Monday, November 30, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Brazil, Day 4 -- A Sizable Bridge, a Small Bet, and Saying Bye

It’s a wrap. Yuri Martins, probably Brazil’s most successful online player, won the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final in São Paulo on Sunday. It’s the biggest live score for Martins, and came at the end of an often interesting final table. In fact, there was one hand that was so interesting it turned out to be too strange to be true.

Afonse Henrique, also of Brazil (São Paulo, in fact), had led most of the day after starting the final table with a small chip lead over a couple of others, including Martins. In fact, at one point after a couple of hours’ worth of play Henrique actually had more than half of the total chips with eight players still left -- up around 6.5 million when the next highest had only about 1.5 million. Not sure I’ve seen that happen at a final table before (not live, anyway).

At the start of heads-up, though, Martins had scored the most recent two knockouts to take over the lead. Then Henrique earned a big double-up and after chipping up some more had Martins on the ropes, but the latter climbed back again.

At a lot of final tables reporters end up relying on live streams to follow the action as it isn’t always feasible to be near the table. Such was the case here, and my buddy Reinaldo (blogging in Spanish for the PokerStars blog) and I were kind of amazed to see one heads-up hand play out the way it did. Or seem to, that is.

I won’t narrate all the particulars, but the key bit of weirdness came when Martins appeared to have just 120,000 behind with about 5 million in the middle, then on the turn bet his last chips. Then Henrique folded, which seemed especially odd given the more than 40-to-1 pot odds being offered on a call.

It reminded me of playing for pennies online back in the day, where such hands would actually happen sometimes. You’d bet your last three cents into a four-dollar pot, and somehow your opponent would fold. As it turned out, they had things miscalculated somewhat on the stream -- Martins bet 1.2 million and earned the fold, not just 120,000 -- something we confirmed after following up. We had to find out for sure, it just seemed too strange to be believed.

It made me think of a post I’d written here several years ago about how sometimes exceedingly weird plays happen in tournaments, and when they do the reporter is in a tricky spot because even though true the report’s accuracy will necessarily be doubted. (Can’t put my finger on that post right now, but if I do I’ll come back and link here.)

Was still kind of an interesting fold, but not as wacky as it had seemed before. In any case, the hand was something of a momentum-shifter, and it wasn’t that long before Martins took the sucker down.

I actually was able to get out a little before play began on Sunday, walking about and snapping a few photos although there wasn’t too much to see. There is one of the photos above, of the nearby 453-foot tall Octavio Frias de Oliveira bridge that spans the Pinheiros River.

Lots of mopeds and bicyclists, lots of graffiti, lots of construction (and what looked like downed power lines, although I doubt they were live), and lots of clouds. In fact it began storming pretty hard just after I got back to the hotel, luckily missing getting doused.

Got done early enough to have one last nice dinner with Reinaldo and Sergio (who blogs in Portuguese and handles media coordinator duties, too). We snapped one last shot before leaving the Golden Hall, with the tables still ragin’ full on with the BSOP Millions having several days left to go.

Flying all day Monday. Check back through the PokerStars blog for those last reports from Brazil, and I’ll talk to you again from back in North America.

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Brazil, Day 3 -- Winding Down

The original schedule for the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final in São Paulo, Brazil actually had Day 4 marked “if needed,” although it was pretty clear from early on in the tournament that they would need it.

Even so, when things got to moving relatively quickly on Saturday’s Day 3 -- the day when typically they’d play from 32 players down to the eight-handed final table -- there was some talk perhaps of continuing down to less than eight players so as to make Sunday a little shorter. That talk went away, though, once the pace slowed down again and everything wound up about midnight, making for the first less-than-10-hour workday we’ve had this week.

There were three former LAPT Main Event champs left among the 32 -- Alex Manzano, Patricio Rojas, and Caio Hey (who won LAPT Brazil last year) -- but none made it to today’s final table. Six Brazilians and two Chileans did, with Afonso Henrique leading.

Of the group, the best known left are the short stack Bruno Kawauti who finished 15th in the 2013 WSOP Main Event, Ricardo Chauriye who made the LAPT Peru final table this year, Andrés “gmcrafter” Herrera whose won a lot online, and Yuri “theNERDguy” Martins who has won a lot more online. Martins has like $5 million in online earnings, including finishing second to Fedor “CrownUpGuy” Holz in the 2014 WCOOP Main Event.

The day was pretty much all business with a lot of back-and-forthing from the laptop to the tournament area to keep up with the action. I had a picture of the Golden Hall in yesterday’s post, the enormous tournament room with 151 tables, all pretty much filled by the other BSOP Millions events including the Main Event of that festival. Makes for a crazy atmosphere, even as the LAPT Grand Final has gotten down to the last few tables and become a more intimate-seeming affair.

Meanwhile my plans for exploring São Paulo some before I go have been sidetracked somewhat by weather and other factors. We’re kind of locked inside the business district here in the southern part of the sprawling city, with nothing much for pedestrians to see beyond the surrounding buildings -- mostly offices -- and traffic. And without much extra time it’s hard to get out to do other things, so it may be I’ll have to wait until the next visit down for that.

Still, I’m eating especially well and very much enjoying meeting new people and hanging/working with the LAPT guys. More tomorrow. Meanwhile, check the PokerStars blog today to see who comes out on top in the LAPT Grand Final.

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Brazil, Day 2 -- Part of the Crowd

It was a third straight long day behind the laptop, and now the 426-entry field is down to just 32 players at the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final in São Paulo.

There’s still a lot of extracurricular activity happening all around the featured tournament, with workshops, numerous side events, and the start of the Brazilian Series of Poker Main Event which like others in this BSOP Millions festival promises to feature an enormous field.

I’ve had a few conversations over the last few days both with Brazilians and others about the thriving poker scene here in Brazil. Everyone has been very friendly all week and especially accommodating of my sad lack of Portuguese, and I’ve enjoyed having these discussions and at least getting to know a bit about poker’s place in the culture, even if I haven’t gotten to explore much else as yet.

While São Paulo is kind of a central hub, there are numerous large cities (many nice vacation destinations, too) where poker is continuing to grow, and just the sight of something like what is pictured above makes it hard to deny poker’s prominence here.

You can click that photo to see a larger-sized image, one taken by the great Carlos Monti (in the center below). I am in there -- play “Where’s Shamus?” by looking to the upper right, just between the “Dourado / Golden” sign hanging down and the tournament clock. There I am, against the wall wearing a white shirt.

There are a 151 tables in the Golden Hall here in the World Trade Center São Paulo complex, and there have been many times when every single one of them has been in use.

The body clock is completely thrown off now, as I find I’m waking up early despite the late finishes. Still, I can’t help but be energized by the atmosphere, and with several big names from the LAPT still among the Grand Final field I’m as curious as anyone to see what happens over the next two days.

Check the PokerStars blog for more reports on the Grand Final.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Brazil, Day 1b -- Reading, Writing, 'Rithmetic, Rast

Was another long one yesterday at the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final here in São Paulo, where Day 1b played out and we weren’t finished until about 4 a.m.

The day was a lot of fun, though, for a few reasons. One was the fact that Reinaldo had the NFL games streaming on his iPad all day. They began just after play started at 3 p.m. here, and ended just before they bagged and tagged. That and also getting to enjoy a delicious dinner of picanha with Rei helped simulate the Thanksgiving experience somewhat I was missing back home.

Had a couple of fun conversations yesterday, one with Brian Rast who is here playing his first ever LAPT event.

Rast has been spending a lot of time in Brazil over the last five-plus years, having first come down in 2010 and then meeting his eventual wife who is from Paraíba. He hasn’t played a lot of poker here, though, and so this is a somewhat new experience for him. Carlos our photographer snuck a photo of us talking -- that’s me above asking Rast what it feels like to win $7.5 million in a poker tournament as he did in early July. (Spoiler alert: pretty damn good.)

A little later I also had the opportunity to talk with a very friendly fellow named Cristiano Torezzan who teached applied mathematics at the University of Campinas, the huge state-run university system here in Brazil. He has a elective course he’s been offering there since 2013 called “Poker Basics” which uses poker to teach about decision-making, math-related concepts, and other interesting metagame matters.

We also talked about my “Poker in American Film and Culture” class, and shared a lot of notes on what it’s like “teaching poker” in a college class -- that is, using the game to explore other non-poker ideas as well as to teach non-poker “basics,” too. Only a little of our conversation made it into the post I wrote about him and his class. You can check it out, though, to learn more about his interesting course.

Gotta sign off quickly again here as we’re less than a couple of hours away from cranking back up again. There are 202 players left from what turned out to be a bigger than expected 426-entry field. Head to the PokerStars blog and peruse around to see what else happened the last two days and to follow what happens going forward.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Brazil, Day 1a -- Late to Bed, Late to Rise

I was speaking confidently yesterday about how thanks to my personal internal clock still being on Eastern time -- i.e., three hours behind the time here in São Paulo, Brazil -- the 3 p.m. start to Day 1a of the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final and 3 a.m. finish wouldn’t be too much of a problem for me.

Of course, once we actually got to 3 a.m. this morning and play finally wound down for the night, such enthusiasm had diminished somewhat as tiredness began to set in. Was actually pushing 4 a.m. before getting back to the room, and it took another hour after that to wind down and get some sleep.

