Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 WSOP, Day 24: The Match Without End

The Match Without EndYesterday I was assigned to help cover what was scheduled to be the final day of Event No. 35, the $10,000 Heads Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship. That had been the plan, anyway.

Play began at 3 p.m. We came back to eight players sitting down to play quarterfinal matches. Three of the matches ended relatively quickly, with the Ernst Schmejkal-Vanessa Rousso match lasting a bit longer, taking about three-and-a-half hours. The two semifinal matches then saw one end within a half-hour (Schmejkal’s win over Alexander Kostritsyn), and the other lasting a couple of hours (Ayaz Mahmood’s win over Jason Somerville).

That set us up for the final, which would be played as a best-of-three. The first match started at 10:45 p.m.

Five hours later, the first match was still going, with Schmejkal holding a small advantage over Mahmood. The players started with insanely large chip stacks – 3.84 million apiece -- having carried all of the chips from their previous seven matches forward. Blinds began at 15,000/30,000 and levels lasted 40 minutes, so even after five hours the players still had medium stacks (avg. 32 big blinds).

And the way the pair were playing -- limping, checking, folding -- it didn’t appear there was any end in sight.

At some point during that match, the tournament director with which we began noted that the players could decide to finish the best-of-three tomorrow. When he proposed that to the players, they sounded like they might be leaning in that direction, but no decision was made then.

By the time we reached 3:45 a.m., I was starting to feel a little desperate about the whole situation. It wasn’t looking like this match was ending soon. And it wasn’t clear yet whether the players would choose to stop after that or continue on into the second match.

Our original TD/announcer had left us, replaced by another who couldn’t have been less enthused about the event. He rarely bothered to announce bet sizes (kind of essential to those of us trying to cover the event from media row). He’d even take entire hands off, sitting over in a chair by the side of the stage.

At one point the two dozen or so spectators still watching asked him why he wasn’t announcing hands, and he said he was waiting for something exciting to happen.

I couldn’t blame him too much. It became harder and harder to blog hands as the night wore on, especially given that the players were mostly folding preflop or on the flop, with very few raises. In fact, we’d gotten to that five-hour mark with only a single instance of a player being all in and at risk of losing.

I mentioned a couple of days ago being asked by someone about the most boring final table I’d ever worked. I had a little trouble coming up with an answer to the question then. But I think I probably have a ready answer now.

Somewhere after 4 a.m., the players seemed to hit a wall and the all-in bets finally started coming. But the all-in player kept surviving, and we made it to yet another break -- and the six-hour mark -- without the issue of the first match having being decided.

During the break, the tournament director asked Schmejkal if he wanted to keep playing after this first match concluded. “Me not,” said Schmejkal. “Hopefully him not, too,” he added with a smile, adding that he thought Mahmood was pretty exhausted.

The players returned from their break and as play resumed quickly agreed that they should come back tomorrow rather than try to play a second (or third) match tonight. Mahmood said he’d like to start back at 7 p.m. As the phone call was being made to see if that could work, he added what Tim (my blogging partner) and I thought to be ominous-sounding words.

“If seven is not possible, then I’d like to finish it now,” he said.

Thankfully, the word came back that 7 p.m. was possible, and so finally we really could imagine an end to this night. I'm going to let you read the PokerNews blog to find out how that end happened (if you are curious).

As for me, I'm going to bed.

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Blogger Sean G said...

I can't believe you sat through those hours of tedium, did your job and covered the hands, and then took the time to write this great piece on it. You should be in bed, man!

6/21/2010 12:35 PM  

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