said...

Chad's expression is actually - "whamboozled" - almost exclusively used when a player busts out.

11/02/2009 1:19 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Haha, yes Robert. I might have been thinking of Frank Zappa, who was bamboozled. By love.

If Ivey had rechecked at his cards, he'd have known he had more than squadoosh.

11/03/2009 7:17 AM  
Anonymous Big D said...

At first I thought he mucked because he didn't want the other guy to know what he had.

11/04/2009 12:54 PM  
Anonymous rakeback said...

I think Ivey made a mistake that most every poker player makes at some point. I find it hard to believe that it was doctored or that anyone will really care about this in a couple weeks. The man is clearly the best player in the world and 1 hand certainly wouldnt define him.

11/04/2009 6:30 PM  
Anonymous PokerLaz said...

Fair play to Ivey with his reaction. He sounds pretty downbeat though at the moment. Hope he can get his head straight in time for this weekend.

11/05/2009 5:30 AM  

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