Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dropping in on “The Big One for One Drop”

Was writing yesterday in general terms about watching poker on the tube, then tonight I found myself getting surprisingly absorbed by a couple of hours’ worth of poker TV while watching the finale of the “Big One for One Drop” on ESPN. Have to say I enjoyed the show more than I’d expected I would.

The first hour showed them play down from nine players to three. There would be 13 hands total shown during that first hour, selected from a span of 41 actual hands. From those hands, no less than 12 featured players all in, most often preflop. And in all but one of those hands the all-in was called and a player either doubled or was knocked out.

That hour was actually a little fatiguing to wade through, save the one hand featuring Scott Seiver make a bold all-in shove on the turn with an open-ended straight draw (and king-high) to force Tobias Reinkemeier to fold his pocket aces (an overpair to the board). Here was the hand from PokerNews’ reporting, and here the clip on the ESPN site, if you’re curious.

The hand took over 10 minutes in real time, and they actually took up around eight minutes of the program for it, not counting the gimmicky commercial break stuck in the middle. It was the only all-in bet not called during the first hour, and it was easily a highlight of the entire night.

The second hour began similarly, with a short-stacked Christoph Vogelsang all in three times in the first five hands shown (culled from about 30), finally busting on the last one. Then came what turned out to be a fairly enjoyable rest of the program showing 11 of the 46 heads-up hands between the two Daniels, including some very interesting reads by both players of each other -- some correct, some not.

Negreanu’s big call with K-Q on a 4-8-J-A-4 board against what turned out to be Colman’s full house with A-4 was the most intriguing decision (Hand #103). I remember reading James McManus writing about the “Big One” final table for Bloomberg and mentioning Negreanu had king-queen in the hand, something I hadn’t seen reported elsewhere, and so was intrigued to see that confirmed.

Then the final hand provided some uncanny symmetry with Colman using K-Q to beat Negreanu’s A-4, the latter actually flopping two pair before Colman turned his winning straight.

Poker-wise that heads-up portion of the show was more fun to watch than I’d anticipated it would be, although I think Negreanu had a ton to do with it thanks to both his table talk and the somewhat infectious excitement he was showing right through to the end. (Negreanu’s tweets during the night commenting on hands actually added a lot to the enjoyment, too, I came to realize.)

ESPN’s occasional acknowledgements of Colman’s disinterest in chatting it up with the media were mostly fine, I thought, although the montage of pros commenting on the subject felt more like another excuse to squeeze Phil Hellmuth into a poker show than anything else. Hardly that gripping of a side story, but at least ESPN didn’t go overboard and try to construct a full-blown villain out of such meager materials.

Talk of folks buying pieces wasn’t ignored, with shots of Colman backers Olivier Busquet and Haralabos Voulgaris a fairly frequent reminder, although not a lot of focus was placed upon it. (Then again it never felt as though the millions for which players were vying were all that significant to anyone involved.) Meanwhile references to the One Drop charity and other positive messages about poker came often enough to represent a minor theme for the night.

Like I say, I found myself more engaged by it all than I thought I’d be, especially knowing the outcome, something I wrote about a couple of weeks ago being a big deterrent when it came to viewing. Was still nowhere near as captivating as your average live sporting event, but once I dropped in on the show it nonetheless kept my attention.

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