Even so, I’m not too fatigued as I type this morning. The R$10,000 buy-in tournament featured a decent turnout yesterday of 132 total entries (including reentries), with a little less than half of them making it through to Friday’s Day 2. Armando Sbrissa, brother of Victor Sbrissa who actually won the LAPT Brazil Main Event here two years ago, ended the night as the chip leader.

There was a fun celebrity tournament as well yesterday that we gave some attention to in the coverage, with Brazilian footballer legend Ronaldo taking part and almost winning the sucker (he ultimately finished runner-up). Ronaldo definitely has some poker skills, having made that deep run in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event back in January (finishing 26th) and winning another celebrity tournament in Macau recently. He’ll be back at the PCA a couple of months, I’m told.

There should be considerably more entries today, perhaps even twice as many, so things should be busier and thus the day perhaps will roll on past a little more quickly. Or at least feel that way, as we’re necessarily going to be wrapping up around the same time again. Meanwhile I’m hoping to follow some NFL during the day, especially that Panthers-Cowboys game. Will feel a little strange to be away from home and not having turkey, sweet potatoes, and the like as usual.

In any case, when someone throws the red challenge flag today and they are spending time under the hood reviewing the last play, click over to the PokerStars blog for updates to see how things are going for us here in Brazil.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Brazil, Pregame -- Settling In

Stuck close to the Sheraton World Trade Center yesterday, my home-away-from-home until Monday. That’s a partial shot of my view to the left, the Brazilian flag flapping in the breeze atop the Gran Estanplaza hotel across the way.

Likely will continue to stay close to the WTC for much of my stay this week in São Paulo. Not ideal for sight-seeing, although it’s good work-wise given that by being on site the journey to and from the tournament will be a short one for me each day as I help cover the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final.

I will get out some before the week is done, though, as Reinaldo and I have made plans one morning to get over to the nearby park and try to see more than just the surrounding buildings and sidewalks and bridge spanning the Rio Pinheiros.

Last night was great fun, the three-hour time difference giving me extra energy through a late dinner with Sergio, Rei, and Carlos. Had an especially tasty fish-and-rice dish -- pescada amarela em crosta de améndoas -- washed down with a can of Guaraná Antarctica, while enjoing the conversation consisting of equal parts reminiscing, catching up, and looking ahead.

I even thought I’d be staying up to catch the Warriors crushing the Lakers -- available on SporTV here -- but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open much past the 1:30 a.m. tipoff. The time difference is actually going to suit me well, given that the days will be going from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. (which for me is essentially noon to midnight).

Not sure really what to expect for the Grand Final, which sports a buy-in of R$10,000 (about $2,650 USD). I know the surrounding BSOP events are going to be swamped, with thousands playing the kickoff one with just a R$460 price tag. Will find out soon enough.

Heading down to the Golden Hall for today’s play, the first of two Day 1 flights. Check out the PokerStars blog to follow along.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Travel Report: LAPT8 Brazil, Arrival -- Obrigado-giving

Earlier today a steel winged tube floated down through the gray skies enveloping southeastern Brazil, bringing me to São Paulo where I’ll be settled through the Thanksgiving holiday and weekend for the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final, the culminating stop of the tour’s eighth season.

The flights overnight were fine and I even managed to spend a few hours along the way in a restful state simulating sleep. Was still a bit lagged, though, for much of the hour-and-a-half ride from the GRU (the São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport) up at the northern top of the enormous, sprawling city down to my destination on the southern edge of SP.

We’re situated not far from the Rio Pinheiros, the tributary that winds through the city. I think the name means “Pine River,” which leads me to assume there are some pines somewhere to be seen if one were to follow the sucker long enough. But here in the heart of the city there’s nothing but concrete, metal, and glass all about.

Haven’t done much more so far than to get unpacked and cleaned up, secure some reais, and devour one tasty meat-potatoes-and-rice dish down in the food court. One thing I’ve realized already in the space of just a few hours -- I haven’t the first idea about Portuguese. That’s not entirely true. I do know obrigado, which has come in handy already after my stumbly, murmur-filled pointing somehow gets interpreted correctly.

Gonna rest a little more now, then hopefully reunite with some amigos for another meal in a while. More mañana. Or make that amanhã.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Brazil Bound

Well, this one kind of snuck up on me. Has been a busy few months around the farm, and now I’m jetting off again on another one of my superlong commutes. Heading to São Paulo, Brazil this time for the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final, my first time making it to the largest country in South America, and the fifth-largest on this here entire spinning rock.

Between the World Series of Poker finally finishing up its Main Event earlier in the month and the European Poker Tour touching down at Malta recently and Prague soon, the LAPT sneaks in this week to finish up its eighth season, which as I’ve remarked here before represents something kind of impressive in terms of having established a genuine tradition.

The tour continues to grow and evolve. This marks the fifth season I’ve had the chance to check in on it. More than once before I’d been slated to make the Brazil trip, but various snafus and scheduling switcheroos arose to nix those earlier attempts. The LAPT actually started in Brazil with the first event of the first season being in Rio de Janeiro back in 2008, and has made it back most years since.

Don’t know too much about São Paulo at present other than the fact that its not only the most populated city in Brazil, but in the whole southern hemisphere. I’ve heard about the urban sprawl and how it goes on and on and on (seriously, click that pic above), as well as about the often rainy weather and its “Terra da Garoa” nickname (the “Land of Drizzle”).

I’ll have a good bit of time between now and touchdown at São Paulo Guarulhos International Airport tomorrow morning, and a whole day tomorrow to learn more as the tournament won’t be kicking off until Wednesday afternoon.

Glad to get back out on the road, and while being away during the Thanksgiving holiday will be strange it was going to be a low-key affair for us, anyhow, likely highlighted by that Carolina-Dallas tilt (are my undefeated Panthers actually an underdog?!).

Gotta run as they’ve just announced a gate switch on me here. Talk to you again at the other end of my 4,635-mile commute!

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Friday, November 20, 2015

It Was $86, Not $39

Here’s a bit of poker trivia I had not realized until today.

Chris Moneymaker turns 40 years old on Saturday. Was reading around a little about Moneymaker this afternoon and after following a few links learned that one detail from the story of his 2003 WSOP Main Event win has long been misreported. It’s a detail I myself have repeated a few times, I know, both here on the blog and elsewhere.

It has long been passed around that Moneymaker won his $10,000 seat into the WSOP Main Event on PokerStars via a satellite, with the cost of that satellite almost always being referred to as $39. I knew that he didn’t actually win his ME seat in that satellite -- rather, he won entry into a larger satellite, and from there won his seat. But I only just found out that the buy-in for the first one wasn’t $39 -- it was $86.

First, here’s a post by Dan Goldman (former VP of Marketing for PokerStars) on his Braindump v1.0 blog from a couple of years ago in which he originally repeated the $39 figure, then was corrected in a comment by Michael Josem (who currently does PR for PokerStars).

Goldman follows up with a confirmation that Josem is right, the satellite buy-in was $86, despite everyone having repeated $39 for years and years -- including Moneymaker himself!

In Eric Raskin’s oral history of the 2003 WSOP Main Event -- exerpted on Grantland in an article titled “When We Held Kings” -- Moneymaker says that he entered a $39 sit-n-go, winning a seat into a bigger satellite from which he then won his ME seat. In fact, Moneymaker’s autobiography published in 2005 is titled Moneymaker: How an Amateur Poker Player Turned $40 into $2.5 Million at the World Series of Poker, again repeating the incorrect detail (here rounded up) regarding the buy-in.

This page over in the “PokerStars Online Museum” further confirms both the $86 buy-in figure, noting that it “is correct and has been checked against PokerStars’ official tournament records,” as well as that “earlier reports that it was a $39 satellite were mistaken.” The $86 tourney got Moneymaker a seat in a $650 one with 67 players in which there were three ME seats awarded, with Moneymaker getting one.

Trivia, for sure, but perhaps the most interesting part of it is the fact that so many got the detail wrong for so long.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sidestepping the Spoilers

Was listening to last week’s PokerNews podcast today -- not the most recent one, but the “November Nine Recap” one in which Donnie Peters and Rich Ryan broke down the World Series of Poker Main Event final table (Episode #343).

Besides discussing all the key moments from Joe McKeehen’s dominating win, the pair got into some other related topics as well including considering suggestions for improving the WSOP Main Event going forward and whether or not the November Nine experiment has run its course after eight years’ worth of delayed final tables.

Near the very end they played a voice mail from a listener referring back to Donnie’s live tweeting during the final table, and from there came a short discussion of the whole “spoilers” topic. Donnie was one of a few folks tweeting live from the Rio that night, which meant those watching the coverage on the ESPN networks (on a half-hour delay) needed to mute or unfollow those Tweeters if they didn’t want to know ahead of time what they were about to see.

I tried to mute everyone who like Donnie warned they’d be tweeting “spoilers” during the WSOP Main Event final table. It almost worked except for once when someone retweeted a knockout before it had shown up on the teevee (argh!).

I thought of that conversation again just now while watching the World Poker Tour’s live stream of the final table of the WPT Montreal event from the Playground Poker Club. There, too, one can enjoy “cards up” coverage on a half-hour delay. (Side note: The WPT stream shows all players’ hole cards, not just players voluntarily putting chips in the middle like they’ve been doing with the WSOP ME final table. The WSOP should be showing everyone’s cards, too, I think, for the sake of fairness.)

