Wednesday, October 31, 2012

2012 WSOP Main Event Final Table Hole Cards (Complete)

Okay, show of hands... who watched the whole sucker?  Whatta marathon, right?  On the one hand, kind of amazing that last night’s three-handed portion of the 2012 World Series of Poker lasted as long as it did (264 hands!), but then again, given the super deep stacks -- and the stakes -- it probably should have taken a long time.
Greg Merson is obviously a deserving winner, and both Jesse Sylvia and Jake Balsiger proved themselves last night, too. 
Speaking of a show of hands (pun intended), I was making some references in yesterday’s post that revealed I’d been keeping track of the hole cards being shown on ESPN’s “almost live” broadcast of the final table.  I had the idea last year to do something similar, but didn’t follow through on it.  This time, though, I remained stubborn and went ahead and tracked the hands all of the way to the very end, and thus for today’s post I am sharing what I’ve done here.
I was surprised last year, actually, not to have seen anyone having done this sort of thing.  (Someone might have somewhere, but I never came across it.)  But my sense is there are some who would be interested in having this resource, including anyone wanting to perform thorough analyses of the play at this year’s final table as well as those just wanting to check on a particular hand.
A few disclaimers...
I am following the hand numbering used in PokerNews’ live reporting from the final table.  Some of you might have noticed ESPN’s numbering was off (by one), something that I believe resulted from a misdeal early on that ESPN counted and then couldn’t go back and change.  They didn’t really make a lot of reference to hand #s on Day 1 on ESPN, although last night they’d sometimes list it in the upper left corner.  Know, then, for most of Day 1 and all of Day 2, ESPN’s references to hand #s are one more than they should be.
The winner of each hand is listed first. You’ll notice a few hands with “X X” listed as hole cards.  Those were hands ESPN either skipped over showing or which for whatever reason they never were able to reveal hole cards.  Sylvia in particular didn’t show his hole cards whenever he got a walk, and indeed most of those hands without hole cards are from walks or rapid raise-and-take hands.
Still, just about all of the hands did make it to air, and only a few hole cards were missed along the way.  Note that ESPN’s practice was in non-showdown hands to show the winner’s cards and the cards of the last player to fold, meaning for almost every hand there were two players’ cards of concern.  (Only once, in Hand #306, did three players make it to a showdown.)
Donnie and Rich did a terrific job with the live blog at PN, and Mickey kept the counts in order the whole way as well.  I used their reporting for more than just hand numbers, but also to double-check a lot of what I’m listing below.  I should note there is one hand (#363) where I believe they might’ve gotten the winner wrong, but it was a small one.  And heck, we’re talking 10-plus hours into fairly intense coverage of three-handed poker by then.
Finally, it goes without saying any errors in this list are all mine.  And indeed, I’m sure there are a few here and there.  I’m reasonably confident the Day 1 hands are all accurate, as I had time to double-check those while also getting to look at B.J. Nemeth’s log of Monday’s hands, too, for further proofing.  I didn’t get to do that sort of rereading for Day 2, and so feel like there might be a few hands where I would’ve liked to have made sure about suits or other details.  (Anyone noticing anything obviously incorrect, feel free to let me know.)

Level 34
1. Gee Ks Qd, Thomas 9c 6c
2. Sylvia 9h 6h, Balsiger 9d 2c
3. Thomas Qc 9s, Ausmus X X
4. Ausmus Ac 9c, Gee 10s 6d
5. Esposito Ks Kh, Merson Ah Jh
6. Balsiger Ad Jc, Thomas Ah Jd
7. Thomas Ah Qc, Salaburu 7c 5c
8. Balsiger Ac Kh, Merson Jh 10h
9. Sylvia Jd 3d, Esposito 10h 3s
10. Gee Jc 10c, Thomas Kh 9d
11. Salaburu 8s 8h, Balsiger Qd 10d
12. Gee Ks Qs, Ausmus 8h 2c
13. Merson As 2s, Gee 10h 9s
14. Salaburu As Js, Merson Ad 7d
15. Thomas As Js, Sylvia 4d 2c
16. Balsiger 9h 9c, Salaburu 5d 3h
17. Ausmus As Qc, Koroknai 8h 8d
18. Sylvia Ks Jc, Merson Kh Js
19. Merson Qc 5c, Thomas 9c 3h
20. Balsiger 10d 10c, Sylvia Ah Qc
21. Sylvia Ad 10d, Ausmus Qs 6s
22. Salburu Ks Kh, Gee Kc Qc
23. Merson Jh 5c, Gee 5h 4s
24. Thomas Kd 10d, Sylvia 9d 8d
25. Salaburu Qc Jh, Ausmus Js 8c
26. Balsiger Ks Qs, Koroknai Jd 8s
27. Salaburu Ks 10d, Esposito 8h 2d
28. Merson 10d 8d, Esposito Kc Qc

Level 35
29. Ausmus Ad Jh, Balsiger 9s 9d
*30. Thomas Qd Qc, Gee 8d 8c
31. Merson Ah Kd, Balsiger Qh Jh
32. Sylvia Jc 8s, Merson Qh 8h
33. Ausmus Qh 6h, Salaburu 8h 3d
34. Sylvia Ah 8h, Merson Jc 10c
35. Merson Ad Kd, Balsiger As Jh
36. Merson As Kc, Ausmus Ac 10h
37. Balsiger Ah Kh, Sylvia Kd 10d
38. Salaburu Ad Qc, Ausmus 10c 9h
39. Ausmus Qc 6c, Merson 4s 2d
40. Koroknai Ah 7h, Sylvia 9c 7c
41. Thomas Ac Kc, Salaburu 9d 8h
42. Esposito Qd 10d, Koroknai 8s 5c
43. Thomas 6s 6h, Esposito Jh 3d
44.  Thomas Ah 3c, Esposito 8h 7h
45. Sylvia Ks Qs, Ausmus 8s 8d
46. Ausmus As 8d, Thomas Ac 2s
47. Merson 9c 7c, Salaburu Jc Js
48. Thomas As Th, Sylvia 6d 4c
49. Merson Qd 9s, Salaburu Kh 10d
50. Salaburu Ah Jd, Sylvia 10h 9c
51. Esposito Kc 10s, Sylvia Ah 7s
52. Thomas Ks 9s, Esposito Kh 8d
53. Balsiger Kd Kc, Salaburu Qs Qh
54. Koroknai Qd 9d, Ausmus 8d 4h
55. Ausmus Ad Qh, Koroknai Kh Jh
56. Sylvia 9c 7c, Esposito 5s 5h
57. Balsiger Ac Kc, Salaburu 9d 3c
58. Ausmus As Qc, Koroknai Jd 9c
59. Koroknai 2s 2h, Salaburu Qs 8d
60. Ausmus Ac Qh, Sylvia Ad Qc
61. Balsiger Kh Js, Esposito As Jd
62. Thomas Ad Ks, Ausmus 8h 7d
63. Sylvia 8h 8c, Thomas 10c 9c
64. Ausmus 10s 4s, Sylvia Jc 9d
*65. Sylvia Qc 5c, Salaburu 7h 7d
66. Koroknai As 7d, Sylvia 8s 7s
67. Esposito As 5d, Balsiger 10s 10h

Level 36
68. Esposito Ac Qh, Sylvia 7h 6d
69. Esposito 10s 10d, Koroknai Ad 4s
*70. Merson Ac Ks, Esposito As Jh
71. Thomas Jh X, Merson 7c 2h
72. Koroknai 9c 8s, Balsiger 10h 10d
73. Ausmus Ad Qc, Koroknai 9s 2d
74. Sylvia Jd 9c, Thomas Qh 8s
75. Merson 7s 4s, Balsiger 9h 4d
76. Ausmus Qc 10s, Merson Ah Jh
77. Sylvia Ah 8h, Thomas 5s 5d
78. Merson Ad Kh, Balsiger Qh Jh
79. Koroknai Kc 9h, Ausmus Ah 9c
80. Koroknai 9h 9c, Sylvia Ks 6h
81. Sylvia 5d 5c, Balsiger Qd 9c
82. Balsiger As Qc, Merson Kc Qs
83. Thomas Kd 10s, Merson 9h 3h
84. Koroknai 9h 6h, Sylvia Qh 7s
85. Sylvia Qh Jc, Koroknai Ah 4h
86. Merson X X, Thomas X X
87. Balsiger As 4h, Thomas 9c 5c
88. Sylvia As Ac, Ausmus 7h 3c
89. Sylvia As 10s, Merson 8c 2h
90. Koroknai Ad Kh, Merson 6c 2c
91. Koroknai X X, Sylvia 8d 5h
92. Merson As Qc, Thomas Jh 5h
93. Ausmus As Kd, Balsiger Ad 8h
94. Ausmus 7s 5d, Balsiger 10d 5c
95. Merson Ad Qd, Thomas Ac 2h
96. Merson As Qs, Ausmus Ad Qc
97. Merson Ah 3c, Koroknai 9d 2h
98. Sylvia Qs Jd, Thomas Jc 4c
99. Merson Ac Kc, Balsiger 10c 6s
100. Thomas Jc 3h, Ausmus 7c 2c
101. Ausmus Qc Jc, Merson 6c 3c
102. Sylvia 10d 9s, Merson Jc 4h
103. Thomas Qh 10h, Koroknai 10d X
104. Koroknai Ac Kd, Merson 10s 8s
105. Balsiger 9h 6c, Thomas 10c 3d
106. Ausmus As 4c, Thomas 6d 3d
107. Merson Qh 3s, Ausmus 7h 2d
108. Merson Ac Jd, Ausmus Kd 5d
*109. Merson As Ks, Koroknai Kh Qd
110. Merson Ah Qd, Sylvia As 7c
111. Sylvia Ac 3c, Balsiger Qh 4h
112. Thomas Ac 3c, Ausmus Ah 5s
113. Ausmus Ac 8c, Merson Jd 7d

