Wednesday, August 06, 2014

A 2006 WSOP Time Capsule

Didn’t watch the “One Drop” last night (DVR’d it). Instead what time I did spend looking at poker actually involved viewing some of the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event -- not the ESPN episodes, but the live pay-per-view that was shown that August night (the eighth anniversary of which comes this weekend) when Jamie Gold won the biggest first prize in WSOP Main Event history.

The program brings back some personal memories. That final table occurred just a few months after I started this blog, and about six weeks prior to the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. Thus it exists within a rosy context, a time when my absorption in all things poker was at an all-time high. As was the case for a lot of people.

The playing styles at the final table are of course conspicuously different from what we see today, with everyone opening for at least three times the big blind before the flop (sometimes more), lots of overbetting of pots after the flop, and many all-ins that today would automatically be read as “ICM suicide.”

The commentary by Phil Gordon doesn’t have the benefit of eight years’ worth of hindsight, and so while he does point out what seem like misplays or less-than-recommended bet-sizing here and there, most of his observations -- like the plays themselves -- are essentially time-bound, perfectly fine then while highlighting in retrospect changes in tournament strategy that have happened since.

Other comments by the many guest hosts rotating through during the broadcast are similarly time-bound, and since it was such an interesting time those comments are all the more intriguing.

At one point Doyle Brunson stops by. It happens to be his 73rd birthday. He’s just finished playing a 14-hour day the night before, finishing 21st in one of those post-Main Event bracelet tournaments they ran that year.

“What are your impressions... eighty-seven hundred players this year?” begins Gordon, and Brunson answers that he was one who expected there would be an increase in players from 2005. There were 8,773 players in the WSOP Main Event that year -- still a record. That was more than 3,000 more than had played in 2005, and more than 10 times as many as had played in 2003.

“I think that it’s just going to get bigger and bigger,” Brunson continues. “I don’t see any stopping it. In fact if there were some way to bet, I would like to bet there would be something like 40-50 thousand players in 10 years.”

“Oh boy,” says Gordon, who begins to disagree. “I think so,” affirms Brunson. “The only thing that would stop it, you know, if the internet....”

At that point Brunson gets interrupted by another “Oh boy” from Gordon as a hand has developed that will result in Sweden’s Erik Friberg getting knocked out in eighth place by Gold.

“Hold onto that thought,” says Nejad as the hand starts to play out. But the bustout distracts them and they never do get back to the topic.

Not unlike the way the idea itself would be interrupted just a few weeks later. That vision of 50,000 WSOP Main Event players -- perhaps spread all over Las Vegas and/or the internet -- would be left behind, time-bound.

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