Anyhow, you run into a similar “spoiler” issue following live updates from the event on the WPT site alongside the live stream, as the hand reports are a half-hour ahead of what is being shown. They’re also tweeting live updates about the final table from @WPTLive, which means you can’t follow that and watch the stream without being told about things ahead of time as well. (E.g., that bold five-bet shove by Brian Altman with pocket fours pictured above was partially signaled a half-hour ahead of time via the Twitter feed.)

Just now on the WPT feed play was delayed for a couple of moments while Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten, and Lynn Gilmartin could be heard adding some commentary for the edited version of the final table that will be shown later -- a phenomenon I wrote about here once before following a WPT final table I helped cover. Kind of wild to think of the many different ways the WPT is covering their event all at once -- live, on a half-hour delay, then yet again in a different, edited way on longer delay.

Over on the European Poker Tour, the issue is handled pretty effectively via an embargo (of sorts) on reporting ahead of the delayed live stream. That can’t prevent non-media folks from tweeting out what’s happening, but the system works pretty well. It also kind of “unifies” the coverage with the live updates, the features on the PokerStars blog, the EPT Live stream, and all of the coverage appearing on other online outlets all operating in tandem rather than one “spoiling” things for any of the others.

I really enjoy watching live streams, and I also like being on social media to share the experience (such as when the WSOP Main Event final table is playing out). Indeed, as I observed last week when discussing the slowness of the WSOP ME FT, the pace of the game with its frequent pauses makes it well-suited to be combined with something like Twitter where spectators can share impressions as they watch. But “cards up” coverage can’t be provided without a delay, which necessarily introduces the possibility for “spoiler” situations.

I like the EPT’s attempt to solve the conundrum. Is there any other way to do so?

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Poker Talk: Playing the Twitch Card

On Monday a new item appeared in The New Yorker highlighting the growing popularity of Twitch streams by online poker players, in particular focusing on Jason Somerville’s remarkably rapid ascent to become the one of the site’s top stars.

The article -- “Can Live Streaming Save the Poker Industry?” by Cameron Tung -- does a good job contextualizing Somerville’s Twitch tale within the larger narrative of online poker’s quick rise in popularity during the mid-2000s and even more sudden drop-off post-Black Friday (especially here in the United States). Somerville’s own poker career of course directly reflects that surrounding story.

Like a lot of us, Somerville first got into poker in a big way post-Moneymaker, and like a decent percentage of that group made a career out of playing online that also came to include frequent excursions to play live events. And like a relatively small percentage of that group, he enjoyed significant success both online and live, earning him some renown within the community surrounding the game.

Black Friday then forced Somerville and all other U.S.-based online poker players to reevaluate their relationship to the game, and as we know Somerville eventually found a very creative -- and ultimately profitable -- option to pursue with his YouTube vids and eventual move onto Twitch.

It’s a short, easy read and as I say presents both Somerville’s story and the overall situation vis-à-vis poker in the United States ca. 2003 to the present fairly well. The only thing I really wonder about it is the question posed by the headline (which as we know sometimes isn’t the writer’s responsibility).

Tung points out -- drawing on PokerScout as a source -- that as far as online poker is concerned, “the global market has fallen off by more than half” since Black Friday. He thereby sets up a conclusion speculating about the “market” of online poker going forward and what impact Twitch (and, importantly, legislation) might have upon future growth.

I guess the headline makes it sound like online poker (or even poker in general) has reached a kind of crisis point and is in need of “saving,” which doesn’t quite seem to describe the current situation accurately. While hardly thriving as it did before (when the number of players was doubling every year, as the article points out), the “poker industry” doesn’t seem in danger of failing altogether just yet. Nor does that seem something likely to happen anytime soon, either. (I speak largely from the sidelines, from a country not presently part of the “market” upon which we’re focusing.)

Anyhow, the article -- the second poker-related piece within a couple of months in The New Yorker (with a poem about poker appearing within that stretch, too) -- is worth a look and as I say presents poker in a knowledgeable and even favorable way via Somerville’s story.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Files Found! Poker Audio from 2004-2006

We still have this desktop PC in use that is probably more than a decade old now. We use it for a few household-related tasks, among them printing documents with the even older printer attached to it (although that is rarely needed in this mostly paperless world). It’s not even online, which in truth has probably helped add to its longevity, being isolated as it is from the scary virus-filled outside world.

As you might imagine, there are some old, old files on there, including some old audio files of poker podcasts from back when podcasts first became a thing. I’ve written about those before here, including recently. In fact it was just in December of last year I shared a screenshot of all the folders on the drive containing those old shows.

I guess I’ve got a little bit of hoarder in me, having continued to keep all those files. The only reason I downloaded them in the first place was because that was typically the method of listening to them then. We weren’t listening to podcasts on our phones quite yet, and so a lot of the time I’d download the show and listen on my computer while playing online.

Anyhow, for a long time I’ve been going back to those directories and to other places on that old PC to look for something else -- something I knew I had downloaded once upon a time, but could never quite put my finger on where it could be.

In 2005, CardPlayer sponsored live audio commentary for that year’s World Series of Poker Main Event final table. I remember listening all night and into the morning, with the sun having risen here on the east coast by the time Joe Hachem finally ousted Steve Dannenmann in a short heads-up battle to win. Shortly after that CardPlayer posted the .mp3s on their site -- one per week, I think -- eventually posting eight files which totaled something like 13.5 hours’ worth of audio. It wasn’t long after that the files were no longer available.

I was positive I had downloaded those files, and I thought I must have them somewhere but just couldn’t figure out where. Finally -- kind of randomly -- I looked in an old external drive last week and there they were, along with some other old poker-related goodies.

Among the other files there were what I believe might even be the entire run of Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio shows (from 2004-2006), a number of Ante Up! episodes from their first couple of years (2005-2006), some episodes of CardPlayer’s The Circuit from early 2006, Phil Gordon’s 2005 WSOP podcasts plus some Poker Edge shows, the old Poker Diagram podcast (anyone remember that one?), and several episodes of Rounders the Poker Show (forerunner to the 2+2 Pokercast) from the summer of 2006.

I think the latter collection of Rounders shows might include the Jamie Gold interview he gave just a couple of days after winning the 2006 WSOP -- the one I believe was later admitted into court as part of Crispin Leyser’s lawsuit against him that was eventually settled out of court in 2007. (I hope so, anyway.)

I grabbed the 2005 WSOP shows, got ‘em loaded on the iPod, and listened to the first 20 minutes today. Phil Hellmuth and Jeff Shulman are hosting, and already within that short introductory section had on Gary Thompson and Howard Greenbaum of Harrah’s, Mike Matusow (who was at that final table and destined to go out in ninth), Howard Stutz of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (then, and still), and Oklahoma Johnny Hale.

I remember lots of other guests coming and going throughout the marathon, including Puggy Pearson who would pass away the following spring. I found myself wanting to jot down some notes as I listened, thinking perhaps I’ll share some highlights here once I get through it all.

What a time that was, and it’s hard to believe it’s now over a decade ago. A time when I couldn’t get enough poker -- I’d listen, watch, or read anything. You too, probably.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Poker’s “Non-Level Playing Field”

Saw early Friday that news about DraftKings and FanDuel both filing lawsuits against the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman following his declaration earlier in the week that both sites would need to skeddaddle from the Empire State.

Can’t say I’ve studied both lawsuits too closely (you can find both here at The Boston Globe). Unlike in past years when proposed bills and legal action regarding online poker would provoke several hours of reading and link-chasing in an effort to get a handle on every last detail, the DFS saga can’t really capture my attention as thoroughly.

I did read both, though, as well as several articles surrounding this new development in New York. Both lawsuits seek injuctions against Schneiderman to stop him from stopping them from operating in his state, and both sites make similar points to support their arguments. The tone is more strident in the DraftKings one, I think, or at least that’s my impression. And there’s one other item unique to the DraftKings suit that kind of stands out for poker players bothering to sort through these DFS defenses.

In his declaration last week, Schneiderman announced that a review by his office “conclude[d] that DraftKings’/FanDuel’s operations constitute illegal gambling under New York law.” (Last month the Nevada Gaming Commission likewise ruled DFS to be gambling and thus subject to that state’s licensing procedures.) Schneiderman also highlighted other objections to allowing DFS in NY -- “not on my watch,” he writes -- including describing DFS as “neither victimless nor harmless” in its effects and charging that the sites “consistently use deceptive advertising.”

Responding to the characterization of dailiy fantasy sports as gambling, DraftKings in its lawsuit goes down the road of trying to emphasize DFS’s skill component. FanDuel does this as well in its lawsuit, but in a more general way that doesn’t overstate their position or introduce too many non sequiturs (as far as I can tell).

But get this from DK...

“DFS is... fundamentally different than other games about which the issue of skill versus chance has been previously debated, such as poker,” notes DraftKings. “Unlike poker, where players start each hand on a non-level playing field based on the cards they are randomly dealt, in DFS, each user starts in the exact same position and has complete and total control over the lineup the user chooses, within the consistent constraint of the salary cap.”

Set aside for the moment what is being said in the second half of that sentence about DFS and how everyone starts similarly with the same player base from which to choose, the same salary cap, and the same “complete and total control” over their entries. Look at the first half and how poker is being described. Is that not one of the strangest ways of highlighting the chance element of poker (and minimizing its skill component) anyone has ever tried before?

