Tuesday, November 15th, 2005, 1:32 pm
Tonight ESPN will finally show the last two episodes of the 2005 World Series, meaning I can actually mention the name of the person who won the damn thing. I’ve been threatened with creative and extensive bodily harm if I let the rabbit out of the hat, so I won’t give it up this late in the game. I didn’t get a chance to re-watch the previous episodes, most notably the Matusow-Sheikhan tiff. Perhaps I will when they repeat those episodes tonight.
I watched the conclusion of another big poker tournament a few nights ago, as Johnny Chan defeated Todd Brunson to win the Poker Superstars II. Reading Daniel Negreanu’s blog I was disturbed to see that there the Poker Superstars III is already in production. I say disturbed because the second installment was, well, a bit of a mess.
First of all, the Poker Superstars II took nearly as long to complete as World War II. The first episode I think aired around the last of the Bush-Kerry debates. The players accumulate points based on their finish at a six-player table, and as the series progressed there were players who obviously would survive to the round of 16 and those who were already hosed. Watching Chris Moneymaker and Antonio Esfandiari try and fail to raise their point totals high enough to salvage some pride did not make for scintillating television.
Nor did the structure make for inspired poker. In his post Negreanu says that the third series forces players to make decisions pre-flop, and this is what made PSII pretty freaking dull. The blinds were so high, and the chip stacks so low, that if you raise and then faced a re-raise, you pretty much either had to go all-in or fold. There was no room for maneuver. And that’s at the very start of the show–by the time the blinds went up once or twice every hand was played for one player’s chips.
The most bizarre example of this came in the quarterfinals. Kathy Liebert had been at or near the leaderboard during the qualifying rounds. I think she won four of her matches, and built up so many points that the normally reticent Liebert turned into Chatty Kathy during a later show, when she really had nothing to play for except first place and the $10K that went with it. She kept talking a mile-a-minute, until an irritated David Sklansky was looking at her as though she was speaking in tongues. So after running well for 6 preliminary rounds you’d think Liebert would come to the quarterfinals in good shape to make a big run, right?
Well, no. She did start with more chips than Scotty Nguyen and Todd Brunson, and I think the same amount as Ted Forrest (I think the top 2 had $1 million and the bottom two $700K). The very first hand Todd Brunson looks down at pocket jacks and raises (I don’t have the exact amounts, alas). Forrest folds. Liebert looks down at pocket tens. She thinks a bit, and raises Brunson. And then Scotty Nguyen wakes up with pocket aces. He stacks and restacks his chips…and goes all-in.
Brunson never gets too worked up at the table, but he let out a snort and shook his head. He couldn’t believe he might have to lay this hand down. He looks at Scotty and says the best line I heard during the run of the show. He says, “You been drinkin’?”. Scotty just laughs and takes a sip out of a styrofoam cup. Brunson throws his jacks away.
And now Liebert, who has raised a raiser and then been raised herself, has to make a decision. “OK, Scotty, I’ll gamble with you.” And she puts in most of her stack with pocket tens. And, though I don’t have the exact amount of the earlier bets, I think she was just about pot-committed. So, after all those shows, spread out over the better part of a year, one of the point leaders had no choice but to risk 3/4 of her stack with pocket tens. On the first hand. The aces held up, and Scotty knocked Liebert out the very next hand. See ya.
The overall prelim leader was Carlos Mortensen. His heads-up match against Todd Brunson (the semifinals were best-of-three heads-up, why they didn’t stay 4-handed is beyond me) lasted, oh, six hands. Mortensen raises with A-8, Brunson re-raises with AK, Mortensen pushes, call, Game 1 over in one hand. They actually play a few hands before Brunson is dealt aces. He raises, Mortensen pushes with pocket sevens, call, and Carlos is done. Their heads-up match was so short they tacked it on to the episode where Johnny Chan beat Scotty Nguyen. Usually you can tell that the decisive hand is coming when the clock reads 9:55. When the Mortensen-Brunson match started at 9:45 I knew something bad was about to happen.
I didn’t much enjoy the Head-Up Championship NBC broadcast earlier this year, nor did I like the heads-up matches. Brunson won the first one after getting some nice cards, Chan won the second when he started getting good hands, and in the third Chan took control and won. Exactly how I forget. Mostly because I was still gawking at Johnny’s 165-decible Versace shirt. Wow. WOW. I liked it. Really. Very flash. I couldn’t carry it off, goodness knows, but Johnny can. They showed him doing some shopping at Versace, and one of those peacock chemises goes for twelve hundred bucks. He also values suede loafers when playing, because they’re comfortable.
It looks like some of the heavy, heavy hitters are playing in the third series (Negreanu, Hansen, Ivey, Lindgren). And maybe it won’t be quite as much a stack-shoving snoozer as this series was too often. Eh, it’s poker. I’ll watch.
Good to get a post out, even a jumble like this. I don’t believe in writer’s block, if you sit down and work and let the blood drip from your eyes the words will come, but I’ve been having a hell of a time finishing some stuff I’ve been working on. Working on for weeks, when it should only take me an afternoon. At times the brain gets clogged like, uh, other parts of the body.
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