the Good, the Bad, the Ugly.... and the Truly Amazing
Good: The WSOP final table began yesterday with, frankly, some of the best poker coverage I've seen in a long while. The ESPN producers and the Nevada Gaming Commission agreed to a format in which every single hand is shown in near real time. There is a 15 minute delay in the broadcast, and the cards are not revealed until each hand is over. This allows (forces?) me to squint and strain and puzzle and scratch my head, working on reads and tells. The anticipation builds as the hands are then revealed and I see how far off I was. Said another way: this format is a whole lot of fun for a final table. Even the announcing has been pretty good, with Norman minimized about as much as possible, and with entertaining (and, yes, informative) hand analysis by Esfandiari, Helmuth, and even Rousso. I really like this show-every-hand-in-near-real-time format for a final table... even if it does totally consume all the free space on my DVR (yes, I'm taping the whole big thing) and even if it does result in me sitting on my butt for basically all of Sunday, watching the whole thing unfold (yes, I watched all of it). Even better was the actual play of poker. [Spoiler Alert]: the action has been first rate and very exciting. Heinz (the only guy that I stated before the tournament started that I wouldn't mind seeing get knocked out) went on an amazing run, moving from near the bottom of the chip stacks up to a commanding lead at the top of the board by just steam-rolling the competition. He seemed to really embrace the tournament adage of "if you want to live, you have to be willing to die" philosophy. O'Dea, meanwhile as one of the crowd favorites, crashed and burned, getting involved with Heinz on an ill-timed big-pot bluff that dropped him from second place to the bottom of the board. Meanwhile, the guy I picked to win it all (Ben Lamb) just kept bobbing and weaving his way through the field, getting knocked down and then clawing his way back up, over and over. The entire night was like that, with excellent poker, big bluffs, solid value betting, and total domination by the German Heinz. At the end of the night, it was Heinz, Lamb, and Staszko who get to come back Tuesday night for the big finish. High poker drama at its best.
Bad: My son had signed up to play in his first live tournament with the old man this coming Wednesday night, but he informed me yesterday that he now has to work that evening. Bummer. I was really looking forward to playing with the kid. Maybe next time....
Ugly: I dribbled off over $200 from my online 'roll Saturday in what can only be described as truly horrible poker. There was only one real monster bad beat pot I lost (set over set on dry board). The rest of the carnage was due to simple, old-fashioned nickel-and-dime bad play due to lack of attention and focus. This caps a long week of even more downward variance, bad beats, and ugly play. I was almost ready to make a withdraw of some more money out of Merge, but with this setback I'm going to have to doing some (re)grinding first to rebuild the 'roll..... but first, I think it's time to take a few days off and get my head screwed back on straight.
Amazing: I mentioned above that I taped and watched the entire (10+ hours) of first day WSOP final table coverage. What I didn't mention is that I wasn't forced to sit on my couch alone during this period. My wife--yes, the same woman who until now could care less about the game of poker--got drawn into watching the final table unfold when I switched on the TV. She then quite literally watched every single minute of the coverage alongside me all afternoon and late into the night. She also asked question after question during the play of the tournament, which necessitated near continual pausing of the DVR to describe what was going on, how the action was proceeding, why this player was doing this and that player that. I don't think she is ever going to pick up the game as a hobby for herself, but she did say that she really enjoyed watching final table, with its interesting personalities, drama, and huge money at stake. She's also said that she is looking forward to watching the final-three freeze out action on Tuesday night with me. Pretty damn cool, if you ask me.