A hand of hold’em does certainly begin with the deal, and it cannot be denied that each player’s hand is going to be unique, thus creating what might be called a “non-level playing field.” You could also talk about the players’ different positions and uneven stack sizes making the playing field “non-level,” too. But to do so absurdly reduces the game of poker down to a single hand, ignoring the fact that the game is almost never actually played that way.

Over the course of many hands, the chance element introduced by “the cards they are randomly dealt” more or less evens out (more so with the more hands played, of course). Inequalities of position are also removed with the rotation of the dealer button. And if we want to talk about stack sizes, in a tournament players start with the same number of chips, and in a cash game there’s always the option to buy in for the maximum.

The playing field in poker is entirely level. The cards can introduce an element of chance that make it possible for the more skilled player to lose to the lesser skilled one. I think it’s safe to say something similar happens in daily fantasy sports every single night. After all, even if DFS players have “complete and total control” over who they select when completing their line-ups, they hardly have control over how those players perform.

In fact, if we really wanted to pursue a comparison here, DFS is essentially the reverse of poker. In poker you cannot dictate what cards you are dealt, but from there you do have “complete and total control” over your actions, with those actions necessarily affecting whether (and how much) you win or lose. Meanwhile in daily fantasy sports you do get to choose your “hand” or the line-up you set, but once the games begin there’s nothing you can further do to improve your chance of success (or to lessen your chance of failure).

Both involve skill (differently). Both involve luck (also differently). And both are gambling.

Not going to go further into the details of the lawsuits nor the many other ways DFS and poker are both similar and different. Was just struck by that one errant characterization of poker by DraftKings, seemingly out of place within the larger argument for DFS’s skill component.

There is one way, though, that poker has definitely suffered from having to be played on a “non-level playing field.”


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Friday, November 13, 2015

Acting Like a Winner

Last weekend my Carolina Panthers held on versus the Green Bay Packers to go 8-0, the best start by a long shot in the team’s two decade-plus history. Seriously, we Panthers fans don’t even know how to act at this point.

Speaking of knowing how to act when winning, I couldn’t help but fire a message to my buddy Rich at one point during the game. I can’t remember when it was exactly, but it was following some theatrics from Newton celebrating the Panthers’ success. It might have been near the end when victory was finally in sight, now that I think about it.

What I said to Rich was that while I like Newton, he’s basically incapable of “acting like he’s been there before.”

To be fair I’m mostly ambivalent about this issue of Newton’s celebrating. Some Panthers fans (and even more Panthers haters) are much more energized when complaining about Newton doing his “Super-Cam” gesture after scores or even getting excited after first downs (as he often does). Indeed, I am such a Cam fan, I tend to give him a lot of leeway in this area.

Newton’s hugely talented and even though he takes risks and is fully capable of errant throws now and then he’s such a huge positive overall. Add to that the fact that there’s almost nothing I like better in sports than when Newton delivers footballs to kids in the stands following scores. The kids love it, which is very cool. And it reminds adults what it was like to be kids, which is also cool. (There was an especially nice story related to the example pictured above from last weekend, by the way.)

Rich had a good answer for my acting-like-you’ve-been-there remark about Newton. “Why should he?” asked Rich in response. “Enjoy every second.”

That night and over the next two nights I watched the World Series of Poker Main Event play out, where eight of the nine players came up just short of the ultimate goal of winning the whole sucker. With each bustout came very sportsmanlike behavior all around, and in fact I can’t even remember any overdone celebrations whenever anyone won a big pot. (Not that anyone other than Joe McKeehen did a lot of that, actually).

Of course, none of those guys had ever “been there before” (although a few had gotten deep and/or won big tournaments previously). But they all had long ago absorbed those lessons in etiquette most poker players do regarding tempering celebrations when you win, and similarly toning down the complaining when you don’t.

Anyhow, the Panthers have obviously never been here before -- that is, undefeated through half a season. I hardly expect Carolina to replicate that feat in games 9 through 16, obviously. But I think there will be a few more celebrations, which I plan to do my best to enjoy when they come.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

2015 WSOP Main Event Final Table Hole Cards (Complete)

I mentioned yesterday I had something more to share from this week’s 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event final table. Once again I noted hole cards shown during what turned out to be about 11 hours or so worth of coverage on ESPN, and I’m sharing them here for anyone who might be curious.

I’ve done something similar for the last three years. In both 2012 and 2013, I posted the lists here on Hard-Boiled, then over on PokerNews in 2014.

Since PN didn’t do the live updates at the WSOP this year, I decided to post it over here again this time, since part of the point of doing it on PN was to link each hand to the update. I’m not going to go through and link all 184 of these hands to the individual updates on, but you can find them over there if you wish.

In 2012 and 2013, ESPN was only showing hole cards after hands completed. Meanwhile last year and again this year, they would show players’ cards whenever they voluntarily put chips in the middle (and not if they didn’t), with the exception of also showing the big blind’s hand whenever that player folded to raise to end a hand.

At just 184 hands, this was a relatively quick final table, the shortest in the last decade, at least. Here are the totals going back to ’05: 2014 (328 hands), 2013 (261), 2012 (399), 2011 (301), 2010 (262), 2009 (364), 2008 (274), 2007 (205), 2006 (236), 2005 (232).

For those who felt like there seemed to be a lot of premium hands dealt at the final table, well, there were a lot although not necessarily that many more than would be expected. That said, both Joe McKeehen and Neil Blumenfield got more than their share.

McKeehen was dealt all 184 hands, of course. Throwing ace-queen in with the “premiums” -- so, A-A, K-K, Q-Q, A-K, and A-Q -- we saw McKeehen be dealt 16 premium hands (aces three times, kings twice, queens three times, ace-king six times, and ace-queen twice). If my math is right, on average that’s about twice the number of premium hands he’d typically get in 184 hands (just under seven).

Blumenfield got 10 such hands (out of 172), also above the almost 6.5 a player gets on average for that number of hands. Meanwhile the other seven players were right at or a little below the average for getting dealt such hands. Beckley got 5/184 (average would be 6.95, like McKeehen); Steinberg 5/143 (avg. 5.4); Stern 4/121 (4.6); Cannuli 1/74 (2.7); Neuville 3/72 (2.7); Butteroni 0/32 (1.2); and Chan 0/2 (0/1).

I guess Cannuli (who got aces once) and Butteroni (who was dealt none of these hands) might complain a little about their cards at this final table. McKeehen, meanwhile, not only played his big stack well but was steadily dealt plenty of good starting hands, too.

Okay, enough. Here’s the list. An asterisk indicates a bustout hand, and an “X” a card that failed to be read by ESPN. It’s worth noting, too, the slim possibility that ESPN could have reported a card incorrectly, and the greater-than-slim possibility that I could have made a mistake when marking one down.


Level 35

1. Steinberg Ks Jh, Chan 9h 4c
*2. McKeehen Ad 4h, Chan Ks Qc
3. Stern Ad 10c, Blumenfield Qc 8c
4. Neuville 10s 10d, Blumenfield As Ac
5. Steinberg Ad 10h, Blumenfield Qh Qc
6. Blumenfield As 3s, Beckley 10d 8s
7. Stern 10s 7s, Steinberg 5h 5c
8. Steinberg Kh Qh, Cannuli 9h 5d
9. Cannuli Jd 8s, McKeehen Qs X
10. Beckley Kc Qh, Butteroni 8h 2c
11. Beckley As Qh, Blumenfield Jc 9c
12. Blumenfield As 7c, Stern Kh 2c
13. McKeehen Kh 10d, Blumenfield Ac 10h
14. Stern Ah 5d, Beckley 10d 4s
15. Beckley Kh 4d, Steinberg 5c 2d
16. Neuville Kc Qs, Cannuli 9s 5s

Level 36

17. Beckley 10d 8c, McKeehen 6s 4s
18. Blumenfield 2h 2d, McKeehen Kc 10c
19. Steinberg 8s 8d, McKeehen 8c 7h
20. Blumenfield 8h 2h, Stern 9c 2c
21. Butteroni Qc 9c, Neuville Ah 7h
22. McKeehen Kh Kc, Beckley Ks Jd
23. Neuville As 4s, Steinberg 10s 7c
24. Beckley Ac 8c, Cannuli 6s 3s
25. Blumenfield Kh Qh, McKeehen Ks 3h
26. Beckley Ks 10c, Butteroni Qs 3s
27. Stern Ad 9d, Blumenfield Kc 3d
28. Steinberg Js 4s (accidentally exposed), McKeehen Ah 8c, Blumenfield Ad Ks
29. McKeehen 10s 9s, Neuville Jd 8h
30. Blumenfield As Qs, Stern Kh Jh, Neuville Ah Ac
31. Stern Qs 9h, Neuville 4h 4c
32. Neuville Qs Qc, Cannuli Kh 9h
33. Stern Jh Jc, McKeehen 9c 8h
34. Beckley 9d 8s, Steinberg Ac Kc
*35. McKeehen As Ks, Butteroni Ah Jc
36. Cannuli 6h 6c, McKeehen Kh Jh, Stern 5s 2h
37. Stern As 9h, Neuville 9s 8s
38. Steinberg Ah 7h, Beckley 8c 5c
39. Stern 6s 6c, Steinberg 10c 6d
40. McKeehen Ks 10s, Stern Qs Qd
41. Stern As Jc, McKeehen Ah 8c
42. McKeehen Kc 9d, Blumenfield Js 8h
43. Cannuli 6c 4c, Blumenfield Ac 3s
44. McKeehen Ks 5c, Neuville 10c 2d
45. Stern 6s 3s, Beckley Qd Qc
46. Stern As 6c, Steinberg 5d 2d
47. McKeehen 8s 6s, Cannuli Js 4d
48. Blumenfield 4h 4c, Neuville Ac Kh