Level 37
114. Ausmus 6d 3c, Sylvia 10h 2h
115. Thomas 6h 4h, Sylvia 10h 5h
116. Balsiger Ac 10h, Sylvia Ad 7c
117. Balsiger Ah 5c, Thomas Qh 5h
118. Merson As Kh, Ausmus 10c 2h
119. Balsiger Kh Kd, Ausmus 10c 8h
120. Sylvia Ks 6h, Thomas 6s 5c
121. Balsiger 9s 8s, Sylvia Ah 8h
122. Sylvia Ac 5c, Ausmus Kh 7c
123. Balsiger Kh Jd, Thomas Qd 10d
124. Sylvia As 3s, Merson 5s 4h
125. Merson Jd 8d, Thomas Js 7c
126. Sylvia Js 8c, Balsiger 3d 2c
127. Sylvia Qh 7h, Thomas Qs 10s
128. Sylvia Ah Qh, Merson 10s 3c
*129. Sylvia Ac 9h, Ausmus 10s 7d
130. Balsiger 5h 5c, Thomas 8d 7d
131. Merson Kd Jc, Balsiger 2h 2d
132. Thomas Qc 7d, Merson 9s 2c
133. Sylvia X X, Merson 10s 7d
134. Merson 9c 7c, Thomas Ac 5d
*135. Balsiger As Kc, Thomas Ah 9d


136. Merson 10h 6h, Sylvia Ah 9d
137. Sylvia Qs 2c, Merson Kc Jh
138. Merson 10d 4d, Balsiger 6h 3c
139. Merson Qc 10c, Balsiger 10s Jh
140. Merson Qs Qh, Balsiger Js 9c
141. Merson Ac Jh, Balsiger 4d 3c
142. Merson 10c 3c, Balsiger Kh 2d
143. Merson 7h 6c, Sylvia 7c 7d
144. Merson Ah 8d, Balsiger 6s 5h
145. Balsiger Qd 10s, Sylvia 7d 7c
146. Merson Qh 7h, Sylvia 9h 3h
147. Merson Kh Qh, Balsiger As Qc
148. Merson Kd 5d, Balsiger 8h 6h
149. Merson Ah Ks, Sylvia Qc 4s
150. Balsiger Qc 8c, Merson Qd 7d
151. Merson As Js, Balsiger 9h 5d
152. Sylvia X X, Merson 5d 3s
153. Sylvia Ac Jd, Merson 7h 6c
154. Sylvia Ks Kc, Balsiger Ad Jh
155. Balsiger Qh 6c, Sylvia Qs 2h
156. Merson Qs 7c, Balsiger Qc 3h
157. Balsiger Js Jd, Sylvia 9h 9c
158. Balsiger Kc Js, Sylvia 7c 5d
159. Balsiger Ac 6d, Merson 8h 8c
160. Merson Qs 8s, Sylvia Ah 6h
161. Sylvia X X, Merson Ks 3h
162. Sylvia Ad 8d, Merson 4d 3h
163. Sylvia 9d 6h, Merson Ac 2s
164. Balsiger 5s 5d, Sylvia 7d 5c

Level 38
165. Balsiger Qh 7c, Sylvia Ks 3h
166. Merson Qc 7s, Balsiger Kd 5h
167. Sylvia X X, Merson X X
168. Sylvia Ah 2s, Merson Kd Jh
169. Merson Ac 3h, Balsiger 9c 7c
170. Balsiger 9h 9d, Merson Kc 5c
171. Sylvia Kd Jc, Merson 7s 7d
172. Merson 7h 6c, Balsiger Jd 2d
173. Sylvia 9h 3d, Merson 10s 9s
174. Merson Qc Qs, Balsiger 10s 6h
175. Merson 6c 4c, Sylvia Ac 2c
176. Merson 6h 6d, Sylvia Ah 5c
177. Balsiger Td Th, Sylvia X X
178. Balsiger Ks 9c, Merson 10s 9d
179. Balsiger 8c 2d, Balsiger Ad 4h
180. Balsiger 10s 4d, Sylvia Jh 4s
181. Merson Ah 4d, Sylvia Jd 9s
182. Sylvia Ac 8h, Merson 5d 3d
183. Balsiger Js 5s, Merson Ad Jd
184. Sylvia Ac 4d, Merson 9d 3h
185. Sylvia 7s 6s, Balsiger Ks Kd
186. Sylvia 9h 6d, Balsiger Kd 4s
187. Sylvia X X, Merson X X
188. Balsiger Qs 6c, Sylvia Qd 5s
189. Balsiger As 3c, Sylvia 5s 4c
190. Merson 9h 4c, Balsiger Qc 4d
191. Merson Ah 8d, Sylvia Jh 10h
192. Merson 6d 4c, Balsiger 10s 3c
193. Merson X X, Balsiger X X
194. Sylvia Qc 8s, Merson 10d 8h
195. Balsiger Kd Qc, Merson 10d 8h
196. Merson X X, Balsiger X X
197. Sylvia X X, Merson 9c 6s
198. Balsiger 10s 3s, Sylvia 8d 4c
199. Merson 7c 6h, Balsiger Ac Qh
200. Balsiger X X, Sylvia X X
201. Balsiger Kd Qs, Sylvia 7c 5h
202. Merson 5d 3d, Sylvia Js 7d
203. Balsiger 9s 8d, Sylvia Jh 6d
204. Sylvia 8s 8d, Merson 10s 9d
205. Merson Kh 8s, Sylvia Ah 3d
206. Balsiger Ah Jd, Sylvia Qh 7h
207. Sylvia Ad 8h, Merson Jh 8s
208. Merson Js Jd, Balsiger 10d 4d
209. Sylvia Qs 6s, Balsiger Ac 8h
210. Sylvia 9s 9d, Merson Kd Qs
211. Sylvia As 4d, Balsiger 4c 2h
212. Sylvia Ac Qh, Balsiger Jh 5h
213. Balsiger 7h 3h, Merson 9c 8d
214. Merson 7c 4d, Balsiger 9s 7h
215. Balsiger Jc 7c, Sylvia 10d 4s
216. Merson Qh Jh, Balsiger Qs 10d
217. Merson X X, Sylvia X X
218. Balsiger 10h 8d, Sylvia Qs 2c
219. Merson 8h 3h, Balsiger 8c 4c

Level 39
220. Sylvia As Ad, Merson 4d 3s
221. Sylvia X X, Merson 9s 4c
222. Sylvia Kh Qd, Merson 5h 4h
223. Merson 8s 6d, Balsiger Kd 4h
224. Balsiger Kc 4c, Sylvia 9h 4s
225. Merson Ad Qc, Balsiger Qh 8h
226. Sylvia Qh Jd, Merson Ks 2c
227. Merson Ad 4d, Sylvia 7h 6s
228. Sylvia Kd 9d, Balsiger 8s 4h
229. Merson Jc 9d, Sylvia Ad 4c
230. Merson Js 8d, Balsiger 2s 2h
231. Balsiger 10s 10d, Sylvia Ks 7d
232. Sylvia Qc 7c, Merson 10d 4c
233. Balsiger 8h 8d, Merson Jc 2s
234. Sylvia 10h 7s, Balsiger 8d 5s
235. Merson 6h 3s, Balsiger 3h 2s
236. Merson 10h 10d, Sylvia Jd 6c
237. Sylvia Ad Qd, Balsiger Jh 3h
238. Merson X X, Balsiger X X
239. Balsiger Ac 4s, Sylvia 4c 3d
240. Merson Ac Qd, Balsiger As 4s
241. Balsiger Kc 10d, Merson Ad 4c
242. Sylvia X X, Merson 10c 3s
243. Balsiger X X, Sylvia X X
244. Merson Kh 4s, Balsiger 8s 5d
245. Balsiger Kh Jd, Sylvia 7s 6s
246. Sylvia Ah Kh, Balsiger 9h 2s
247. Sylvia Qs 2s, Merson Qh 3d
248. Sylvia 8h 8c, Merson As 5d
249. Sylvia 8d 5s, Balsiger 9c 2d
250. Balsiger Jc 10h, Merson 9h 4s
251. Sylvia Ks 8s, Balsiger Ad 3d
252. Balsiger Ah 10s, Sylvia Ac Qs
253. Sylvia Ah Ks, Merson Kh Kd
254. Merson 9h 7c, Sylvia Js 2h
255. Balsiger 6s 6h, Sylvia Kc 2c
256. Sylvia Ad 3s, Merson Qh 4h
257. Sylvia Qc 6h, Merson Qd Jh
258. Balsiger 10h 6d, Merson Ad Js
259. Sylvia 9s 7c, Merson Kh Qc
260. Sylvia X X, Merson 7h 2c
261. Balsiger As 6c, Sylvia Jh 3c
262. Merson Qc 5d, Balsiger 8d 7h
263. Balsiger Kc 3h, Sylvia Kh 3s
264. Merson Qc 8h, Balsiger 3d 3h
265. Merson Jh 8s, Sylvia As 8c
266. Sylvia Ac 3s, Balsiger Qs 8d
267. Balsiger X X, Sylvia X X 
268. Balsiger Ks Qd, Sylvia Qh 2h
269. Balsiger 7s 7d, Sylvia Jd 6d

