Monday, November 18, 2013

Travel Report: Season XII WPT bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble, Day 2 -- Some Reads

A little longer of a day yesterday for Day 2 of the World Poker Tour bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble. They played from 123 players down to 26, finishing close to 1 a.m. this morning. Cong Pham (who led at the end of Day 1a) ended the night on top after a kind of up-and-down day that saw the very active, aggressive player endure some big swings.

Was a day during which I found myself focusing a lot more on the actual poker than was the case during those two Day 1s, by which I mean I was thinking more specifically about strategy and how players played their hands. In fact, there were a couple of occasions along the way I’d watch a hand play out from the beginning and would successfully guess what a player held prior to my guess being confirmed at showdown.

For example, there was one hand involving Jeff Madsen in which he was in the small blind and three-bet a middle-position raiser who called him. Madsen continued with a bet following a benign-looking nine-high flop and his opponent called, then Madsen checked the turn which paired the board with a second deuce.

At that point I thought to myself that Madsen appeared especially strong and was checking to induce his opponent to bet. I’ve watched Madsen play before, of course, including helping cover his WSOP bracelet win this past summer, and his opponent I’d been watching enough to have some idea about his tendencies, too.

Sure enough Madsen’s opponent bet -- in fact, he pushed all in -- and Madsen called in a flash, turning over pocket aces. His opponent had but an inside straight draw which didn’t complete, and Madsen earned a big boost and eventually made it to today’s Day 3 with an average stack.

Now I’m congratulating myself here for having guessed correctly on this hand. I’m remembering one other where I’d done something similar, i.e., followed the action and guessed correctly a player had ace-queen before he showed it down. But I know these tiny, private feats really don’t mean a whole lot, and in fact the whole idea of trying to put players on hands while reporting on them is both a little foolhardy and probably best avoided.

First of all, when you’re wandering around from table to table catching a small percentage of hands and writing up and even smaller fraction of them, you cannot get a feel for table dynamics, history between players, and other important factors that all matter greatly when it comes to guessing players’ hole cards. Sure, there are common denominators when it comes to betting patterns, flop textures, and so on, but in truth anyone who is not sitting at the table but just observing is operating at a significant handicap when trying to guess players’ holdings.

Secondly, I actually trained myself more or less to stop doing this sort of thing long, long ago when I first started reporting on tournaments. I’m talking about thinking about players’ strategy and trying to guess what they have or what their actions signify.

I think other experienced tourney reporters would probably agree that it is best simply to focus on accuracy and getting the action correct, with any sort of extraneous meditations on what a player might do -- or should do -- best left to the side. I can imagine getting carried away with that sort of speculating to the point where it could even affect your ability to focus on simply seeing what does happen.

That said, it is important and needful for reporters to understand basic strategy, too, as that helps make what we witness make sense to us. Knowing, for instance, what “standard” raises are helps one follow the action, as is being familiar with the usual rhythm of play.

Much more to say, but as always time is limited here so I’ll sign off so I can head back over to bestbet Jacksonville. Along with Pham and Madsen, Ryan Eriquezzo, Jared Jaffee, Matt Glantz, Corrie Wunstel, David Diaz, and Jacob Bazeley are among those still in the hunt. Check that WPT live updates page today to see who makes the six-handed final table.

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