Level 37

49. Cannuli Ah Js, Blumenfield 10s 6h
50. Steinberg 10s 10c, Stern Ah 6d
51. McKeehen 10c 9h, Neuville 7h 6c
52. Cannuli Qc Js, Beckley 6c 2s
53. McKeehen Qd Qc, Stern 7s 7d, Steinberg 3s 3c
54. Blumenfield Ad 9c, Cannuli Qc Js
55. Steinberg Qh 8d, McKeehen Ad 5h
56. Stern Ah Kh, McKeehen 8d 8c
57. Stern Qc 8h, Blumenfield Ah 2h
58. Cannuli Kh Qd, Blumenfield Kd Jd, Stern Jh Jc
59. Cannuli As Jd, Beckley Qc 6d
60. McKeehen 5s 5d, Stern As Kc
61. Blumenfield Jc 10c, Beckley Qh Qc
62. Cannuli 9h 5h, McKeehen X X
63. Stern Jh 9c, McKeehen As Ac
64. McKeehen Kc 10c, Stern Ad 3h
65. McKeehen Kd 7c, Blumenfield Ad 9s
66. McKeehen Ac 7d, Beckley, Jh 6s
67. Cannuli Ah Jh, Steinberg 4h 3s
68. Blumenfield Qh Qd, Cannuli 8c 6d
69. Beckley Kd 8d, Cannuli Ad Jc
70. Steinberg Kh 9c, McKeehen 8s 4d
71. McKeehen Kd 7d, Stern Jd 8d
*72. McKeehen Jh 6h, Neuville Ac Jc


73. McKeehen 9s 9d, Steinberg Kc Jh
*74. Cannuli As Ac, Steinberg 10h 10d
75. Stern Ad 4h, McKeehen Jc 9c
76. Blumenfield Ad 2d, Steinberg Ah Jd
77. Beckley Ac Qc, Stern 7s 2s
78. McKeehen As 2s, Beckley 10h 6s
79. Beckley Ks 10c, Steinberg 9h 2d
80. Steinberg Jd 6s, McKeehen As X
81. Steinberg As 8h, Steinberg Ks 5c
82. McKeehen 9c 7h, Blumenfield As Ks
83. Steinberg Ac Ks, McKeehen Kh Qh
84. McKeehen 7c 4c, Steinberg Jh 6h
85. Stern Ad Ac, McKeehen Ks 4d
86. McKeehen 4d 3d, Blumenfield Jd 7h
87. McKeehen Kd Kc, Stern 9s 8c
88. McKeehen Ks 8s, Beckley Ah 9h
89. McKeehen Qc 6c, Stern 3s 3h, Beckley As Ac
90. Stern Ad Jc, McKeehen Ks 6h
91. Stern Ad 9d, Blumenfield 10d 3c
92. McKeehen Ks 4h, Stern 8d 7c
93. Blumenfield Ah Kd, Beckley 8h 6d

Level 38

94. Stern Kc 2d, Steinberg Qs Qh
95. Beckley Qh 7c, McKeehen 10s 3s
96. Steinberg Ks 10c, Blumenfield 9d 7c
97. McKeehen 6h 3h, Stern 8d 6d
98. Stern 10s 9s, Beckley As Ah
99. Blumenfield 8s 6s, Steinberg 5c 2h
100. Stern Kc Qd, McKeehen 9c 3s
101. Stern As 9s, Blumenfield 9h 4c
102. McKeehen 4c 2h, Stern 6h 3h
103. McKeehen 5h 4c, Beckley 8h 8c
104. Beckley Js 6d, Steinberg 4d 2d
105. Blumenfield 3s 3c, McKeehen Ah Ad
106. Beckley Kd 7h, Blumenfield 8h 4h
107. McKeehen Jh 2s, Blumenfield Kc 10c, Stern 9c 3c
108. Stern Qd 3s, Beckley 9s 9h
109. McKeehen Ac Jd, Beckley Ad Js
110: Beckley Kh 5c, McKeehen 8h 2s
111. McKeehen Ad Jh, Blumenfield 4h 3c
112. McKeehen Jc 10d, Stern Qh 9h
113. McKeehen Ac 6h, Beckley 8h 8c
114. Beckley Jc 10h, Steinberg 10s 2s
115. Blumenfield Ac 4c, McKeehen 5c 3c
116. Steinberg Kc 10d, Blumenfield 10c 8c
117. McKeehen Ah 5d, Stern 5s 2h
118. Blumenfield Ad 6c, Beckley Qs 3d
119. Beckley Kh 6s, Steinberg As Qd
120. Steinberg 8c 4h. McKeehen 7d 2d
*121. Stern Ac Jh, Blumenfield As Kc
122. McKeehen Js 10s, Blumenfield Ad 5s
123. Beckley As Jd, Steinberg 10s 6h
124. Blumenfield As Ah, Beckley Ks 9s
125. Steinberg Ac Qh, Blumenfield 4h 2s
126. McKeehen Qs Qd, Beckley Jh Js
127. Blumenfield Qh Qd, Steinberg 3s 2h
128. Steinberg Kd 5h, Steinberg Ac 8d
129. Steinberg 7h 3h, McKeehen Ad Qs
130. McKeehen Kd 4s, Blumenfield Kc Jh, Beckley 8h 5h
131. Beckley 6h 2c, Steinberg 7h 2d
132. McKeehen 8h 8d, Beckley Ac 2h
133. McKeehen Qc 2h, Blumenfield Qd 2c
134. McKeehen Ad Kh, Beckley Ks 8c
135. McKeehen 9h 8s, Beckley Qc 9c
136. Steinberg Ah Jh, McKeehen 5s 4d
137. McKeehen 10h 7s, Blumenfield 10d 2d
138. McKeehen Kh 7d, Beckley 7h 6c
139. Blumenfield Ad 4h, Steinberg 6d 3h
140. Blumenfield 10s 9s, McKeehen 7s 5h

Level 39

141. Beckley Kh 3h, Steinberg Ad 8d
142. McKeehen 10h 9h, Beckley 7h 4h
*143. McKeehen Ad Qc, Steinberg Ah Jd


144. Beckley Ks 9h, McKeehen 10c 7s
145. Beckley 10h 6h, McKeehen As 9d
146. McKeehen 5c 4d, Beckley As Jd
147. Blumenfield Ad 3c, Beckley Qd Jd
148. McKeehen Ks 10c, Blumenfield Qh 8d
149. McKeehen 9s 3c, Blumenfield As 9h
150. Beckley As 6c, McKeehen Js 7s
151. Beckley Ad 10c, McKeehen 10s 8h
152. McKeehen Jc 10d, Beckley 9h 9d
153. Blumenfield 9s 9h, McKeehen Jd 10c
154. McKeehen Qd 6d, Blumenfield Kc 3c
155. McKeehen Qc 9c, Beckley 7s 2d
156. Beckley Jh 9h, McKeehen 9d 2s
157. McKeehen As Ah, Blumenfield Kd 4s
158. McKeehen Kh 10s, Beckley 5h 3c
159. Beckley Qh 8h, McKeehen 9s 8c
160. Beckley Ks Jc, Blumenfield Ah 7h
161. McKeehen 5c 5s, Beckley As 7c
162. Beckley Ac 6h, McKeehen 10d 8h
163. McKeehen Ac 5s, Blumenfield 9d 4c
164. McKeehen 7h 6s, Beckley Ac 2s
165. Beckley 9h 2c, McKeehen 7h 6s
166. McKeehen Ad Kc, Blumenfield Jd 4d
167. McKeehen Qh 8h, Beckley 10h 2d
168. Beckley Qc 6h, McKeehen X X
169. McKeehen Ac Js, Blumenfield Jd 2s
170. McKeehen Qh 5c, Beckley Kd 9s
171. Blumenfield Qd Jd, McKeehen 7d 6c
*172. Beckley As 7d, McKeehen Qs Qh, Blumenfield 2d 2h
173. McKeehen Ad Ks, Beckley 9h 7h
174. Beckley 10c 6s, McKeehen 10h 7h
175. McKeehen 10s 8c, Beckley Qh 2d
176. Beckley Qc 9c, McKeehen 10d 4d
177. McKeehen 7s 5c, Beckley Kd 4c
178. Beckley Qc 7s, McKeehen Jh 8h
179. McKeehen Qh Jc, Beckley Ks Qs
180. Beckley 9h 4c, McKeehen As Kh
181. McKeehen 8c 5d, Beckley 8s 2s
182. Beckley As 2h, McKeehen 10s 10h
183. McKeehen Ad Kc, Beckley 8s 7h
*184. Beckley 4d 4c, McKeehen Ah 10d

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

2015 WSOP November Nine, Day 3: Kudos to Joe Cool

Don’t have a heckuva lot to add to last night’s finale at the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event where Joe McKeehen took care of things with little difficulty. Definitely enjoyed the show last night, although I’ll admit I was a little confused by ESPN’s “What to Look For” tips once they got to heads-up (wink).

