Had another ball watching the final three guys play last night. It was really hard to root against any single one of them, as they all were a) such super talented players; and b) seemed to be just genuinely nice, humble guys. That said, Martin Jacobson was clearly the best player over the last couple of days, moving steadily and surely up from the second shortest chip stack at the start of the final nine table, to eventual winner of the whole shootin' match. He was like the irresistible force actually getting the immovable object(s) to budge with his slow, relentless pressure.
In contrast, I, like a lot of viewers I suspect, started to see the cracks in Van Hoof's armor an hour or so into play last night. First came out the sunglasses, which I don't recall seeing him wear before. It was almost like he sensed he needed some kind of crutch against the two Scandinavians. Then he took a big hit with a bad call and his whole body language seemed to change for the worse. Then the sunglasses were ditched again, like he was scrambling for a solution to the incoming tide. I'm not sure of the stats, but it's surprisingly rare to have the final nine starting chip leader win it all, and last night was no exception. (This is a weird phenomena, but I have a theory as to why it's true, which I'll touch on in a future post...) Anyway, it was a tough way to go out for the Dutchman, but $3.8M is a nice consolation prize for third. :-)
The heads-up battle was also a lot of fun to watch, but it almost felt anti-climactic in contrast to the earlier two-day's play. Yes, Stephenson had chips and put up a good, valiant fight heads-up, but Jacobson was just so incredibly solid and patient and strong. If he plays next year the way he did this year, he's my favorite to final table again.
The last couple of things I wanted to note is about the commentary. Long time readers of this blog should know my feelings about Norm, and the last few days of babbling did nothing to dissuade me; his jokes were dumb and at times cringe worthy, he stumbled more than a few times (probably due to it being live, not a pre-canned taping), he actually seemed at a loss for words occasionally (amazing in itself), and he came off at times almost hostile to Antonio. The only time Norm added anything of value was when he was serious and talking actual strategy; the man actually knows poker quite well, and if ESPN is going to keep him, I wish the producers would encourage a lot more of the latter, and a lot less of all the former nonsense....
...which brings me back to Antonio. This guy is really, really good in this role of technical analyst. Seriously. I really hope he comes back in future years in the same capacity. His reads, both hand ranges and what the players lines were going to be, were straight up amazing and spot on. I greatly enjoyed listening to him think aloud through hands and predict the action. I'm a pretty solid hand reader myself, but I was truly blown away by his level of thought and his dead-accurate prognostications. He would be really scary to play against. Excellent job, ESPN, for giving this guy a voice again this year. Now do it again next year!
All-in for now...