Sunday, October 19, 2014

Late Night With Scott Davies

This past Friday night, and into Saturday morning, I was riveted to the TV, watching poker.  Scott Davies was playing for a bracelet.  Not just any ol’ bracelet.  He was playing for the Main Event bracelet at the WSOP- APAC in Australia. In other words, it was a big effing deal.

I’ve mentioned before, I don’t actually watch that much televised poker.  But I was excited to make an exception for this event, in order to cheer for Scott and see if he could get his very first WSOP bracelet.

Why did I care?  Well, for over four years now, Scott has been blogging about his adventures as a professional poker player on AVP (now PokerAtlas).  He started long before I started blogging, and before I started working for AVP.  In fact, the title of his blog is called, “My Quest for a WSOP Bracelet.” You can find his blog here.

So I’ve been following his adventures and his quest, his highs and lows, for all this time.  He’s practically family!  If my memory is accurate, I only briefly met Scott one time, last year during the WSOP in Vegas (see here).

When I learned that Scott had made the final table at the Main Event down under, and that the final table was going to be televised on ESPN live here in the US at 10PM Friday night, PST, I knew I had to watch and see if Scott could do it.  He came into the final table with the second most chips, so it was certainly doable. 

Across the twitterverse, I saw all kinds of encouragement directed at Scott.  Some of these folks no-doubt knew Scott from his AVP blog.  Not sure how the others knew him, but apparently everyone who knows him or knows of him likes him; that’s the kind of guy he is. 

In Vegas, a few of his friends organized a viewing party to watch the telecast together: AlaskaGal, Stump, Michelle, all names you’ve seen on my blog in the past.  But since I wasn’t in Vegas, I had to do the next best thing.

Friends and followers of Scott from all over organized a Facebook chat group, just so we could all watch the final table together and comment about it in real time.  Isn’t the internet cool?  I hope I don’t leave anyone out, but on the group chat were Vook, Nick, John, Jess, Benton, Dwayne, Dan (sorry, don’t have a link for him).  Oh yes, Scott’s wife, Liezl, was also part of the chat.  She was home in Canada, watching on TV like the rest of us.

And it was the chat that made it extra special.  All of us, chiming in from around the country, sharing our thoughts, our good wishes, it was just a total blast.  And keep in mind, for those of our group who live on the east coast, this started at 1AM and didn’t finish until after 5AM!  They were all troopers.

One logistics problem was that, when you televise poker “live” and you show the audience the hole cards, you have to do it on a delay (so that a player can’t have an opponent’s hole cards signaled to him).  We all took a vow not to look at twitter or any other source that would reveal the results prematurely.  Even Liezl agreed…..insisting that Scott not tell her anything when he called her during the breaks.  Honestly, I have a hard time believing she didn’t get real updates during those conversations (or that she didn’t check Twitter for current updates), but hey, I’ll go along with it. J

It was so exciting watching Scott go for the bracelet, and chatting with all his friends and fans at the same time, that I wasn’t even tired.  I had no trouble staying awake, even tho this went on well past the time I normally retire when I’m home in LA.

At the start of the 6-handed table , the biggest stack belonged to Jack Salter, but after awhile, Frank Kassela took the chip lead (moving Scott down to third, I believe) and started bullying the table around.  He went on quite a run. Meanwhile, Scott was card dead and hardly played any hands.

But to show you how fast things can turn around in tournament poker, Kassela went from chip leader to busto in the span of just two hands!  First, he had the misfortune of seeing Ace-King when Scott finally woke up with a hand….a big hand.  Pocket Aces, to be precise.  They got it all in and Scott’s Aces held (I believe there was some Hollywooding on Scott’s part before he put all his chips in the middle).  Suddenly, Scott was the chip leader. 

The very next hand, Kassela was dealt Ace-Queen, and guess what?  Salter woke up with the Aces this time.  Again they were all in, and again, the Aces held.  Bye, bye Kassela.  From the penthouse to the outhouse in two hands.

The rest of the players were soon eliminated (actually, Kassela went out 5th; the lone woman at the final table, Ang Italiano, was the first to bust) and it was heads up between Scott and Salter.