Tomorrow I’ll share some nerdy stuff regarding the hands shown during the three nights’ worth of shows, but for today I just wanted to share one quick thought.

I was frankly pulling for McKeehen to win even back in July when Daniel Negreanu was still among those left in the sucker. It goes back to that WSOP Circuit event I covered in early 2013 in which McKeehen similarly entered the final day with the big chip lead and cruised to victory without much resistance, at the time the biggest cash for the Philadelphian.

From that event (at Caesars Atlantic City) I remembered a few things about McKeehen. One was the fact that he had an iPad at the table and was following our coverage, occasionally interacting with us as he reacted to some of the hands being reported. I remember getting the sense that he enjoyed especially whenever we’d include table talk or other details that went beyond the cards (in other words, the stuff I, too, tend to find more interesting a lot of the time).

I also recall how he arrived early for the last day, the first of the 19 players still left in the event to show up. As we didn’t have a photographer for the tournament, I got him to pose for a quick iPhone photo for us to use in the blog. He also did kind of a mock-muscle pose in his winner’s photo, I’m remembering, which produced some grins.

The main thing, though, that I remember about the tournament was how McKeehen seemed not just in control and especially cool at the table, but also how amiable he was with players who were clearly less confident and/or experienced. It wasn’t anything extraordinary, but it was something positive about the guy I ended up taking away from the event.

Watching three-handed last night -- and also some the night before -- you could occasionally see McKeehen being similarly friendly with Blumenfield sitting on his left, and really with everyone. Those exchanges reminded me of how I’d first encountered McKeehen, and like I say made me glad to see him do well this summer and then take it all down this week.

Saw just a few truly dumb responses over Twitter last night to McKeehen’s win and his short post-tourney interview (including a burst of bitter, embarrassingly unfunny heckling from the mostly dormant Wicked Chops Poker account). When asked about being poker’s “ambassador,” McKeehen very reasonably responded “we’ll see,” which to me went right along with his matter-of-fact demeanor and playing style.

All of which is to say I was glad to see McKeehen win, thought Josh Beckley and Blumenfield were pretty likable, too, and on the whole was both entertained, enthused, and even encouraged by the WSOP’s finale.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

2015 WSOP November Nine, Day 2: McKeehen’s Still On Top

Watched every hand again last night as the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event final table played down from six players to three, with Joe McKeehen remaining in a dominant position going into three-handed play for tonight’s finish.

It’s reminding me once again of that WSOP Circuit final table from a couple of years ago that I’ve mentioned before, the one at Caesars Atlantic City I helped cover where McKeehen entered the final day with a big lead and never seemed to be challenged much at all on his way to the win.

Kind of remarkable, really, to think how easily things have gone for McKeehen at the final table thus far. Not only has he avoided making any bad decisions, he’s barely even taken that many risks at all even with decent hands in good spots. Both his opponents’ styles and the cards have dictated that result somewhat, but the overall impression has been that it’s hard to imagine how things could have gone much differently for McKeehen up to this point.

Easily the most interesting hand last night was the one that came relatively late when they were four-handed and Josh Beckley managed to three-bet and then fold pocket jacks to a reraise from the chip leader. We knew when watching that McKeehen had four-bet with pocket queens, which helped raise the eyebrows a little further when we saw Beckley avoid getting hooked by his two hooks.

The hand reminded me of one from the 2006 WSOP Main Event final table, something I brought up in another “what would you do?”-type PokerNews article today. I’m referring to a hand in which Richard Lee reraised all in with pocket jacks versus Jamie Gold’s queens and was knocked out in sixth.

Even though the two hands were similar, it’s funny to go back and think about how crazily different the play was at the ’06 final table -- where, it should be said, most of those there were amateurs, with Allen Cunningham being the exception. In fact in the hand Gold limped in with his queens, something that is hard to imagine happening today. So, too, have the 3x-and-above opening raises at that final table become a thing of the distant past.

Will be there ’til the end again tonight. While it’s hard to envision McKeehen in trouble, it sure would be interesting to watch should either Beckley or Neil Blumenfield manage to get in a position where they can present him some difficulty to complicate the conclusion.

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Monday, November 09, 2015

2015 WSOP November Nine, Day 1: Having Fun Filling the Pauses

Sat up until 2 a.m. here last night until Pierre Neuville was eliminated in seventh and play was paused at the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event final table. The 72-year-old lasted 72 hands, as it happened. At least he didn’t go out with seven-deuce.

I was a little surprised at how tightly Neuville played for much of the night. Having seen him take chances and be bold in other tournaments before -- including online -- I knew he liked to play against the old-man image and mix things up. He and I talked about that very idea back in August, in fact, when I had a chance to interview him at EPT Barcelona.

But alas last night seemed to go in a different direction for the Belgian. Neuville was shown making some tight folds, then got a bit unlucky in a couple of spots including his last hand, although by then he was so short a double-up wouldn’t have helped him a lot, anyway.

Meanwhile the other older player, Neil Blumenfield (aged 61), made me think of Jerry Yang early on when he three-bet with Q-8-offsuit. He did well for himself to maintain a competitive stack all night, although leader Joe McKeehen -- now with over 91 million chips or nearly three times that of the chase pack that includes Ofer Zvi Stern and Blumenfield -- is going to be hard to catch.

Speaking of Stern, his lengthy tanking quickly became the foremost topic of conversation last night.

“Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….vi Stern. #November9,” tweeted Joe Stapleton. “Get it Ofer with,” was Remko Rinkema’s take. Meanwhile my constructive contributions included “At this rate, they won’t finish before Tanksgiving” and “Did I just hear a commercial saying if you have an erection lasting longer than four hands to call your physician?”

I saw Kevmath tweet something this morning about the action begin on Stern for something like 55 minutes or so out of the five-plus hours it took to play those 72 hands. All of the commercial breaks during the first two-and-a-half hours (during prime time) also helped lengthen things considerably.

Regarding the Stern commentary (pun intended) on Twitter last night, let me also shout out to D.J. MacKinnon and Jess Welman for a couple of Global Poker League-inspired thoughts. “Wonder how much more exciting this final table would be with a huge cube around it,” speculated MacKinnon, who then offered a laugh-out-loud artist's rendering as a follow-up. “You know what would make this final table so much better?” Jess then asked. “If everyone was standing up.”

That’s my cat, Sweetie, up above, by the way, mesmerized by another hand involving Stern.

Now, of course, the “shot clock” talk has begun again, although as has been the case when that has come up before, I can’t really get behind the idea. Players playing slowly is part of the game, and if other players have a problem they can call the clock to try to speed things up. Obviously Stern doesn’t have to play that way, but just as obviously he has every right to do so.

Phil Hellmuth tweeted something about him receiving a warning at one point, although it might have been the Stern warning (pun intended) was not for his slow pace of play. (Can’t really trust Hellmuth always to know what he’s tweeting about.) Will be curious to see if Stern is influenced at all into speeding up after no doubt getting feedback on what happened last night.

Have to say, though, I enjoyed the show last night, even with the sluggish pace. In part it was because I like watching how well McKeehen has been pushing around others by pushing his chips. But mostly it was because of the tweets, which were a fun way to fill all those pauses.

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Friday, November 06, 2015

Fleeting Impressions

Following up on yesterday’s list, here are a few very hasty thoughts about some impressions left by the hands shown during ESPN’s WSOP Main Event coverage involving the November Niners:
  • Joe McKeehen: Smart and savvy, able to play quietly or match Negreanu’s table talk. Stepped up pressure considerably with big stack at end of Day 7. Especially cool (barely reacted when rivering four-outer to survive with 46 left).
  • Zvi Stern: Shown bluffing multiple times, giving him the appearance of one willing to take chances, make unorthodox plays.
  • Neil Blumenfield: Exhibited some characteristic amateur play, including some risky/rash all-ins (getting lucky a couple of times). However did manage to survive multiple hands in which many amateurs would’ve been eliminated (e.g., getting aces cracked).
  • Pierre Neuville: Often cautious, but more than willing to take chances and go against image with bluffs and/or aggression. Hands shown didn’t fully reveal his craftiness.
  • Max Steinberg: Along with McKeehen appears the most solid player of the nine. Likes big opening raises and was shown once making big overbet bluff, but obviously good at reading and decision-making postflop.
  • Tom Cannuli: Held his own during lots of feature table time (much with Negreanu). Has full range of moves available and seemingly good sense of what others are up to.
  • Josh Beckley: Often was short-stacked and thus without too many options, but was shown making big folds and trying multi-barrel bluffs more than once, too.
  • Patrick Chan: Barely made the coverage; barely made an impression.
  • Federico Butteroni: Got a lot of air time. Seemed to play some hands well, some less so.
  • This sort of thing reminds me of the story of the blind men and the elephant. You’ve heard of it, yes? Several blind men gather around an elephant, each touching a different part (the trunk, a leg, a tusk, etc.), then discuss what the animal was and discover they are in complete disagreement.

    We saw only a tiny fraction of the hands played by these nine players. Even if we had seen all of them, we still would have imperfect knowledge of how each play. Still, it’s interesting to think about the impressions such imperfect chronicling has created, and whether or not such impressions could influence what happens once play resumes Sunday night.