Level 40
270. Sylvia 8d 8c, Balsiger 8h 2s
271. Merson As 3d, Sylvia Ac 2c (split pot)
272. Merson Ad 4s, Sylvia 10d 5d
273. Balsiger As 7d, Sylvia 6d 4c
274. Merson X X, Balsiger X X
275. Merson Jd 3d, Sylvia 7h 6c
276. Sylvia 8h 3h, Balsiger 9d 2h
277. Sylvia Jh 10c, Merson Qs 2h
278. Balsiger Jh 6h, Sylvia Jd 3c
279. Merson 8c 7h, Balsiger 9c 2s
280. Merson Jc 9h, Sylvia 10h 6c
281. Balsiger 9s 7c, Sylvia 9h 3d
282. Merson As 5d, Balsiger 8c 2d
283. Sylvia Ac Js, Merson 6c 4c
284. Sylvia Ah 9c, Balsiger Jh 5h
285. Merson Jd 9d, Balsiger Jc 6d
286. Merson Ac Ks, Sylvia Jc 7c
287. Sylvia Qc 6c, Balsiger Ad 2s
288. Merson 9c 8c, Balsiger Qd 6s
289. Balsiger Ks Jd, Sylvia As Th
290. Sylvia 9h 5d, Merson 10d 10c
291. Balsiger X X, Sylvia X X
292. Merson 10d 2h, Balsiger 6s 3d
293. Balsiger 8c 7h, Merson Jc 10c
294. Sylvia 6d 6c, Balsiger 8c 3d
295. Merson X X, Balsiger X X
296. Balsiger Qh 8c, Sylvia Kd 6h
297. Merson Ah 3h, Balsiger 9c 5c
298. Sylvia 6h 4h, Balsiger Qd Jd
299. Sylvia 9c 7c, Merson As 4c
300. Merson As 7s, Balsiger 7d 2h
301. Merson 6h 3c, Sylvia Jh 10h
302. Balsiger Jh 8d, Sylvia Kh 3c
303. Merson As Ad, Sylvia 8d 7h
304. Sylvia 8c 4c, Merson 9s 7s
305. Balsiger X X, Sylvia X X
306. Balsiger Qd 3h, Merson Js 9c, Sylvia 9h 6h
307. Sylvia X X, Merson X X
308. Sylvia X X, Merson X X
309. Sylvia As Ks, Balsiger 5h 2c
310. Sylvia Ks 9c, Merson Jc 8c
311. Balsiger As 2s, Sylvia Ah 3c
312. Sylvia 10d 7d, Balsiger 10c 2c
313. Balsiger Ks 8s, Merson Jh 2s
314. Balsiger Qh 8s, Sylvia 7h 3s
315. Balsiger 5d 5c, Merson Jd 8s
316. Sylvia Ad 7s, Merson Qs 7h
317. Balsiger Jh 10c, Sylvia 4d 2c
318. Sylvia Qh Qc, Balsiger 7s 3s
319. Merson As Qd, Sylvia 9h 8h
320. Sylvia X X, Merson 8h 6c

Level 41
321. Merson 9d 6d, Balsiger 9c 2c
322. Merson 7d 5s, Balsiger 6s 5d
323. Merson Ah 10h, Balsiger As 2c
324. Sylvia Qd 10s, Balsiger Qc 3s
325. Sylvia Qh 5h, Merson Jd 8c
326. Balsiger Kd Qh, Sylvia 6s 4d
327. Merson 10s 2s, Balsiger 9s 7d
328. Merson 10c 3c, Balsiger 8c 6d
329. Sylvia X X, Merson 7d 2s
330. Balsiger 10c 9d, Sylvia 9h 3s
331. Sylvia Kd Jd, Merson Kh 4s
332. Balsiger Jd Jh, Sylvia Ac 5d
333. Sylvia 9s 2s, Balsiger Jh 7s
334. Balsiger Jh Jc, Merson 8h 2c
335. Sylvia X X, Merson Kd 5s
336. Balsiger Jc 8s, Sylvia 5c 2c
337. Balsiger Ac 4c, Sylvia Ah 7c
338. Merson As 10h, Balsiger Ad 3c
339. Merson 3s 3h, Sylvia Kc Jh
340. Merson Qh Jd, Balsiger 10h 9s
341. Sylvia 3d 3c, Balsiger Qs 10d
342. Balsiger Ah Ad, Merson 7c 3s
343. Balsiger Jd Jc, Sylvia 2h 2d
344. Sylvia X X, Merson X X
345. Sylvia 10c 9d, Merson 6c 5c
346. Balsiger Ah 7d, Merson 4c 3s
347. Balsiger As 4s, Sylvia Kc 10h
348. Sylvia Qc 9c, Merson Ac Jh
349. Balsiger Ks Kc, Sylvia Kd 9h
350. Merson Ad 5h, Sylvia Jc 4h
351. Merson Ah Jh, Balsiger 3s 2c
352. Merson 10d 2s, Balsiger Kh Js
353. Balsiger Qs 8s, Sylvia Jh 6c
354. Balsiger X X, Sylvia X X
355. Sylvia Js 7s, Merson Qd 2s
356. Sylvia 8s 2d, Balsiger Kd 9c
357. Sylvia Jh 10c, Balsiger Kc 8c
358. Balsiger Kc 10c, Merson 7s 3s
359. Balsiger Jc 10c, Sylvia Js 3d
360. Sylvia Kh Jc, Balsiger Ah Qh
361. Merson X X, Balsiger X X
362. Sylvia X X, Merson X X
363. Sylvia As Qs, Merson Ad 3h
364. Merson Ad 6d, Balsiger Kc 2c
365. Balsiger 3d 3c, Merson 5c 2s
366. Merson Qs Qh, Balsiger Jd 10c
367. Merson Kh 4s, Balsiger Kc 10d
368. Sylvia X X, Merson X X
369. Merson 2s 2d, Balsiger Kc 5s
370. Sylvia Ac Kc, Merson Ah 10s
371. Merson Ad 6s, Sylvia 9h 4c
372. Sylvia Ac 10d, Merson Ah 6d
373. Merson Kc Qc, Sylvia Ah 7h
374. Merson As Jc, Sylvia 10c 9h

Level 42
375. Balsiger X X, Sylvia X X
376. Balsiger 2d 2c, Merson 9d 4d
377. Balsiger X X, Sylvia X X 
378. Sylvia 10h 10c, Merson As 4s
379. Merson 10s 5s, Balsiger 9h 8s
380. Sylvia X X, Merson X X
381. Sylvia Ac 9d, Balsiger 4d 3s
*382. Merson Kc Qs, Balsiger Qh 10d
383. Sylvia X X, Merson 3d 2c
384. Merson Kh 8d, Sylvia 6c 3d
385. Sylvia 6d 5d, Merson 7h 5s
386. Merson Kh 7d, Sylvia 10s 3c
387. Sylvia Jc 9s, Merson Kd 4h
388. Merson As Jh, Sylvia 5s 4h
389. Merson Ks 2c, Sylvia Kh 6s
390. Sylvia Jh 9c, Merson 10h 4c
391. Sylvia X X, Merson 3s 2h
392. Sylvia Qc 9d, Merson 7c 5s
393. Merson Qd 5h, Sylvia Jh 10c
394. Sylvia Qc 5c, Merson Kc 4d
395. Sylvia X X, Merson 5d 3c
396. Merson 3c 2c, Sylvia Qs 8d
397. Merson Kc 6d, Sylvia Qh 8d
398. Sylvia 10s 7c, Merson Qc 8d
*399. Merson Kd 5d, Sylvia Qs Js

*indicates elimination hand

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2012 WSOP Main Event Final Table (Day 2 of 2)

Managed to stay up until about 1:30 a.m. last night watching the “almost live” coverage of the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event final table on ESPN2. That was the first five-and-a-half hours’ worth or so, meaning I saw the first three eliminations (Steve Gee in ninth, Robert Salaburu in eighth, and Michael Esposito in seventh) before hitting the hay. I mentioned yesterday how I was going on about two hours’ sleep, and so finally succumbing to fatigue I decided at that point to record the rest to watch this morning.

