Monday, July 24, 2017

Some Thoughts On The Main Event

For the first time in, like forever, I watched a whole lot of the WSOP main event this year.  Although one of the things that got me into poker was seeing some televised poker, I really haven't spent a lot of time watching the game on TV since I actually started playing myself.

I did watch some of the November 9 coverage last year, mostly because I was recovering from my triple by-pass and I didn't have a lot of other things I could do to keep me busy or entertained.  Even so, the time of the coverage meant I didn't see all that much of it, and missed the critical moments of the coverage, including the final hand (hey, I couldn't stay up forever, I needed my sleep). 

But this time I watched a lot, including the entire final table.  I kind of surprised myself with how much I watched.

I definitely feel the change in the way they covered it on TV had a lot to do with my watching so much. I really liked the fact that they had live coverage on ESPN or ESPN2 virtually every day.  So much better than the canned, tape delay shows of hands months after they took place.  It kept me interested in following the progress of the players.  I didn't subscribe to PokerGo, but watching a few hours of the main event every day kept me interested and enhanced the stories I was following online.

When the final table started Thursday night, I was familiar with all the players and the big story lines.  And thus watched every bit of it.

So first off, congratulations to all the final 9 and of course most of all to Scott Blumstein for an incredible main event run.  He is a worthy champion and bracelet winner.

Blumstein played great of course. To my non-expert eye, however, I think the best player at the final table, and certainly of the final three, was Benjamin Pollak, but what do I know?  He just couldn't get the cards to cooperate.

And runner up Dan Ott picked a terrible time to become totally card dead, didn't he?  Once it was heads up, Blumstein seemed to get the better cards time after time after time.

I will say I think Ott made one of the worst plays at the final table, when he shoved with King-9 after Pollak's shove.  As  soon as I saw his hand after Pollak's all-in, I thought to myself, "No way he's calling, he has to fold."  Of course, he did indeed shove.  All the commentators agreed that it was a bad play on Ott's part.  Lay it down there, hope Blumstein calls and knocks Pollak out, and get heads up without risking another chip.

But no, he shoved, Blumstein called both with Ace-Queen, and Ott managed to get to showdown with the best hand when a King hit the flop.  I tweeted this out at the time:  "Ott's all in there was terrible yet he was rewarded for it. #skillgame. #WSOPMainEvent."

Just my opinion of course.

And what can I say about the awesome John Hesp that hasn't already been said?  The 64-year-old Englishman was a delight to watch, and made for some real entertainment.   Everyone is saying he helped bring back fun to poker.  It was so refreshing to see someone just out there having a great time playing, wasn't it?  No doubt he was good for the game.  Hopefully the sheer joy he exhibited while playing will become contagious.

I had a couple of observations watching so many hands.  The first was that, for long stretches, I wondered why everyone at the table was playing like me!  And by that I mean nitty.  Seriously, I saw a whole lot of really, really tight play. They were folding hands that I would play!  I dunno if it was the pressure of such a big moment, or if my style of play is catching on.  I kind of think it is the former.

The other thing is that, well, everyone was card dead!  I mean I couldn't believe how many bad hands there were.  It just seemed like there were very few premium hands delivered to the players.  Take the first night.  We saw pocket Queens dealt three or four times in the first couple of hours (and every time to Hesp if memory serves), but I remember thinking that it took forever for someone to wake up with pocket Aces or pocket Kings (once each on the first night I'm guessing).  And I don't think anyone ever had pocket Jacks.

And once heads up play started, as Norman Chad pointed out, there were no pocket pairs to either player for almost the entire run of it. It was only the second to last hand that pocket 6's were the first pocket pair dealt. I don't recall a whole lot of Ace-Kings either.

It seems when I play a tournament, I'm seeing pocket pairs, and even premium pairs, shown by players all the time.  It struck me as odd.  Maybe it's because in a tournament I play in, I don't see all the cards and am maybe assuming they have big hands when they don't.

Whenever I do watch TV poker, I try to use it as a learning experience as much as possible.  I was happy that I correctly predicted what Antonio Esfandiari would say about a situation a lot of the time.  When I couldn't (or guessed wrong), I would listen carefully to his explanation and try to make a big mental note of it.

That said, I'm not sure how much I will be to incorporate into my game.  The issue is, he is basing his thinking on opponents playing at a certain level—a level high enough to run deep into the main event.  I'm not sure most of the players I face in the $125 tournaments I play are using the same thought process these players were.  When Antonio explains why a bet or a check means a player couldn't have X, I know in the games I play, there's at least a 50/50 chance the player could exactly have X.  Still, it was great to hear the thinking of a successful pro.

Oh, and what was with all the ridiculous slow play of some of the players, Damian Salas in particular?  I don't mind taking your time in a tough spot, but Salas seemed to be stalling, sitting there tanking on no-brainer plays.  I mean, if you have 7-2 and there's been a raise and a three-bet, couldn't you just fold instantly instead of taking 10 seconds to stare into space before the inevitable fold?  Seriously, that's bad for the game.