Scott had a small chip lead.  I’m not sure, but I think Salter may have jumped slightly ahead once or twice, but it was usually Scott in the lead, but never by more than 60% to 40%. 

When it was heads up, things got real interesting, thanks especially to the commentary by noted pro Antonio Esfandiari.  The few times previously I’ve heard Esfandiari doing poker commentary, I’ve always enjoyed him.  He is not only insightful, but he’s witty and charming and presents a winning personality.  I think he’s the best poker “color-man.”

Or at least I did until he started his commentary on the heads-up match.

Antonio didn’t like Scott’s play at all.  He didn’t like his heads-up style.  He clearly didn’t think Scott was aggressive enough.  He even said that he didn’t think Scott had a lot of experience heads-up. 

He was only the “guest” commentator, but really, he should have done some research.

Those of us in the Facebook chat group all knew (or soon learned) that Scott is actually a heads-up specialist.  He might have checked Scott’s cashes from this year’s WSOP.  Scott finished fourth in the $10K heads-up event. 

Antonio predicted immediately that Salter would win the bracelet; he made it clear that he felt Scott was overmatched, and kept praising Salter (and dissing Scott) even as his stack was shrinking.  It was kind of funny.  Except that it was really annoying to our little chat group of Scott’s fans.  Antonio may have lost some fans this night.   Meanwhile, Liezl was telling us that Scott was doing exactly what he wanted to do, that this was his specialty, and that he was going to win.  She laughed off Antonio’s digs at her husband and expressed total confidence in Scott.

To be fair to Antonio, he has his own view of how heads-up should be played, and that’s what he was there for, to give the viewer his expert opinion.  But you know, there’s more than one style that can be successful in poker and Antonio didn’t seem to be willing to consider that.  If you ask for advice on how to play a specific hand of five different pros, the first thing they will say to you is, “It depends.”  Then the five of them will give you at least seven different answers. 

We didn’t see it until after the event was over (on TV, that is), but we later learned that another top pro, Phil Hellmuth, had tweeted out that he disagreed with Antonio and that he actually loved Scott’s style and strategy. 

Anyway, Antonio’s disagreeable comments probably made us pull even harder for Scott, if that was possible, just so we could all kind of universally say to Antonio, “Take that!”  Or “Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah.”  Or even, “Where’s your main event bracelet, Antonio?”

Heads-up play went on for a (seemingly) long time without a lot of dramatic hands.  Scott kept chipping up, but there were no monster pots or monster hands.  It was after 2AM on the west coast, and it was beginning to look like I’d see the sunrise before this thing would be over.

There were a couple of hands that had us all going crazy on the chat.  On one, I think Scott had top pair, but there were two 4’s on the board and Salter had one in his hand.  Scott was beat, but it was hard to put Salter on a 4 and Scott could have easily thought he had the best hand.  Facing a river bet, Scott tanked for a long time.  The chat room was going crazy, “Fold!”  “Lay it down!”  Finally, Scott did indeed fold and we all cheered.

The flip side was when Scott had a Jack in his hand and there were two Jacks on the board.  But the board was scary.  Salter had a straight draw, and on the river, he missed.  But the river put a third diamond on the board.  Scott’s trip Jacks looked eminently beatable.  But Salter had absolutely nothing.  He led out with a huge overbet, bigger than the pot.  Scott went into the tank for a long, long time.

Then the weirdest thing happened.  As we were all shouting in the chat room, “Call, call, call!” the TD came over and told Scott that he had one minute to act; the clock had been called.  But no one, and I mean no one, had heard Salter call for the clock.  Even the commentators were surprised, they hadn’t heard it either.  We wondered if it was possible that the TD did it himself?  Pretty sure that isn’t allowed.  Apparently Salter must have whispered it, or perhaps had somehow signaled to the TD non-verbally.

However, Scott couldn’t hear us shouting to call (especially since, by the time we saw it on TV, it had happened half an hour earlier).  And as the clock was counting down, he folded.  Damn it!