Gee’s early exit didn’t surprise me too much. I was noting yesterday how I’d seen Gee make some fishy plays back in July. I was thinking of his “accidental call” on Day 6 (to knock out Nick DiVella) and a couple of hands on Day 7 when he’d done some overcalling and chasing at the secondary feature table.

Both Salaburu and Esposito were relatively tight during the eight or so orbits they lasted. Didn’t necessarily expect that of Salaburu, whom I’d seen appear aggressive on Day 7 (although as I pointed out on Monday, it turned out he’d been dealt a lot of big starting hands). Esposito I’d seen less of back in July, but it became obvious early on when he limp-reraised with pocket kings -- then limped a couple more times with his short stack -- that he was probably outmatched.

Esposito’s exit came in Hand #70. I watched about 15 more hands after that before popping in the tape and hitting the sack. (That’s right, we’re using the old school VCR here at chez Shamus.) As it turned out, then, none of the first three players eliminated last night necessarily distinguished himself as someone deserving better as far as his finish went.

By then it was pretty clear that Greg Merson was the most likely candidate to make tonight’s final three, with Jesse Sylvia (still leading) also appearing favored to join him. If I had to guess at that point who the third would be, I probably would’ve picked Russell Thomas who impressed with the big call with pocket queens against Gee’s 8-8 early on, although appeared to turtle up following that hand.

When I awoke this morning I avoided email, Twitter, and any other idle web surfing and watched the rest of last night’s action.

Andras Koroknai’s six-bet shove of 40 million-plus versus Merson with K-Q-offsuit (Hand #108), resulting in his elimination in sixth place, was surprising to say the least. The analysis by Antonio Esfandiari during the hand (and by Olivier Busquet during the break) pointed to an earlier hand (Hand #85) in which Koroknai had been five-bet out of a hand by Sylvia, a hand which had happened long enough before for the Hungarian to have learned that Sylvia had held but Q-J-offsuit.

In other words -- if indeed Koroknai was influenced by that earlier hand -- having the 15-minute delay with hole cards had a significant effect on one player’s decision-making, and thus (perhaps) the outcome of the table as a whole. In any case, the night would conclude with Gee and Koroknai being remembered for having made the biggest missteps.

Jeremy Ausmus played his short stack well early on to chip up and out of the danger zone before getting tripped up in fifth in a tricky hand versus Sylvia.

Jake Balsiger folded some winners early on, but as the night went on made several well-considered bets and raises to keep his stack reasonably healthy, too. Then came the last hand of the night (Hand #135) and that blind-vs.-blind confrontation when he benefited from some impatience from Thomas to knock the latter out in fourth.

I enjoyed the show, and look forward to more tonight. Recall that last summer ESPN started trying this “almost live”-type coverage at the WSOP, showing every hand and then revealing the hole cards for the last two players afterwards (for non-showdown hands). I believe it was earlier in 2011, at the pre-Black Friday PokerStars Caribbean Adventure -- where ESPN first tried the experiment. The WPT also began doing something similar with its streaming of final tables online.

Even so, watching unedited poker on the tube can be a grind. With the commercial breaks and overall slow pace, they were playing at a glacial clip of about 15 hands per hour. Tough stuff even for the most dedicated poker fan, I think. In fact, there was one stretch during the latter part of play (Hands #88-#103) where an entire hour went by without a single flop. I’m still a little amazed that ESPN devotes so much air time on one of its primary networks to the sucker.

As I watched last night and this morning, I thought about my “Keeping Score” post from last week. Unlike back in 1997, when Tom Sims (all on his own) kept track of and then reported every final table hand as he saw it, now we all can watch every hand -- repeatedly if we like -- and not only know all of the immediately observable action but hole cards as well.

It’s also possible to pull together an even more comprehensive “scorecard” of the ME final table, too, by looking both at PokerNews’ reporting and the ESPN video. Of course, even there a few small items fall through the cracks, such as the occasional bet amount and hole card. In fact, ESPN missed showing one quick raise-and-take hand altogether (Hand #86) while showing a little montage of knockouts.

Thus we can go back and say (for instance) that Merson picked up A-K exactly eight times in the 135 hands dealt last night (Hands #31, #35, #36, #70, #78, #99, #109, #118), including the two big knockout hands versus Esposito and Koroknai. He also was dealt A-Q three times (Hands #92, 95, 96). And he won all 11 of those hands.

Incidentally, K-K was dealt three times last night -- to Esposito (Hand #5), Salaburu (Hand #22), and Balsiger twice (Hands #53 and #119). Pocket aces were dealt but once, to Sylvia (Hand #88).

We were able to see Balsiger dealt pocket pairs nine times last night. In addition to getting kings twice, he was dealt 9-9 twice (#16, #29), 10-10 three times (#20, #67, #72), 5-5 once (#130), and 2-2 once (#131). Salaburu almost equaled that clip by getting pocket pairs four times in the 65 hands he played. We saw no other player with pocket pairs more than three times last night (although some could well have folded them without their hands being shown). Balsiger picked up A-K five times, too (Hands #8, #37, #57, #78, and #135).

Gotta believe Merson (1st, 88.35 million) is the betting favorite tonight, although really both Sylvia (62.75 million) and Balsiger (3rd, 46.875 million) appear savvy enough to break through, especially if the cards cooperate. In other words, it seems doubtful there will be any slip-ups as dramatic as those of Gee and Koroknai on Monday, but who knows?

Who do you think will be the 2012 WSOP Main Event champ?

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Monday, October 29, 2012

2012 WSOP Main Event Final Table (Day 1 of 2)

Just a few hours from now the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event final table will finally be underway. I’ll be tuning on ESPN2 in for the start for certain, and very likely might be sitting up into the wee hours to see who survives to the final three.

Last year I did an “almost live blog” of the WSOP ME final table (Day 1 & Day 2), essentially sharing reactions as I viewed the “almost live” coverage. Not sure I’ll be able to pull something similar off this time, for a couple of reasons.

One is that I’m going on just a couple of hours’ sleep as it is, having sat up all night following that All-Star Showdown match on PokerStars last night (and this morning) between Isaac Haxton and Alex “Kanu7” Millar. The other is I am trying to get my act together for a big poker writing trip to Macau for the big Asia Championship of Poker. I’ll leaving for that one on Thursday, assuming of course no hurricanes get in the way. (More on that here before I go.)

All of which means I am already running low on mental energy to do any sort of writing tonight, and probably would do well to preserve and recharge what little I have left before making that long, long, long trip to Macau. Not that the world needs another scribbler scribbling about the WSOP Main Event final table, as there will be no shortage of that happening over the next couple of days.

I do feel a little more locked in this year than was the case last year, though, probably because I followed the ESPN coverage a little more closely this time and did ultimately enjoy a lot of what I saw. Still kind of pine for 441 Productions’ handling of the WSOP from before, but I nonetheless found a lot of this year’s coverage (by Poker PROductions) fairly compelling and a step up from 2011.

I’m more familiar with the final nine players, too, and while watching these last few weeks’ worth of ESPN shows was reliving a lot of what happened during those last couple of days of play in July.

Chip leader Jesse Sylvia (1st, 43,875 million) is predictably listed at the sportsbooks as a favorite, and he certainly seems like a capable player who has an idea how to use his chips. I remember him excitedly talking to his friends on a break during his big Day 7 rush about hoping it wasn’t all a dream, which was a fun memory from the last day of play this summer.

Meanwhile, Greg Merson (3rd, 28.75 million) obviously stands out as a contender, with the associated sidebar story of his run at the WSOP Player of the Year (only possible with a ME win) adding another slight layer of intrigue.

Of the others, the short stacks Jeremy Ausmus (9th, 9.805 million) and young Jake Balsiger (8th, 13.115 million) are both likable guys who’ll obviously need some help to climb into contention. The extrovert Robert Salaburu (7th, 15.155 million) is also kind of a character who I’m remembering appeared to dominate the secondary feature table during the early part of Day 7. Come to find out from the ESPN broadcasts he picked up A-K like four times or something -- and seemed to connect with the board each time -- so that perhaps partly explained the rapid chipping up he enjoyed that afternoon.

Of the two older players, I’d be inclined to suggest Michael Esposito (6th, 16.26 million) has a better chance than Steve Gee (5th, 16.86 million) after remembering a few of Gee’s hands from July, but both are obviously big underdogs. Gee does have a WSOP bracelet -- the only player other than Merson to boast of such -- and so I suppose might have some ideas about finishing the deal.