Anyway, this was definitely the most TV poker I've watched in a short period ever.  And I really enjoyed it, and maybe it brought my enthusiasm for poker back some.

Good show, WSOP and ESPN. 

Oh, and how about that deuce on the river?





15 comments:

  1. The hate that Poker Twitter had for Salas was intense. My timeline exploded when that 5 hit on the river to give Ott the straight, and eliminate the Argentinian. To be frank, I couldn't understand just why he was tanking the way he was until I realized he was wearing *two* patches on his jacket: "Aconcogua Poker" on the front, and "Codigo Poker" on the sleeve of his jacket. My guess here is that he was promised more money the longer he could manage to have the camera on him to ensure maximum exposure. It wouldn't cost him any EV to do this (besides the wrath of every serious poker fan/player), and if he could earn a few extra thousand dollars in the process, then he's freerolling. Personally, I couldn't stand the tanking but if this is indeed why he was doing it, I can't really blame him.

    Nice blog.

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    1. Thanks, Steve.

      Interesting guess as to why he was tanking like that. Doesn't make it any better in my eyes though, he was already guaranteed $1Million....he's taking up the other player's time (not to mention to viewers) to make a few more bucks. I dunno....

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  2. I haven't seen any 2017 WSOP shows for a variety of reasons this summer. But that whole tanking thing sickens me and that pathetic clown from last year (Kassouf) that would even add delay by pulling back his large denomination chips preflop to instead cut out stacks of his smallest denomination chips to replace them all of that adds up to the most sickening bile of the poker world. In a tournament where I was moved to a different table I had an awful tanker to my left. He would sit there in a trance and stare off into the far wall and just sit there, and sit there and sit there. So when he was supposed to act after I had folder UTG I gave him a minute but then asked if he knew the action was on him? He got all pissy and folded his UTG+1 hand. When the flop came 5s, 7s, 9s he blasted out it was my fault that he folded a straight flush! Well buddy, thanks for telling the whole table that 6s and 8s are in the muck! I simply laughed in his face and then said "too bad...".

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    1. Oh wow, great story, Lester. He sounds like a jerk who deserved it. He should have gotten a penalty for discussing the hand.

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  3. Just a couple of things Rob.

    First, regarding the # of premium hands, especially when it's shorthanded, you're seeing half (or less) as many hands in total to the table as you'd see at a full tournament table. So you're going to see fewer pocket pairs and premium hands in total as well.

    Second, I didn't see anyone out of line in terms of time to take action. Pretty much everyone took right around the same amount of time to act, even preflop, whether they had AA or 72o. You do not want astute opponents picking up on the strength of your hand based on how long it takes you to act. IIRC, I even heard Hesp say to one of the players before Hesp was eliminated that he takes the same amount of time to decide no matter what he had.

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    1. Thanks, Chuck.

      Actually I was also referring to the first night, when it was 8 or 9 handed, not a lot of big pocket pairs (except for Hesp getting QQ a lot). Seemed unusual.

      I don't agree about the tanking and I think when you have complete garbage and the action in front of you indicates it is not a spot for bluffing you can fold quickly without giving anything away. I saw plenty of quick folds. That one guy tho, Norman Chad kept saying he was always taking EXACTLY 11 seconds to fold. Annoying.

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    2. There is no excuse for tanking preflop with junk hands so that you take the same amount of time for all of your hand's decisions preflop. Only, ONLY possible exception would be if you take 15 seconds for every hand to act preflop. To use the excuse that some clown takes one minute for EVERY hand preflop regardless if it is 7-2off UTG or AA on the button so he doesn't give away his hand strength is sooooo... lame.

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  4. u dont want opponents to pick up tells on the strength of the hands u play instead of fold. but if theyre folding garbage it dont matter. so fold them immediately

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    1. I agree, there is no value to take the same amount of time with hands you want to fold.

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    2. Thanks, guys. Agree with you both.

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    3. Reading three voices of reason over my first cup of coffee for the day! Refreshing...

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  5. I think the play was nitty because one player had over 50% of the chips. There were six players that were around five million chips of each other. The ICM on the pay jumps was significant. I would try and hang around as long as I could to pick up 500K.

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    1. Good point, Ed, thanks. I suppose that did inhibit everyone. I think even Blumstein was playing too nitty on the first night when he had the big chip lead. I think someone must have told him to start bullying the table more because he did that on the next two nights.

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  6. The televised event would have been much more impressive if they got rid of that idiot Norman Crud. His ridiculous drivel and stupid comments spoiled an otherwise excellent coverage.

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    1. Thanks, Koala. You know it's funny....when I first started watching poker on ESPN I had pretty much the same reaction to Norman Chad as you do. But I have to say, over the years, he's kind of grown on me, and I actually the enjoy the banter between him and Antonio.

      To each his own, I guess.

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