Tuesday, June 29, 2010

2010 WSOP, Day 32: The Grand Games, Part 2

The DonkamentSo about a month ago -- right at the start of the World Series of Poker -- I made an attempt to discuss these $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em events. There are six of these on the schedule this year, essentially one per week. I had been assigned to help cover the first one (Event No. 3), which I did for the first two days when a massive field of 4,345 turned out.

In that earlier post, I noted how I tend not to refer to these events as “donkaments” (i.e., tournaments played by donkeys). Various reasons why, but probably the main one is I probably feel a relative kinship with a lot of the players for whom a $1,000 buy-in represents the most they want to lay out for an event. Maybe another way to look at it would be to say I’m a donkey, too.

So I proposed referring to them as “The Grand Games,” thus distinguishing them from the other bracelet events while perhaps offering a less pejorative-sounding appellation for them.

Now we are reaching the end of the 2010 WSOP. We’re less than a week away from the start of the Main Event, and my last couple of assignments are to cover the final two $1K events. I helped with Day 2 of Event No. 47 yesterday. I’ll also be helping cover Event No. 54 (the last $1K NLHE event) from beginning to end before moving over to help with the Main Event.

I’ll admit to feeling not exactly enamored with the $1K event early in the day. Didn’t really seem so grand at all, honestly.

There were 476 players left to start the Day 2 (out of 3,128 entrants). Among them were a few known entities, but no obvious storylines going in. Additionally, we were operating with a skeleton crew, having had one of our number call in sick. So as the first hands were dealt I wasn’t really feeling terribly encouraged about what the next 12 hours or so had in store.

The first 75 minutes went rather predictably, during which time 150 players hit the rail. We were scrambling to bust players from the counts and keep everything relatively in order on the accounting side of things, but it was hard going. The pace then screeched to a halt with the start of hand-for-hand play as the cash bubble had arrived.

And, I’ll admit, it all seemed a little less interesting or important than, say, the final table I’d recently helped cover in which Gavin Smith won his first bracelet. Or the WSOP Tournament of Champions that was going on the other side of Amazon.

Lol doncamentsOh, these “donkaments,” I found myself thinking ruefully. Who cares about ’em?

It took about a half-hour for the cash bubble to burst, then the carnage resumed. We would eventually make it all of the way down to just 33 players left by night’s end.

Funny thing, though. As the result of various encounters and some of the posts I got to write as the day wore on, I found myself getting more and more invested in the event, and even in the fortunes of some of the players, too. In other words, without even really realizing what was happening, I was starting to care about this here donkament. No shinola.

The fact is, at these “Grand Games” one finds a much different, more relaxed atmosphere than at pretty much any of the other WSOP events. Makes sense, since there does seem to be a correlation between the actual stakes of an event and the figurative “stakes” or significance attached to it. Also, since many of the players are amateurs who in some cases haven’t ever played a WSOP event before, they tend to approach it all much differently than do the seasoned vets.

One consequence of that different approach is that I tend to interact much more frequently with the players at these $1K events -- not because I try to, but because they start conversations with me (for various reasons) as I pass between the tables or on breaks. Some just want to be tracked in the counts, others have questions for me about how things go, and occasionally some even just want to talk about how their tourney is going.

Here are five quick anecdotes from yesterday that perhaps help illustrate this different “atmosphere” to which I’m referring:

1. Chip Count Challenge. When play reached hand-for-hand, there were something like 36 or 37 tables left. So a lot of waiting going on. I was passing between the tables when one of the dealers -- standing up so as to let the Tournament Director see his table had completed their hand -- asked me how I was doing. “Fine,” I said, then he surprised me by turning to the table and announcing “These guys will count your chips just like that! They’re like machines!”

I chuckled and immediately one of the players playfully challenged me to count his stack. He playfully covered his chips with his hands, exposed them for a couple of seconds, then covered them again. “How much?” he said. I’d gotten enough of a look to take a stab. “16?” I said. He counted. He had 15,400, and congratulated me on coming close.

2. Hands Across the Hemispheres. I was watching a hand when a player came up to me from a couple of tables over. He shook my hand and with a big grin told me he remembered me from LAPT Lima. He had played in the event, and recognized me from having covered it. I asked him his name. “Jacobo Bucaram,” he told me. “The only player from Ecuador,” he added. Subsequently, every time I passed by his table he caught my eye and gave me a big thumbs up.