I imagine Russell Thomas (4th, 24.8 million) also has some extra knowledge heading into tonight thanks to his training with Jason Somerville et al. (I think Thomas and Esposito are the only real non-pros at this final table, unless we want to count the college student Balsiger, too.)

And while most are focusing on the lone non-American Andras Koroknai (2nd, 29.375 million) as the villain who knocked out Gaelle Baumann and Elisabeth Hille (and who fortunately survived a helluva blunder in that infamous all-in-and-muck hand), he, too, has experience closing a big event, having won the $10K WPT L.A. Poker Classic in February 2010. In fact, the $1.78 million first prize the Hungarian took there is the biggest cash any of the final nine has ever previously enjoyed.

Lots of good storylines, I think, and of course more will emerge tonight. Like I say, I may just watch and enjoy rather than try to narrate anything as it goes, taking a turn as a spectator for once. That said, I’ll hold out as an option the possibility of jumping back on here if I see something that compels me to do so.

In any event, those who do watch, enjoy it! And feel free to let me know what you think about it, too.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Betting on the October Nine

Been poking through the Media Guide for the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event final table.

Still having trouble referring to the “Octo-Nine,” which sounds a little too much like an ointment or some kind of amino acid. Actually in the guide the final group is referred to as the “October Nine,” which is better, although kind of makes it sound like they are collectively on trial.

Which I guess they are.

Play resumes in Vegas on Monday afternoon. Like last year, we’ll be able to see it all on a 15-minute delay on ESPN2, with hole cards of involved players being shown after the hand is complete. (It will also be streamed online at and for those lucky ones with access to ESPN3.) They’ll play down from nine players to three on Monday, then return on Tuesday to finish it up.

Don’t really have a rooting interest, not that I usually do. I’ll definitely be watching, though, as there’s a kind of inherent drama associated with any WSOP ME final table that I can’t help but enjoy. And I like the “almost live” format, too, which ultimately does a pretty good job of helping complete the transformation of tournament poker into a sporting event. Almost.

The Media Guide includes all of the usual information about the players, the schedule, the history of the WSOP, and more. There’s also a page listing “Player To Win the Final Table” odds being offered at the Rio Race and Sportsbook. As was the case for all of the preliminary events this summer, one can bet on final table players and thus kind of play along. Here are the odds being offered:

Terrible, eh? I remember occasionally peeking at the odds for players at some of the final tables I covered during the summer, and every time I did I had the same reaction. They were consistently awful, and not once was I tempted to bet even in cases where after having covered an event for a couple of days I might have believed I had a little extra knowledge of players and their chances of winning.

For example, take the chip leader, Jesse Sylvia, for whom one wins a paltry 3/2 return. Glancing at some of the online sites’ odds, none have less than 3/1 (i.e., twice the return) for a Sylvia win. Not that 3/1 is so great, either.

Sylvia has the lead, sure, but are his chances of winning the tournament better than 1 in 3? With a chip stack of 43,875,000, he has a little over 22% of the chips in play. What would you say would be a reasonable estimate of Sylvia’s chances of winning?

See the stacks for everyone listed above. They’ll start back in the middle of Level 34 (blinds 150,000/300,000, ante 40,000). Setting aside the lousy odds for doing so, who among these nine would you bet on to win?

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Poker’s Possible Worlds; or, “Easy Fold for Jesse”

Was watching ESPN’s coverage earlier this week of the last moments of Day 7 of the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event. A memorable finish to the night, of course, with both of the remaining women -- Elisabeth Hille and Gaelle Baumann -- going out in the last two spots shy of the nine-handed final table.

In yesterday’s post I was writing about “hand-for-hand” coverage at the WSOP. Once Hille was eliminated and the remaining 10 players assembled around a single table, those of us doing the PokerNews live blog decided to take turns reporting every hand from that point forward. As it happened, it would be over in just 15 hands when Baumann was finally eliminated by Andras Koroknai.

As I wrote about here last July, it was kind of a manic scene. I had been on the secondary feature table, and so once Hille was knocked out I raced over and hastily set up in one of the media towers by the main table. The action went quickly, and it would take just over half an hour for those last 15 hands to be played.

On just the fifth hand of ten-handed play, Russell Thomas made a big preflop all-in shove following a lot of action and everyone folded. He showed his hand afterwards -- pocket aces. It had been my turn to write that one, and as so as I watched it again the other night, I remembered the hand. I looked back after and saw I’d given the post a pretty generic title: “Thomas Pushes With Aces.”

In truth, the hand didn’t seem all that notable at the time. Sure, we were surprised to see significant action so quickly after ten-handed play had begun. But the way the hand ended made it seem not so remarkable, and soon we’d forgotten about it as we became preoccupied with subsequent hands and the plight of Baumann and her short stack.

Watching the same hand on ESPN this week, though, revealed just how dramatic and unusual it was. And how a decision made by one player -- chip leader Jesse Sylvia -- might well have affected the ultimate outcome that evening regarding who among the ten players would not be coming back next week for the official final table.

That picture to the left is a screen shot from ESPN’s coverage showing the chip counts at the start of ten-handed play. The first four hands had been blind steals, and so the stacks hadn’t changed a lot by the start of Hand #5.

The blinds were 150,000/300,000 with a 40,000 ante, so there was 850,000 in the middle to start. First to act, Russell Thomas opened with a 2.5x raise for 750,000 from under the gun. Jacob Balsiger, sitting to Thomas's left, called the raise. It then folded over to Greg Merson who reraised to 1.85 million from middle position.

Baumann quickly folded, then Sylvia made a four-bet to 4.6 million from the cutoff seat, pushing the total pot up to 8.8 million.

Everyone else quickly got out, and that’s when Merson responded by pushing his stack of about 17.6 million all in. The remaining players didn’t waste a lot of time folding, Thomas showed his aces, and Timmy the dealer was soon shuffling and dealing the next hand.

Check this out, though. In ESPN’s coverage, we got to see all ten players’ hands in this one (not just Thomas’s). Look at what they had:

Seat 1: Russell Thomas (UTG) -- AsAd (raises, shoves)
Seat 2: Jacob Balsiger -- AhKc (calls raise, folds)
Seat 3: Jeremy Ausmus -- 8d7c (folds)
Seat 4: Steven Gee -- Ac2d (folds)
Seat 5: Greg Merson -- QdQh (reraises, folds)
Seat 6: Gaelle Baumann -- 9c5h (folds)
Seat 7: Jesse Sylvia (CO) -- Th5c (re-reraises, folds)
Seat 8: Robert Salaburu (B) -- Jd3s (folds)
Seat 9: Andras Koroknai (SB) -- 4d2h (folds)
Seat 10: Michael Esposito (BB) -- TdTs (folds)

Wild, huh? Three “premium” hands -- A-A, Q-Q, and A-K -- plus another big pocket pair (T-T). And the chip leader with 10-5-offsuit getting cheeky with a big four-bet.

On the show we can hear the players revealing their hands to each other afterwards. “Oh my God, I’m so happy,” says Balsiger, glad he avoided danger and was able to fold his A-K. Both Merson and Esposito tell the table about their respective pocket pairs. “What’d you have?” asks Thomas of Sylvia. “Like 5-3-off?”

“Something like that,” answers Sylvia with a grin.

Incidentally, if we had been closer to the table, I probably would have reported that chatter afterwards, which would’ve certainly helped suggest more about the hand and its significance -- although not everything.

Talk about “what if”! If Sylvia doesn’t make his play, how do you think the preflop action might have played out? Does someone get his stack in against Thomas’s aces? Do they get to a flop (at which point any number of possibilities could play out)?

At the time, Baumann had just a little more than 2 million, not even seven big blinds. If Sylvia doesn’t make his four-bet, might she have made the final table?

“Easy fold for Jesse,” says Norman Chad, initially describing Sylvia’s decision. “Easy fold for Jesse,” repeats Lon McEachern somewhat comically when it becomes apparent Sylvia isn’t folding right away.

And then he doesn’t. Proving again that poker is a game of many possible worlds. There’s what happens. Then there’s what might have happened. And then there’s what we all think happened.

Proved something else, too. Nothing is easy.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

For the Record: Keeping Score at the WSOP

Jessica Welman, besides now working as Managing Editor for, also keeps an engaging personal blog where she mostly writes about popular culture or comments on other issues of the day. However, every once in a while she uses that space to write about poker, such as a few days ago when she shared a nifty find she’d made in her capacity with the WSOP in a post titled “Lending History a Helping Hand-for-Hand.”

Jessica came across some online reporting from the WSOP conducted from 1995 to 2000 -- that, is dating back to pretty much the beginning of online anything -- and in her post describes what she found and what she likes about it.

Her post ultimately points back to the argument in favor of so-called “hand-for-hand” reports from final tables, something both she and B.J. Nemeth have long petitioned for and demonstrated in their reporting from World Poker Tour final tables. I’m talking about the practice of reporting every single hand from a final table, often numbering them, rather than only reporting most and/or significant hands while perhaps inserting other items of interest or relevance along the way.