The commentators, Antonio and Norman Chad, had a field day with this.  They both proclaimed that, even tho Scott still was the chip leader, this was the “turning point” of the match.  They clearly expected Salter to go on from there and start taking Scott’s chips as if he was taking candy from a baby.  Honestly, they way they were talking, Scott may have well as just thrown in the towel. Even before this, they were saying that Salter was clearly outplaying Scott, which was absurd. Scott was the one who was slowly but steadily building up his stack. It would have been funny if we weren’t all pulling so hard for Scott.

I assume at the break that Scott learned that he had been bluffed there, but that’s the difference between successful pros and amateurs.  They can deal with that without going on tilt.  Scott kept playing his steady game—the one Antonio didn’t like—and built his chip lead back up. 

At some point, Antonio finally realized that Scott was playing well, and started praising his moves a bit.  Then finally, just when it looked like there’d never be a truly game-changing hand, it happened.  Scott had pocket 6’s and Salter had Queen-10 (yes, Coach, the “evil hand”).  I believe Scott three-bet with his 6’s.

The flop came 10-10-6.


Scott had flopped a full house, and Salter “only” flopped trip 10’s.  On the turn there was some back and forth betting, Salter finally announced “all-in” and Scott insta-called.  He had Salter covered. The river was a blank and our pal Scott had his first WSOP bracelet—and a Main Event bracelet at that.

Out little chat group was ecstatic, to say the least.  Liezl told us that Scott had actually called her with the news while she was watching the final hand on TV (I guess Scott was tied up with interviews and such).

It was freaking awesome.

Side note:  I’m pretty sure that in the entire 4+ hours of poker, we never saw anyone get dealt the dreaded pocket Kings, for whatever that’s worth.

Congratulations to Scott Davies, Main Event bracelet winner!  No doubt there are more bracelets in your future!


  1. To be fair to Antonio, he did say, "Just because I don't like his limping on the button, doesn't mean he isn't playing pretty good." Antonio's professional opinion was that Scott should had been more aggressive in some spots.

    Scott played well and deserved the win. He has worked hard for years to get to this position to win a bracelet. He did it and many of us are very proud of him. GG Scott!

    1. Thanks, Anony.....I did say the Antonio had changed his tune after awhile and noted that Scott was playing well. I didn't recall the specific quote you have there.

      But in a way, Antonio's comments make Scott's win all the sweeter.

  2. I was following all this on twitter, during the early mornings without any TV. ESPN (in many guises) comes and goes in the UK, as it's up against Sky (Fox). Great job by Scott, and the haters can say what they want. It won't change the result.

    1. Thanks, Ben. I think it would be unfair to characterize Antonio as a hater. He was just really convinced that his way to play heads up was the right way.

    2. I was talking about others as well in the commentary team. In fact this happens a lot in sports commentary in general , when the unknown comes up against the establishment. However Antonio has posted a well done tweet to Scott, so he's off the hook ! :)

    3. Well, haters gonna hate....

  3. Great post Rob - but surely you could have figured a way to sneak some boobage in there??

    I have been living in Hong Kong for 3 weeks now, but haven't yet had time to venture over to Macau and check out the poker. Been travelling on business every week - mostly to Indonesia (negotiating our Tit Bitz franchise) and Taiwan.

    I'm planning November 1/2 for a Macau trip and will report back.


    1. Thanks, DWP. Good luck in Macau. I'll bet those games are totally insane.

      In fact, I searched for and wide for a pic of Scott topless, but I couldn't find one.

  4. Rob,

    Having railed Scott at the heads up event here in Vegas, I was actually surprised how passively he was playing the button heads up. My guess was that since Salter was expected to be uber-aggressive, Scott was trying a bit of trapping to counter that. Or that Scott was playing small ball because they were both so deep. Still, I was still surprised that he didn't change gears on the button a bit sooner.

    Dave (DapPoker)

    1. Thanks, Dave! Great to have you comment here.

      That's interesting about Scott's play, I'd never seen him play for so I assumed that was his normal play. But Scott's wife did indicate that what he was doing was all part of his plan and his normal play. You're right tho, I assume those heads up matches had shorter stacks, so that might have had something to do with it.

      Whatever, it sure as hell worked (as did the trick of flopping a boat when your opponent flops trips--I'd like to add that to my game!)