Thursday, July 15, 2010

2010 WSOP, Day 48: The Long Walk

'The Long Walk' (1979) by Stephen King, writing as Richard BachmanAnybody remember this book, The Long Walk? I actually read this as a teenager, not realizing at the time it was by Stephen King as it had been originally published under a pseudonym, Richard Bachman. This was the cover of the copy I read, I recall. Haven’t looked back at it since I first read it, but it's one of those weird tales that kind of sticks with you.

Found myself thinking about The Long Walk again yesterday while helping cover Day 5 of the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event. The story concerns a contest in which 100 boys are essentially made to walk without stopping, with the last one to survive winning “The Prize” -- i.e., anything he wants for life. And when I say “survive” I mean that literally, as those who fail to keep moving are shot dead.

Like I say, it has been a while since I’ve read the book, but I remember it being well-plotted and full of several interesting characters. And it had that hook -- as King’s stories and novels often do. Some of the boys crack up along the way, I recall, suffering both physically and mentally. I think some even kill themselves rather than being executed.

I thought of the book yesterday because we have reached that point in the Main Event where we’re all becoming more and more conscious of the endurance aspect of the tournament -- the fact that we’re now moving beyond the 40-hour mark in terms of time played.

And it sort of seems like some are cracking up.

Yesterday the day began with the bustouts once again coming at a rapid pace. I think the field went from 574 to 500 in the first hour of play, meaning more than one elimination per minute. I know in the blog over on PokerNews it felt as though just about every post was reporting yet another player pushing all in before the flop and not surviving.

The short stacks had no choice, of course. They were like the characters in the novel who had reached their physical limits, and simply could not go on. But then there were the medium or even big stacks suddenly going out, too. They could have walked on, but for whatever reason had reached some sort of limit, too.

I am referring to those wild coin flip-type hands in which players freely commit 100-plus big blinds before the flop knowing they are in a race situation at best. This sort of high-stakes gambling has happened all three years I have helped cover the Main Event.

I remember in 2008 commenting here about a hand I had reported in which two players each committed 1.2 million preflop with A-K when the blinds were 4,000/8,000. Not unusual at all to see that at this stage of the ME. Indeed, remember the very last day of play in 2009 (when they played down from 27 to 9), which most said would take 20 hours and was over in half that time. There were some examples of what appeared to be unnecessary risk-taking that day, too.

On the one hand, it seems like after playing poker for a week-and-a-half one would be less quick to risk that huge stack one has worked so hard and so long to accumulate. Then again, I think most players do reach a point where it doesn’t matter how many big blinds they have, they are desirous to put it all on the line regardless.

The Main Event is unusual because of its size and structure. In just about every other tournament these guys have ever played, they’ve never gotten close to the 40-hour mark in terms of playing time. Somewhere long before that they’ve reached the stage where some or even most players are in push-or-fold territory, and the gambling begins.

But in the ME -- with its slowly rising blinds/antes, two-hour levels, and such a huge field (meaning a ton of chips in play) -- that point really hasn’t come yet for the majority of the field. When play ended last night there were 205 players left. The top 40 still all had at least 100 big blinds. The top 120 still had at least 50 big blinds. It remains a “deep-stacked” event -- i.e., one in which flops can (and in most cases probably should) be seen -- if people want to play it as such.

Johnny Chan remains a big story heading into Day 6, still way up on the leaderboard (in 9th). Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi was on a short stack during the bubble period, but is now sitting in 30th place. In case you missed it, three of his brothers -- Robert, Danny, and Eric -- also cashed in the ME, an incredible feat. Robert is the only one still in, but is super short to begin today.

Another story today is that only one woman made it to Day 6, Breeze Zuckerman. She won Wicked Chops’ Last Woman Standing Cup when Dorothy Van Sachsen went out in 273rd. I think many were betting we’d see more women left in the field at this point, especially given all of the “Year of the Woman” talk leading up to the Main Event. (Anyone remember Ty Stewart, Vice President of Harrah’s, predicting women would win “three-plus bracelets” in open-field events?)

I imagine we’ll get down around 70-80 players today, then play down to 27 on Friday. They’ve planned the schedule well this year, in my opinion, mostly ensuring that none of the days go too long.

Although as I say, if players choose (and/or are able) to tighten up with their stacks of 100-plus big blinds, they could all keep on walking a bit longer.

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Blogger Josh said...

I remember that book! I read it when I was a teenager as well and it had a similarly haunting effect on me.

Anyway, as a long-time fan, first-time commenter, keep up the great work!

7/15/2010 9:01 PM  

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