Thus Jessica’s primary emphasis in her post is to argue that “it is time we stepped it up with hand-for-hand of every major final table” at WSOP events and other major tourneys. I want to address that argument, but first let me say a few things about that 1995-2000 coverage Jessica unearthed and in particular the examples of hand-for-hand reporting they contain.

Here is the page containing links to those 1995-2000 WSOPs. I know I’ve seen some of this before tucked away on the Conjelco site, although to be honest I hadn’t really explored it much and so like Jessica wasn’t previously aware of everything that was there.

By the way, for those seeking more early online reporting from the WSOP, the PokerPages site has reports going back to 2000. (There’s overlap, actually, with the same 2000 reports appearing on both sites.) CardPlayer has live updates from all events in 2005 and 2006. And from 2007 to present, PokerNews has handled the coverage as a primary content provider for the WSOP.

Among those reports from 1995-2000 one finds event summaries (including interviews and other goodies) written by Tom Sims, Andy Glazer, and Mike Paulle. Some of their reports from those final tables are quite thorough, and as Jessica points out these writers have left behind a great resource for anyone interested in studying the WSOP history during these pre-“boom” years. These guys were truly trailblazers.

One especially cool nugget highlighted by Jessica is a hand-for-hand account by Sims of the 1997 WSOP Main Event final table at which Stu Ungar won his third title. She also highlights another interesting item from that year’s WSOP Main Event, “The Andy Bloch Project” in which Sims and Bloch worked together to report all 648 hands Bloch played in that year’s ME.

Both reports are fascinating in their thoroughness. I think it’s probably safe to say nothing quite like it had been tried before -- not on such a scale, anyway -- and thus was Sims (and in the latter case, Sims and Bloch) challenged to establish both a methodology for keeping track of the info as well as devise a system for presenting it.

There to the left is a little snippet of Sims’s hand-for-hand reporting from the 1997 ME final table, with abbreviations indicating players, positions, and actions. As he himself explains in his “Post-Mortem” that appears as a sidebar to his reporting, he dictated hands into a microcassette recorder as they occurred, then transcribed it all to post online by the next day. (Jessica mentions in her post the poker player Melissa Hayden confirming this method adopted by Sims.)

Jessica praises Sims highly, and I can’t help but agree with her that he’s left something especially valuable in his report. Jessica calls Sims’s 1997 ME final table report “one of the most compelling, colorful, and thorough pieces of content” she’s ever read, and even goes so far as to suggest that between that report and “The Andy Bloch Project,” “his efforts... have more long-term value than any of the coverage generated at this year’s series.”

I’ll continue to agree with Jessica regarding Sims’s reports being “compelling” and “thorough.” And while the hand-for-hand stuff is not really that “colorful,” the “Daily Report” Sims filed to go as part of his 1997 ME final table reporting is indeed terrific, setting the stage nicely and really capturing the unusual scene at the only WSOP Main Event final table every to have been played outdoors (on Fremont Street, in front of Binion’s Horseshoe Casino).

I’m not going to go as far as Jessica and suggest the wealth of coverage from the 2012 WSOP somehow has less long-term value than Sims’s ’97 reports. I do think Jessica means more to praise Sims than denigrate more recent reporting efforts, and in fact her main point (as mentioned above) is really to advocate for hand-for-hand reporting from all WSOP final tables -- i.e., not just the Main Event -- so future readers and students of the WSOP can enjoy a record as thorough as the one Sims created 15 years ago.

In other words, I appreciate what she’s saying about the need for hand-for-hand coverage. From 2005-2006, CardPlayer occasionally provided hand-for-hand reports from WSOP final tables. PokerNews continued to try to do so from 2007-2008, and every once in a while in 2009. I was there with PN in ’08 and ’09, and so helped produce some of those reports and thus have had experience live blogging hand-for-hand. But from 2009 onward I believe the only hand-for-hand reporting from final tables that has been done at the WSOP happened at Main Events and the big buy-in events like the $50K Player’s Championship and the “Big One for One Drop.”

However, with regard to hand-for-hand reporting, let me point out a few issues Jessica doesn’t mention in her post.

She refers to the WPT’s reporting of final tables (which she helped with up until taking her position with the WSOP) and the standard set there for hand-for-hand reporting. “As a result,” notes Jessica, the WPT is “able to offer a wealth of statistical information that can only be estimated on other tours and at the WSOP.”

She’s right. It’s a little like having complete box scores for one league’s games, but only partially complete statistics for another. And like I say, I like the point she’s making about there needing to be more thorough “box scores” at the WSOP. As she notes, “these updates are the official record of these events and have a shelf life and utility that extends beyond the day of the final table,” and thus the more thorough the reports are, the more useful they can be.

Of course, the WPT’s final tables are exclusively no-limit hold’em, whereas at the WSOP many non-hold’em events present particular challenges when it comes to hand-for-hand reporting.

Pot-limit Omaha with pot-limit betting and two extra hole cards requires an extra bit of mental cogitation to chronicle hands at showdown. Stud games present more problems, with even more cards to keep up with, shifting betting order, and fixed-limit betting often speeding up the action. And of course, split-pot games add still more difficulty with multiple winning hands, split and quartered pots, and so on.

That’s not to say hand-for-hand coverage isn’t possible for non-hold’em events. But it is easier said than done. In fact, I’d suggest even an especially quick and talented reporter with a microcassette recorder (or today, an iPad) would find producing a complete hand-for-hand report from a Stud/8 final table an incredibly difficult task.

Speaking of Sims’s microcassette recorder, we might also point out that Sims didn’t “live blog” the 1997 WSOP Main Event final table, but rather filed a report the next day. Still a quick turnaround, but it’s probably worth noting that Sims didn’t face the same deadline -- i.e., right now -- that today’s live bloggers do.

Finally, I’d like to share some of what Tom Sims himself had to say about the innovative experiment of trying to report every hand from the 1997 WSOP Main Event final table. Interestingly, while he’s clearly proud of what he achieved with his report, he’s much less quick to praise his work and hold it up as a model of reporting than is Jessica.

Sims starts his “Post-Mortem” reflection on his reporting thusly: “The 1997 WSOP is now history, and while I am generally satisfied with my role in Conjelco’s coverage of this annual classic, I think I could have done better.”

The next paragraph then describes his process a little further while explaining why exactly he believed his reporting was somehow lacking.

As I have related previously, I was a reluctant participant, and it took numerous invitations by Chuck Weinstock before I relented and consented, much against my better judgment. I really didn’t need the hassle of what turned out to be an unrealistic commitment on my part. Also, as I now realize, I violated an old maxim of mine: I put the “em-PHAW-sis” on the wrong “syl-LABBLE”, by focusing on recording the play-by-play data and getting it on the net the next day. I only did the Daily Report narrative because of Chuck’s urging, had little time nor mind-frame to do it justice, and relied on the coded, hard to read, play-by-play data to provide most of the meat of my reportorial efforts. This was a big mistake. Making the play-by-play data a public record was my prime motivation, but I should have highlighted more of the color and important hands at the daily Final Tables, and done the tedious transcribing of play-by-play data at my leisure, after the WSOP. If I ever undertake another Poker reportorial [sic] assignment, I will skip the hand-by-hand data (I’ve made my contribution!), or do it on a “to follow at my leisure” basis, and devote a lot more time and effort to what’s going on.
Sims is much too hard on himself here, particularly with regard to his “Daily Report” which is quite engaging and highlights plenty of color (even if it doesn’t really talk about important hands). And despite what he says about abandoning the experiment, it appears he did provide one more hand-for-hand report for the 1998 WSOP Main Event final table as well.

Still, the reservations he expresses about hand-for-hand reporting are worth noting.

Interestingly, while he certainly believes that the “play-by-play data” he’s produced is valuable -- and with great prescience has an idea of a “public record” to which he’s contributing -- he laments that by producing the hand-for-hand report he’s largely missed out on being able to share the larger story of that year’s final table. Recognizing his own limitations as an individual reporter, he consciously chooses to forgo the hand-for-hand experiment going forward in favor of stepping back and being able to report “what’s going on.”

I present Sims’s own self-criticism as more food for thought to those who like Jessica would like to see future WSOP coverage model itself after what he accomplished.

One way of ensuring the creation of such a “box score”-like report from every WSOP final table would be for the WSOP to assign one person (or perhaps two for non-hold’em events) to do what Sims did and simply stand nearby and chronicle every hand -- not reporting it immediately like the live bloggers do, but taking the time afterwards to reassemble the notes into a readable format.

Of course, PokerNews (or another media outlet) could assign reporters to perform this task. And not to speak for PN, but I’d imagine they’d happily do so if the WSOP insisted that was the kind of coverage they required from them as part of their arrangement. But as Sims himself points out, producing such “play-by-play data” necessarily means the reporter(s) engaged in doing so aren’t going to be able to do much else.