    (EDIT [added 11/8/15]: For more November Nine-related conjecture -- including from your humble scribbler -- check out the “PokerNews Staff Predictions for the World Series of Poker November Nine.”)

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    Thursday, November 05, 2015

    Compiling the November Niners’ Hands Shown on ESPN

    Okay, folks... this is going to seem a little obsessive. But I took all these notes and ended up deciding not to use them for anything else, and so I’m going to share it all here rather than just keep them to myself.

    A couple of days ago I mentioned again how I’d been watching the ESPN coverage of the WSOP Main Event fairly closely this year, pulling out interesting hands for “what-would-you-do?”-type strategy articles over on PokerNews. That meant I watched every hand from all 16 episodes, taking notes as I did.

    I had an idea this week that it might be interesting to pull out the hands involving the November Niners -- Joseph McKeehen, Zvi Stern, Neil Blumenfield, Pierre Neuville, Max Steinberg, Tom Cannuli, Josh Beckley, Patrick Chan, and Federico Butteroni -- and find out what perhaps could be gleaned from the hands that were shown. I already had notes from each episode which to work, and so initially thought it might be a reasonable task, but eventually I got kind of bogged down with it all and the idea got aborted.

    There were 284 hands (including partial hands) shown in the coverage. Of those about half of them involved November Niners, although about 20 or so of those hands were just them folding preflop. Still that left 121 hands in which we could actually talk about meaningful strategic decisions involving these players. These would be the hands, I’d imagine, that the players themselves focused on if they chose to study the ESPN shows at all when preparing for the final table.

    Like I say, I didn’t want to do all of this and just toss it in the circular file, so I’m going to leave it here if only to remind me not to give myself such a ridiculous task again. What follows are short-hand notes of those 121 hands -- my actual notes for each hand are much, much more detailed, but they are also very messy and inconsistent. That’s not to say what appears below isn’t also messy and inconsistent, but at least the entries are short and easy enough to scan.

    The numbers represent the episode (1 through 16) and the hand on that episode, so “1.10” means show #1, hand #10. An asterisk before the number means a November Niner was at risk of elimination in the hand. Most of them were shown in that spot at least once (including McKeehen with 46 left), Chan was twice, Butteroni three times, Blumenfield five times, and Beckley six times. In fact the only remaining player not shown all in and at risk at least once is Pierre Neuville.

    McKeehen unsurprisingly got the most exposure in these hands among the nine (30 hands total, I believe), while Chan got the least by far (just five hands).

    Tomorrow I’ll come back with a short post summarizing some thoughts about what I got from these hands insofar as they suggest anything meaningful about each player. Meanwhile I hope the list is understandable enough, for those who are curious.

    1.10 McKeehen -- 535 left, gets Costello to make bad river call (knocks out Costello)

    2.11 Butteroni -- 428 left, successfully bluffs Ron Ilani

    4.13 Beckley -- ~285 left, successfully bluffs Schwartz

    5.13 Steinberg -- 186 left, wins three-way hand with Bonomo (overcalls)
    5.16 Steinberg -- 171 left, wins J-J vs. A-Q to knock out Jae Kim
    5.19 Blumenfield -- 168 left, wins A-A vs. K-K to knock out Esfandiari

    6.1 McKeehen -- 162 left, wins A-K vs. Q-Q to knock out Racener
    6.6 McKeehen-Stern -- ~160 left, Stern bluffs river with air vs. McKeehen’s full house
    6.8 Butteroni -- 138 left, wins A-A vs. 8-8 to knock out Lily Newhouse

    7.3 Neuville -- 109 left, gets shoved on river, calls w/flush, knocks out Divella
    7.10 Blumenfield -- ~100 left, wins with A-A w/o showdown vs. De Silva
    7.11 Steinberg -- ~100 left, wins w/K-K w/o a showdown (gets value) vs. Bonomo (A-K)
    7.15 Blumenfield -- ~100 left, wins multi-way hand calling down with flopped top pair
    *7.20 Stern -- ~100 left, luckily survives AI Ac-9c vs. Diveglia’s Qs-Qc (rivers straight)
    *7.21 Butteroni -- ~90 left, wins AI with K-K vs. Bonomo’s 10-10

    8.1 Neuville -- ~90 left, wins with A-A vs. K-Q, knocks out Barabino
    8.3 Blumenfield -- ~85 left, loses with J-J vs. Negreanu’s A-A (perhaps lucky to survive)
    8.7 Neuville -- ~85 left, wins w/Q-7 vs. Morgenstern’s J-9 latter double-barrels, folds
    8.8 Cannuli -- 83 left, wins with A-A vs. A-10, knocks out Diana Svensk
    8.16 Blumenfield -- ~80 left, loses big (73% stack) w/K-K vs. Jarvis’s 6-6 (set)

    *9.3 Beckley -- 69 left, gets AI after flopping set (three-way hand), survives
    *9.4 Blumenfield -- ~69 left, luckily survives with K-J vs. Hastings’s A-3
    9.6 Cannuli -- 63 left, wins A-K vs. KK, knocks out Mackoff
    9.7 Steinberg -- ~63 left, 3-way vs. Negreanu/Anand; flops middle pair, c-r, wins
    9.10 Beckley -- ~60 left, gets value vs. Jarvis calling down, then rivering flush
    9.15 Butteroni-Neuville -- ~60 left, b-v.-b hand, Butteroni turns two pair, gets value
    9.16 Cannuli -- ~60 left, wins smallish hand vs. Toole (and Berman who folds flop)
    9.18 Beckley -- 58 left, tries to bluff Morfe and Morfe calls him down
    *9.19 Blumenfield -- 58 left, AI on turn w/queen-high, luckily draws out vs. Hastings
    9.20 Neuville-Butteroni -- ~58 left, 3-way hand, Neuville successfully bluffs pot
    9.21 Cannuli-Steinberg -- ~58 left, four-way hand, smallish pot
    9.25 Cannuli -- ~57 left, 3-way small hand with Minkin and Negreanu

    10.3 Steinberg -- ~55 left, 3-way, Steinberg folds top pair to Schwartz turn bluff
    *10.5 Beckley-Chan -- huge 3-way hand in which both Beckley & Chan AI, Chan wins
    10.6 Beckley -- 53 left, knocks out Lewis after making tough call on turn
    10.7 Cannuli -- ~52 left, 3-bets Schwartz from BB w/Q-7, flops two pair/folds to S flush
    10.8 Steinberg -- ~50 left, wins small pot with J-J
    10.12 Cannuli -- 49 left, wins one vs. Schwartz after drawing out two pair
    10.15 Stern -- ~49 left, raises river w/second pair after Power’s bluff, gets fold
    *10.16 Beckley -- ~46 left, 4 limp, Beckley r BB w/A-A, wins vs. Buckenmayer AI w/K-Q

    *11.1 McKeehen-Beckley -- 46 left, M luckily wins AI A-Q vs. B’s A-K; rivers straight
    11.4 Butteroni -- 44 left, loses hand to Clinger
    11.5 Cannuli -- 43 left, raises over Steinberg/Schwartz limp w/Q-J, flops straight
    11.8 Steinberg-Cannuli -- 41 left, multi-way pot; Cannuli loses to Negreanu w/trip J
    11.9 Butteroni -- ~40 left, raises, then folds 9-9 after Turyansky AI
    11.10 Chan-McKeehen -- 39 left, 3-way, M AI Q-Q, Chan f A-Q, Buckenmayer out A-K
    11.13 Cannuli-Blumenfield -- 36 left, C raises K-6, Blum calls BB 10-9; Blum wins
    11.15 Cannuli -- 35 left, loses small three-way pot
    *11.17 Butteroni -- 34 left, luckily doubles with 6-6 vs. Brand’s 10-10 (flops quads)
    11.18 Steinberg-Cannuli -- 34 left, S r K-K, C calls 9-9; C folds flop, S KOs Toole
    11.20 Blumenfield -- ~34 left, makes ballsy AI bluff w/queen-high on river v. Ahmar
    11.21 Stern -- 33 left, folds pocket nines after raise, call, reraise

    12.2 Steinberg -- 31 left, opens w/9-9 and ends up getting value vs. Ahmar
    12.3 Blumenfield -- 31 left, loses big to DNegs w/A-K vs. DN 6-3 (DN better str8)
    12.4 Neuville -- 31 left, raises 5-5 then folds to a three-bet
    12.5 Beckley-Neuville -- 31 left, Beckley triple-barrels, gets PN to fold better
    12.8 Blumenfield -- 31 left, raises with J-J, AI on six-high flop, wins
    12.9 Steinberg-Blumenfield -- 31 left, 3-way, Blum calls raise, wins decent pot (DN)
    12.11 Blumenfield-Steinberg -- 31 left, Blum folds 9-9 to AI, Stein calls/loses w/7-7
    12.14 Blumenfield -- 30 left, Blum calls BB w/Q-9, lets Schwartz bluff him out
    12.15 Stern -- ~30 left, four-bets with 10-10, then folds to a big shove
    12.16 Cannuli-Steinberg -- 30 left, C calls r w/J-J, S calls w/K-7, DN rr, both fold
    12.17 Butteroni -- 29 left, limps SB with Q-10, flops trip 10s and knocks out Minkin
    12.19 McKeehen -- 28 left, wins with A-Q vs. A-10, knocks out Moreno

