Thursday, July 16, 2009

November Ivey

Looks like my rant about Pedro Martinez will have to wait for another day. My sense is there will be plenty of apropos opportunities to vent my frustrations with that whole megillah, but something in the poker world is just more interesting to me today.

Phil Ivey did it. He will be among the November Nine, the delayed final table of the Main Event of the World Series of Poker for 2009. Phil Ivey successfully navigated a field of 6,494 and has reached his first Main Event final table, after already scoring two WSOP bracelets this summer. He did it.


But I digress. Despite the happy ending with Ivey making the final table, the few other stories with mainstream attraction came to quick endings, with tournament short stack Leo Margets (last woman standing) busted out within half an hour, followed within an hour or so by a few other players including Antonio Esfandiari. You can't kill the Magician for the early bust -- he was real short coming in if you recall, and being a pro he would be well aware of the need to double in order to get back his chances of a deep run instead of just lasting one more payout plateau. Ultimately Antonio was eliminated in 24th place, which was close to his chip position coming in to Day 8. In any event, this basically left Ivey as the sole player left out of 23 remaining who anybody outside of the Amazon Room knew anything at all about. For now.

As I imagine ESPN, the WSOP and basically anything and everything associated with the world of poker are feeling, it is very fortunate that Phil Ivey was able to survive to the final nine players. And I use the word "survive", because after a rocky start that included two early losses with pocket Jacks, Ivey was short-stacked for the entire second half of the day, often within the bottom two or three remaining players. And all the while, previous chip leader Darvin Moon -- easily the coolest name among the remaining players in the tournament -- was growing, growing, growing his stack, capitalizing on a huge 40M+-chip pot around midway through the day to eliminate fellow big stack and former chip leader Billy Kopp. Then, literally just minutes into the final table bubble (10 players remaining), Eric Buchman raised it up to 650k preflop, already big chipleader Moon cold called, and then Jordan Smith reraised it to 2.6 million. Buchman folded, and Moon cold called again with what turned out to be pocket 8s. Moon flopped top set, insta-calling with the mortal nuts when Jordan Smith raised allin on the flop with his pocket Aces, Smith's second pocket Aces of the past hour's action.

Seriously, how's that for a real drag? You're in 4th place out of 10 on the ME final table bubble, and you're dealt pocket Aces for the second time in an hour on one of the very first hands on the bubble. Some guy with a bailout's worth of chips across the table separately cold-calls not one but two raises before the flop against your Aces. You get him to bet out on the all-rags flop, and he calls your all-in flop raise with what is probably some overpair. Whooops! Set of 8s, and since he was chip leader, you go buh-bye and no November Nine for you. See everybody else in four months. Poor guy is all I have to say for him. Poor guy with $896,000 more in his bank account this morning. But I imagine that one is still gonna sting for some time with him, especially come the second week of November.

Anyways, Ivey will be the big story for months in the poker world, and the November Nine may finally actually be watched by some people this year. What's more, wouldn't it be awesome if ESPN decides to hire somebody who knows something about televised poker to figure out the best way to broadcast the November Nine? I mean, could last year's coverage of the final table have realistically been any worse? Both in the selection of hands, the number of hands shown, and the way those hands were portrayed, take your pick. Seriously. No matter how ESPN decides to spin it, though, Phil Ivey is going to have his work cut out for him given the starting stacks of the 2009 November Nine:

Seat 1: Darvin Moon - 58,930,000
Seat 2: James Akenhead - 6,800,000
Seat 3: Phil Ivey - 9,765,000
Seat 4: Kevin Schaffel - 12,390,000
Seat 5: Steven Begleiter - 29,885,000
Seat 6: Eric Buchman - 34,800,000
Seat 7: Joe Cada - 13,215,000
Seat 8: Antoine Saout - 9,500,000
Seat 9: Jeff Shulman - 19,580,000

Let me also list those same people this way, in order of how many chips they hold:

1. Darvin Moon 58.9M
2. Eric Buchman 34.8M
3. Steven Begleiter 29.9M
4. Jeff Shulman 19.5M
5. Joseph Cada 13.2M
6. Kevin Schaffel 12.4M
7. Phil Ivey 9.8M
8. Antoine Saout 9.5M
9. James Akenhead 6.8M

Play stopped with a short time left in Level 33 of the tournament, which means a 30k ante and blinds of 120k-240k. After the resumption in early November -- assuming no changes are made to the structure prior to the tournament resuming -- after a few minutes the cost to play should jump to a 40k ante and 150k-300k blinds. So, just like I said with Antonio Esfandiari coming in to Day 8 (and look how well that turned out!), Ivey is very short stacked but he should still have plenty of room to wait for a good spot to get his chips in for the double-up. Right now he has still just over 40 big blinds, and for the next two hours after the quick level change at the beginning of the final table, he will still have 32 big blinds to play with. Make no mistake, he is not in a good situation, but he is far from hopeless here. My last point will just be to say that, when I look at the chip stacks in order like that above, it is clear to me just how similar a position Ivey is in to the one I was in coming in to Day Two at the Venetian last month. About two-thirds of the way down the leaderboard, surrounded by all the biggest remaining stacks in the tournament, many of them having several multiples of my own chips, and knowing that I basically needed to make a move within the first couple of hours or it wasn't worth fighting for. Ivey should have a little more time than that to hang on, but sooner or later in the first part of that final table, Ivey is going to have to make an attempt to double up in the best spot he can find. And if he can double early -- especially if it's against the chip leader Darvin Moon (can't you just envision that now?) -- the scene should start getting pretty electric early on. I might actually even have to watch the November Nine this year, that's how crazy this is!

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Blogger Tim said...

I was initially thinking that they could increase the coverage for the final table but probably not likely since it is semi-live they have already allotted the same amount of time to the final table as last year. So likely, it won't be any better for the final table unfortunately. Perhaps they can spread the thing over more time but I doubt it.

Perhaps this is the biggest problem with delaying to Nov. and attempting to do something semi-live.

1:21 AM  

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