I’ll end the post here, having already run on much longer than intended. I haven’t even gotten into the larger debate between the relative “value” or “shelf life” of unembellished hand-for-hand reporting and more imaginative narratives about what happens at a poker tournament -- an argument that if taken far enough starts to resemble debates about the relative worth of scientific explanations of the world versus artistic responses to it.

Anyhow, as a “word guy,” you probably already suspect where I lean on that one. So I’ll stop here and invite you to share your own words about it all.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Meanwhile... Reid-Kyl

We’re careening toward the end of another Congress, to be punctuated again by one of those weird little stretches between elections and the start of the new year. I’m talking about the so-called “lame duck session” when certain legislation that has been avoided during the pre-election period sometimes gets entertained.

And once again, talk about some sort of federal online poker bill sneaking its way through before the Congressional finish line has arisen. Turning into kind of a tradition, really.

You’ll recall how two years ago the month of December was dominated by talk of the “Reid Bill,” a.k.a. the Prohibition of Internet Gaming, Internet Poker Regulation and UIGEA Enforcement Act sponsored by senator Harry Reid (D-NV).

Looking back through my old posts from the end of 2010, I see how I was distracted enough by the story to write several times on the topic, the titles of those posts kind of describing in shorthand form the narrative’s trajectory: “Getting a Reid on the Situation,” “Adding to the Cacophony: More on the ‘Reid Bill,’” and “Zombie Bill Dies, UIGEA Monster Lives.”

This time we’re hearing about a new federal bill, dubbed the “Reid-Kyl bill” thanks to the co-sponsorship of former UIGEA architect Jon Kyl (R-AZ). This full title of this one is the Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2012.

A summary of this bill began circulating in September, and I’ll admit that at the time I didn’t pay too much attention to either the bill or the chatter surrounding it. I might cite having been too busy to pay it much mind as a reason for my neglect, although in truth, despite having devoted a lot of posts to trying to sort through various legislative intrigues over the years, I’m mostly bored by the topic.

Also, the bits of early commentary on the Reid-Kyl bill I did catch seemed to suggest it had so little hope of passage that it wasn’t worth too much attention. (I am referring to commentary by people I tend to trust.) In other words, kind of like “Full House with Johnny Chan,” there didn’t seem to be much future for the bill, and so my response was necessarily muted.

The very first item in the Reid-Kyl summary talked about undoing “the impact” of that DOJ memorandum that became public in late 2011 which offered the opinion that the 1961 Wire Act only applied to sports betting -- that is, what opened the door for states to start exploring licensing and regulating online poker (and other non-sports related gambling) on their own. Later comes the talk of online poker, which would be permitted although with the provision that states or reservations could opt out if they wished.

Also present in that summary was an item indicating that in order “To deter U.S. players from patronizing illegal sites, the bill makes explicit that any property involved in or traceable to a gambling transaction in violation of the new act (including winnings) is subject to forfeiture.” That item understandably raised some eyebrows, insofar as it represented for the first time talk of players potentially being penalized for playing on non-licensed sites.

Late last week a full-text draft of the Reid-Kyl bill surfaced, and with it discussion about the bill has been revived. QuadJacks provides a copy, if you’re curious.

The actual bill appears to correspond fairly closely to the summary in pretty much all respects. However, the big news accompanying the publication of the actual bill was the apparent omission of that business about the feds being able to grab the funds of players who patronized unlawful sites.

This take on the Reid-Kyl bill -- repeated on practically every poker news site -- was largely influenced by the Poker Players Alliance. In an article for Pokerfuse last Friday, Rich Muny, the PPA’s Vice-President of Player Relations, is characterized as having “asserted that this language [about player penalties] is now completely absent from the current bill draft.” Muny is also quoted suggesting that the removal of such language was largely due to the PPA’s influence as a lobbying organization. Referring to the legislators, Muny says “They knew we would likely oppose a bill with player penalties and were willing to answer us on that.”

So if you peruse the news sites, you see that in most of the articles about the full text of the Reid-Kyl bill being made public the focus is on that “player penalties removed” message.

There’s a problem with that reporting, though. It’s wrong.

The bill does contain a short section (“Bettor Forfeiture”) that describes “any property, real or personal, involved in a transaction or attempted transaction in violation” of the Reid-Kyl bill and explains how it that language would be added to Section 981(a)(1) of Title 18 of the United States Code. That section of the U.S. code spells out all sorts of offenses resulting in property being “subject to forfeiture to the United States,” including any property (including money) that’s used to traffic weapons, commit fraud, support or plan acts of terrorism, or break a host of other laws.

Reader “TA Miller” left a comment on the Pokerfuse article pointing out the significance of that section in the bill and how it does in essence represent what could be considered “player penalty.“ And Haley Hintze has provided a lengthier examination of the PPA’s misinterpretation of Reid-Kyl bill which adds some further speculation about whether this section about “bettor forfeiture” might possibly apply to U.S. citizens playing from abroad on sites the U.S. considers unlawful.

As Haley rightly points out, any bills spelling out ways for governments to start seizing player funds introduces something fairly alarming into the equation for U.S. citizens playing online poker -- namely, the idea that playing itself is an act that can be penalized, just like funding terrorists or breaking other federal laws can.

That said, much like talk about future installments of “Full House with Johnny Chan,” this whole discussion is probably mostly about something that ain’t never going to happen. It appears doubtful that the Reid-Kyl bill has much chance of actually becoming federal law. (I’m not even sure if the bill’s sponsors are wholly serious about pushing it through.) Rather, it seems much more likely that within the next year or so we’ll be talking about online poker being played in the U.S. via state-level licensees and regulation.

But who knows, really? Things can get weird after an election and before the new Congress steps in. Or weirder, I should say.

(EDIT [added 10/24/12]: Chris Grove, author of the Pokerfuse article referenced above, clarifies a few points while also responding to some of Haley’s analysis in an article posted yesterday on his Online Poker Report website titled “Reid/Kyl, Haley Hintze and the PPA.”)

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Here’s Johnny, Welcoming Us To His Mansion

Like some of you, I spent six minutes and 22 seconds yesterday watching a YouTube video titled “Full House with Johnny Chan.”

On the surface, the video appears to be some sort of promo short designed to drum up interest in a possible television series. It only just appeared on YouTube, and despite advancing a concept that seems nearly a decade too late, apparently was produced quite recently.

The video begins with reference to Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson having each won 10 WSOP bracelets. We briefly see the two pretending to play a heads-up home game against one another. Then Chan is shown walking down a staircase and introducing himself as “the most famous poker player in the world.”

Then Chan stops, holds his arms outward in an inviting pose, and declares “Welcome to my mansion!”

Seriously, what an opening. Harrowing stuff.

From there we are introduced to the show’s scenario. Chan explains how he’s invited five poker pros to live in his house, staking each $200,000 to engage in some sort of poker competition. The explanation of that competition is fairly fuzzy -- something to do with the pros playing nine-handed sit-n-gos with the viewer also somehow able to participate (?).

In any event, the rest of the video introduces us to “Johnny’s Line Up,” i.e., the five “poker pros” who’ll be engaged in the competition. They are presented as though filling certain imagined roles for poker pros -- the Playboy, the Genius, the Bully, the Queen of Hearts, and Chico Loco.

“I don’t consider poker gambling,” says Jay, a.k.a. “The Genius.” That’s Jay Ishimaru, listed at the end as a co-producer along with Javier Prato.

“It’s more like stealing candy from a child,” he continues. “I enjoy the game.”

Hey, who doesn’t enjoy stealing candy from children? It’s so easy, and candy is delicious. Am I right?

The clip is filled with other howlers, amateurish acting, and additional awkwardness filling the spaces between montages of Las Vegas and Chan pushing people into pools. Unsurprisingly, the video has earned a lot of derision on a 2+2 thread devoted to it (a thread likely started by one of the producers). There were also a number of “dislikes” and other negative response on the video until comments were disabled.

The most common response has been to question the “reality” of this apparent attempt at some sort of poker-themed “reality television.” Is it sincere? Are there actual plans (or hopes) to produce such a show? Or is it all a goof? A satirical send-up of both poker stereotypes and reality TV?

Clearly, we need some “immersive” critics to go to work and uncover the true meaning here. You know, like those guys who figured out The Shining is really about how Stanley Kubrick helped fake the moon landing. Like Chan’s signature orange, it’s a mystery in need of unpeeling.

Whatever it is or its intentions, the chance that there will ever be anything more than these six minutes and 22 seconds’ worth of “Full House with Johnny Chan” seems unlikely.

Which means in the end all we’ll be left with will be this short clip, a brief, uncertain postscript to the “golden era” of poker television, a period which ended emphatically at least a year-and-a-half ago, although for many had already jumped the shark much earlier.

And, of course, at least one new, sure-to-endure catch phrase:

“I pay my rent in Euro, baby!”

(EDIT [added 10/23/12]: PocketFives offers more information regarding the video, as well as an interview with one of the co-producers, in an article humorously titled “Johnny Chan Poker Reality Show: It’s Real.”)