    *13.2 Butteroni -- 27 left, luckily wins with Q-Q vs. A-K, ace on flop, queen on turn
    13.5 Butteroni -- 27 left, calls raise w/A-5, bluffs at flop, gives up on river (vs. DN)
    13.4 Blumenfield -- 27 left, ends up earning some value vs. a bluffy Morgenstern
    13.5 Neuville-Beckley -- 27 left, B flops top pair, but N runner-runner deuces
    *13.6 Steinberg -- 27 left, doubles up with A-A vs. Negreanu’s 8-8
    13.7 Neuville -- 27 left, calls raise with 5-4 suited, then folds to an all-in
    *13.8 Chan-Beckley -- 27 left, Beckley (J-J) doubles through Chan (6-6)
    13.12 Cannuli -- 24 left, wins with 10-8 vs. 3-3 to knock out Brand
    13.13 Cannuli -- 23 left, DN raises, B folds 6-6, C reraises A-K, DN calls; C wins
    13.16 Blumenfield -- 23 left, loses a lot with A-A vs. Hinds who rivers nut flush
    13.17 McKeehen -- 23 left, wins big pot with K-K vs. Kearney’s 10-10, takes lead again
    *13.18 Beckley -- 22 left, triples up with K-K (Neuville c/f K-Q pre)
    13.19 Butteroni-Steinberg -- 22 left, table talk, Stein bluffs Butteroni out on river
    *13.20 Blumenfield -- 21 left, AI with K-K and doubles through Hinds’s A-K
    *13.21 Blumenfield -- 21 left, very next hand AI w/A-A, doubles through Hinds’s 10-10
    13.22 Neuville -- 21 left, knocks out Sequiera in very interesting K-6 vs. Q-Q hand

    14.1 Cannuli -- 19 left, battles with DNegs over small pot
    14.2 Steinberg -- 19 left, a nothing hand
    14.3 Butteroni -- 19 left, has J-J, to river w/Schwartz before S bluffs him out
    14.7 McKeehen -- 18 left, battles with DNegs
    14.8 Steinberg -- 18 left, wins with A-K vs. A-Q, knocks out Kramer
    14.10 McKeehen -- 16 left, has A-A and five-bets DNegs who tank-folds A-K
    14.11 McKeehen -- 16 left, calls Guan raise w/6-6, makes set, then quads, value
    14.12 Neuville -- 16 left, wins with 8-8 vs. A-K, knocks out Stefanski
    *14.13 Neuville-Cannuli -- 15 left, Cannuli (A-K) doubles through Neuville (A-9)

    *15.1 Beckley -- 15 left, B calls BB 10-8 flops str8, AI flop/doubles thru Turyansky
    15.2 McKeehen-Butteroni -- 15 left, both battle DNegs for pot, McKeehen wins
    15.3 Cannuli -- 15 left, wins with A-10 vs. Q-Q, knocks out Kearney
    15.4 Butteroni -- 14 left, calls BB w/8-5 suited, c-r flop w/mid-pair, Schwartz folds
    15.5 McKeehen -- 14 left, set over set to knock out Schwartz
    15.6 McKeehen -- 13 left, K-K gets value vs. DNegs with Q-J and top pair on flop
    15.7 Cannuli-Chan -- 13 left, Cannuli 4-bets AI w/Q-Q, Chan folds J-7 after 3-bet
    15.8 Cannuli-Stern -- 13 left, C (7-6) beats Stern (A-K); turns trips, Stern kings
    15.9 Cannuli-Neuville -- 13 left, C raises with 10-5, bluffs N off hand on turn
    15.10 McKeehen -- 13 left, DNegs doubles through with 4-4 vs. M’s A-7
    15.11 Steinberg-Stern -- 13 left, Stein wins w/K-J vs. Stern A-Q; Stern b-f river
    15.12 McKeehen-Beckley -- small hand
    *15.13 Chan-Neuville -- 13 left, Chan survives with A-Q v. N’s J-J (flops flush)
    15.14 Stern-Cannuli -- 13 left, Stern r/c 3-bet (A-K) w/Q-8; raise flop w/air, wins
    15.16 McKeehen-Butteroni -- 13 left, w/Turyansky... Butteroni wins
    15.17 McKeehen -- 13 left, raises with 8-7, then folds to a DNegs AI
    15.18 McKeehen-Butteroni -- Butteroni wins with A-A vs. Q-Q, KOs Guan out 13th
    15.19 Stern -- 12 left, raises w/10s8s, 4-bets AI, wins vs. Q-Q, McDonald 12th

    16.1 McKeehen-Beckley -- 11 left, McK raise 6-6, Beck 3-bets A-J, McKeehen fold
    16.2 McKeehen -- 11 left, raises/folds to a DN AI
    16.3 Blumenfield-Stern -- 11 left, Stern AI on turn w/air v. Blum flush/doubles
    16.4 Beckley-McKeehen-Butteroni -- 11 left, M 3-bets 7-6, Bu folds 8-8; Be folds pair
    16.5 McKeehen -- 11 left, loses small one to DNegs
    16.6 McKeehen -- 11 left, loses another small one to DNegs
    16.7 McKeehen-Beckley -- 11 left, M rivers straight, goes AI, Beckley folds top pair
    16.9 McKeehen -- 11 left, KOs DN after raising with J-3, DN just call BB w/A-4
    16.10 Steinberg-McKeehen -- 10 left, S raise A-K, M 3-bets w/7-6, S 4-bets, M folds
    *16.11 Beckley-McKeehen -- 10 left, B doubles w/A-Q vs. M’s 9-9 (Cannuli folded 9-9)
    16.12 McKeehen -- 10 left, Turyansky luckily survives with A-J vs. M’s A-K
    16.13 McKeehen-Neuville -- 10 left, Neuville flops set with J-J & wins big one vs. McK
    16.14 Blumenfield-Neuville -- 10 left, Neuv wins 9-9 vs. Blum’s 8-8, Blum folds river
    16.15 McKeehen -- 10 left, wins with Q-Q vs. A-K, knocks out Turyansky in 10th

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    Wednesday, November 04, 2015

    Short-Handed, Short-Stacked, and Short-Changed

    Have a postscript to share regarding yesterday’s discussion of the last part of Day 7 of the World Series of Poker Main Event (and ESPN’s coverage of it). Has to do with the short-handed play and a problem faced by some of the short stacks -- I’ll keep it short.

    The episodes this week showed them play down from 15 players to nine, with Daniel Negreanu dramatically lasting as far as 11th place. While watching I was reminded of the significant faux pas made by the WSOP not to go to hand-for-hand play immediately after George McDonald’s knockout in 12th place. This issue wasn’t brought up at all on ESPN. It might have been, because it involved a mistake in judgment that affected who of the final 11 ultimately were able to make it to the final table.

    After McDonald’s ouster, there were two short-handed tables, with the feature table being the shorter one with just five players. That’s where leader Joe McKeehen sat with a monstrous stack that dwarfed those of the other four players, including Negreanu.

    In fact, for much of the sequence that followed, McKeehen was in first while the others were 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th in the counts. He also was opening practically every hand and keeping the pressure on constantly (as he should have). Too bad for the short stacks, for sure, but that’s the luck of the seat draw and subsequent table-balancing.

    What wasn’t fair, though, was the fact that at the five-handed table they were playing nearly twice as fast as at the outer six-handed table. Over the next hour-and-a-half, they played 48 hands at the feature table (with McKeehen winning 26 of them), while they only played 26 hands at the six-handed table.

    Not incidentally, when McKeehen had the button, Negreanu was in the big blind, and we saw several hands in the coverage involving those two. Looking back through the live updates again, Negreanu was in the big blind 10 times during the non-H4H portion when there were 11 left. Meanwhile Patrick Chan -- who became the short stack on the outer table after Neil Blumenfield doubled up soon after McDonald’s ouster -- was in the big blind exactly five times during the same hour-and-a-half.

    The WSOP finally decided to go to hand-for-hand once they reached the next level break, well after the many criticisms for not doing so had been fired over Twitter and across other social media. It then only took four hands more for Negreanu’s bust to come (in one last button-versus-big blind hand with McKeehen).

    There were some strange pay jumps in play here, too, you might recall. Here’s how the top 11 spots of the WSOP Main Event pay:

    1st: $7,683,346
    2nd: $4,470,896
    3rd: $3,398,298
    4th: $2,615,361
    5th: $1,911,423
    6th: $1,426,283
    7th: $1,203,293
    8th: $1,097,056
    9th: $1,001,020
    10th: $756,897
    11th: $526,778
    This payout schedule also represented something that might have been done otherwise, and once it was announced during the early part of the Main Event many suggested problems with it and possible corrections.

    Notice how the jumps between 11th and 10th ($230,119) and 10th and 9th ($244,123) are both much greater than the ones between 9th-8th, 8th-7th, and 7th-6th. Not that anyone is going to be less than cautious with 11 players in the WSOP Main Event, but those big jumps could obviously encourage players to play less quickly, especially if they saw short stacks at the other table being threatened by the chip leader.

    The fact that the WSOP did finally exercise their judgment and go to hand-for-hand some 90 minutes after they should have shows they could have done it as soon as they got to 11 players. As I wrote about here back in July, the fact that they didn’t represented a serious mistake, one made more conspicuous (if not more significant) by the fact that Negreanu was among the players directly affected.

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