3. A Shout out for the Ladies. Once the tourney had gotten down to about 100 players, one of them, Stacy Matuson-Taylor, came over to tell me how she was doing and also the status of the other remaining women in the event. “We need a shout out for the ladies!” she said, and I agreed. I remembered Matuson-Taylor from the Ladies event (where she finished 16th), she remembered me, too, and ended up touching base a few times before she finally was eliminated in 39th.

4. Mann, oh Mann. Yesterday we had two players with the exact same name -- Jason Mann. It took us a while to sort out the two Manns, but I was helped by the fact that one of them had come up to me to tell me who he was and how he knew there was a problem in the counts because of the coincidence. (The site doesn’t allow us to enter two players with the same name.) He wanted his family to be able to follow his progress online, but having two Jason Manns was making that difficult. I got his middle name and added it to his entry, and that was how we kept them distinguished for the rest of the night.

He really dug the idea of there being another player in the event with his same name, and told me he would love it if they made it to heads-up. “It would be a Mann on Mann battle,” I said, and he laughed. Alas, the other Jason Mann busted on the very last hand of the night, so the one I had spoken to ended up being the last Mann standing.

5. Am I Really the Leader? When play ended I was grabbing end-of-day counts as the players bagged their chips, and the one who turned out to be the end-of-day chip leader stopped me to ask me a couple of questions about the process, which having witnessed it enough times I was able to answer. He had one more question for me: “Does anybody have more?” He sounded a little tentative when asking, as if he were a little surprised he currently might be on top. I told him I hadn’t seen a bigger stack, something I could tell he was glad to hear.

There were other moments along the way, but perhaps those give some idea of how these “Grand Games” tend to go a little differently than the other events. They are definitely challenging to cover, but I have to say I very much like the personal interactions and being (hopefully) a positive part of the players’ experience playing in them.

I had been scheduled to cover the final table for this one tomorrow, but I’m hearing that they may just play the sucker through tonight. Will be checking in over at PokerNews to see.

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Blogger BJ Nemeth said...

Two comments:

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1. I often use the word "donkament," but I'm not thinking of it as pejorative against the players. (Well, not entirely.) It's just that these large-field events attract more players (and yes, more bad players), and the relatively small starting stacks and field composition affects the play all the way to the money bubble. With the word "donkament," the players and reporters I'm talking to immediately know what I'm talking about.

"Donkament" has a specific meaning at the WSOP the same way most players and media know what you mean (skill- and structure-wise) when you say a "5 pm event." It's likely a smaller-field event, possibly a stud variation, and it will tend to have more high-profile high-stakes players.

I use the two terms to easily distinguish the two types of tournaments. "Grand Games" sounds poetic, but doesn't communicate what I'm trying to communicate. (And it seems to elevate the $1Ks above the $1,500s, which are very, very similar by most criteria.)

I prefer last year's schedule, with only a single $1K NLHE event, called "The Stimulus Special." That name suits my purpose without sounding disparaging. You can't call them "Stimulus Specials" this year, however, because with how many of them there are, the only thing they are stimulating is Harrah's bottom line.

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2. I think the post-event anecdotes you listed here are far more interesting than 95% of the "color" posts that goes into online tournament coverage. (Yours, mine, and everyone else's.)

These anecdotes would seem out of place in the official coverage, but it would be nice if we could think of a way to share these stories more directly with the poker fans who read the live updates. (Again, I'm not just talking about PokerNews or the WSOP, but all reporters and all tournaments.)

This is something I am going to think about in terms of improving future tournament coverage.

6/29/2010 9:04 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Thanks, B.J. Yeah, I agree about "Grand Games" being a little too lofty-sounding. Takes a certain amount of effort just to say that phrase, too, as opposed to the instantly-recognizable (and thus admittedly useful) "donkament."

I was able to sneak in a couple of brief side stories in the coverage last night (other than the ones shared here), but as you know there's little time for much beyond data entry & hand reports. I'm with you in thinking the whole approach to how WSOP events are covered could be reconsidered.

6/29/2010 9:29 PM  

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