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Apples, Oranges, and the Poker Hall of Fame

As you’ve probably heard by now, Brian “Sailor” Roberts and Eric Drache are the latest inductees into the Poker Hall of Fame. The Poker Hall of Fame Governing Council made the announcement yesterday, and the Class of 2012 will be recognized in a ceremony at the “Octo-Nine” at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino later this month.

I had the honor of participating in the process once again this year, being one of the poker media who voted on the 10 finalists. Living Poker Hall of Famers also voted, and while I believe both Roberts and Drache got support from the media, my sense was that the other PHOFers were especially behind those two and likely ensured their getting in. (For more on Roberts and Drache, here’s a Betfair Poker piece about their induction.)

As in the past, I’m not going to reveal specifically how I voted. However, I will say I’m glad about the two inductees and believe both are deserving of being included among the now 44 members of the Poker Hall of Fame.

Roberts, of course, is being elected posthumously, having passed away in 1995. While Drache is still part of the current poker scene (serving as a consultant on poker TV shows, playing in events on occasion), both he and Roberts really belong to earlier eras of poker, with their contributions mostly coming before or during the birth of tournament poker as we know it.

As one of the “Texas Rounders” with Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim Preston, the most significant years of Roberts’ poker career mostly predated tournament poker, although he did enjoy success during the early years of the WSOP, including winning the Main Event in 1975. Meanwhile, Drache is being recognized largely thanks to his having served as the WSOP’s tourney director from 1973-1988, during which time he introduced the significant innovation of staging satellite tourneys to feed players into the larger buy-in events, including the Main Event. In other words, Drache is one of several who helped create and build the wildly popular variant that is tournament poker.

Today the WSOP, the WPT, and other tournaments tend to overwhelm all other aspects of professional poker, at least in terms of media coverage and the marginal place poker occupies in popular culture. Tournaments also largely influence opinions about players’ skill and thus their qualifications for recognition in something like the Poker Hall of Fame.

These days winning tournaments, especially WSOP events, rapidly promotes a player into a position of prominence when it comes to debates about his or her greatness as a player. But poker has been played for about two centuries, with tournament poker (and all of its associated statistics and records) having only truly come into prominence during the last three decades or so.

When we think of different sports and their respective histories, it’s easy to see how games change over time. The baseball being played today is obviously much different from that of even 10 or 15 years ago, let alone during the 1950s or 1920s or 1890s. That said, it’s still essentially a very similar game, and in fact produces a lot of the same statistical measurements that can be useful when drawing comparisons between players and ranking them against one another.

So while it might be hard to draw parallels between, say, a couple of pitchers like Christy Mathewson (who won 373 games from 1900-1916) and Greg Maddux (who won 355 games from 1986-2008), you can still tentatively pursue a comparison. And you can definitely talk about how each pitcher rates against others of his respective era, thereby drawing some meaningful conclusions about the greatness of each.

But with poker, there are no such stats to draw on outside of tournaments. There is no “record book” prior to 1970 -- only fading memories, stories (often embellished), and other scant evidence. And even if there were records of every high-stakes cash game ever played, it would be a mostly quixotic pursuit to try to compare one to another.

Indeed, even tourney results are only somewhat useful when talking about players’ skill and rating them against one another. There are so many variables that make even identical-looking events wildly different from one another, not to mention the variance that affects outcomes in significant ways. And, of course, the fact that lists of results generally omit all reference to non-cashes also makes the “record book” as it currently exists less than comprehensive.

In other words, everywhere you look in poker, just about every comparison you might be tempted to make requires extensive qualification. Every game, every tourney, every hand is different.

All of which is to say the debates that always surround the naming of players into various sports’ halls of fame -- debates that usually revolve around numbers and what might be considered objective evidence -- aren’t as applicable when it comes to poker and its hall of fame. Just like comparing any two poker players brings up an “apples and oranges” situation, so, too, does trying to match up the Poker Hall of Fame against other halls of fame highlight too many differences to make the comparison apt.

In the case of poker, even the numbers we do have are of limited value, which if you think about it perhaps lends an even greater importance to poker’s storytellers. I’m mostly referring to stories told by the players themselves, but also to others (the witnesses, the historians) who take up the challenge of trying to chronicle the game and tell its tales.

Perhaps it is best to think of the Poker Hall of Fame not as a collection of poker’s greatest players or contributors, but of poker’s most valuable characters -- the ones whose stories have proven the most compelling and influential and meaningful to the game and its continuing evolution.

Yeah, I know... how do we measure that?

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Fun Factor

My friend Donnie Peters at PokerNews offered some food for thought yesterday with an op-ed titled “What Happened To Poker?

In his column, Donnie mostly refers to poker as it is played on the professional circuit, although in some cases his comments apply more broadly. He shares his impression that many players appear not to enjoy themselves very much at the tables anymore. And as the players seem to be having less fun, those covering and watching the tournaments tend to have less fun, too.

Donnie’s covered tourneys on pretty much every tour there is for the last several years, and thus has gathered a lot of experience watching the general mood and atmosphere at these events decline into the state he is describing.

He goes on to talk about the need for personalities and even some of the outrageous table behavior frequently highlighted on ESPN’s WSOP coverage during the “boom” years (liked by some, not so much by others). He also finds space to decry the robotic, emotionless poker played by many of the younger generation as well as the unpleasantness that sometimes arises from new players being criticized for their play and thus discouraged from continuing.

Donnie’s primary intention with the article was to get some conversation going about the topic, and I think he’s presented his argument in a way that definitely encourages response. As I read, I found myself thinking both about the game in general -- including what I’ve also witnessed when covering tournaments over the years -- as well as my own personal experience with the game.

I think many readers of this blog have probably gone through something similar with regard to poker whereby the initial “romance” of the game has either disappeared or waned into something less exciting and novel. I’ve told that story myself here several times and in several different ways, how the thrill and pleasure of the game was most intense early on and after a period of time necessarily became less so. And I’ve read others tell a similar tale, too, remarking how odd it seemed that the more they played and learned about poker, the less interesting and fun it was to play.

Thus when Donnie writes that “the poker industry as a whole has been at a standstill” and that poker has become “extremely stale,” I think at least some of us -- perhaps most of us -- might think about what he’s saying in personal terms. Do anything for years and years and it is going to lose its freshness.

Of course, Donnie’s talking primarily about the “industry” and thus is aiming his commentary more at major poker tours, television, and the way poker gets marketed to the masses. All that, too, has become “stale,” and he sees that trend as a primary reason for why “there aren’t hoards of new players flocking to the game” -- namely, because poker is “not seen as ‘fun’ to them anymore.”

There are other issues Donnie doesn’t bring up which might be cited as reasons why poker has become less attractive for new players.

One is brought up by a reader commenting on my post from yesterday in which I discussed Howard Lederer and the ignominious fall of Full Tilt Poker. As Robert Johnson points out, scandals such as the ones at Absolute Poker, UltimateBet, and FTP have had a significant effect, and I think Robert’s correct to present them as causes for “why poker is losing favor with many people in the real world.”

Another related reason is the (essential) loss of online poker here in the United States, which for many of us (myself included) pretty much signaled the end of our being able to play and enjoy the game on a regular basis -- that is to say, to enjoy playing poker without having to worry too much about the status of the game itself.

I’m reminded of a post I wrote here way back on Friday, October 13, 2006. That was the day President George W. Bush signed into law the SAFE Port Act to which the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was surreptitiously attached. I remember in that post referring to the Crazy Ralph character from the original Friday the 13th running around Camp Crystal Lake with warnings about how “you’re all doomed” as I drew a comparison to how online poker would subsequently be played.

“Be nice to play a few hands without all the drama,” I said, likening Crazy Ralph’s worrisome ramblings about a “death curse” to the situation of playing poker with an apprehension that at any minute the game could be forcibly taken away. Which, of course, eventually happened, although it took about four-and-a-half years.

Perhaps we online poker players were “doomed” even if the UIGEA had never been passed. In any case, I think the legal machinations constantly surrounding (and sometimes threatening) poker -- both online and live -- must have a wearying effect, and in some cases have to make playing the game less fun or attractive.

A third point to add here has to be the fact that as the game grew over the last decade, the money became more significant -- there’s more to be won, but more to spend, too. The primary motivation for most players participating in tournaments on the circuit is to profit, with the fun of tournament poker not really registering as a meaningful factor. The stakes are high, and a lot of times the risks are, too. And even in the best of all possible environments, around nine out of ten of those who play in a poker tournament are going to leave losers, and losing pretty much makes anything less fun.

In other words, I think there are probably certain other relevant factors -- the scandals, the legal threats, the relative accessibility of the game (for some), the increased expense/risk, and even the inherent nature of poker being a game that creates more losers than winners -- that are worth thinking about when examining “what happened” to make poker less fun over recent years.

It’s definitely worthwhile, though, for those of us who care about poker and who want to keep playing to consider how we might keep the game fun.

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