2010 WSOP Main Event Reflection Part 10 – The Money Bubble
I didn’t expect my reflection to take 10 posts to get to the money bubble. I didn’t expect to make a total of 10 posts on this series either. But as I began writing, the posts grew longer and I knew that it was something that needed to be handled this way to best recapture the experience. I’d also hoped to recapture the entire WSOP prior to ESPN’s airing of the Main Event, but that just didn’t happen. Life has a way of just getting in the way of blogging sometimes. But in this post, I want to talk about the day with the greatest number of smiles. The day where the players made the money.
Day 4 began with just 1,203 players, and 747 of them would end the day on a high note. World Series of Poker Circuit Champion Dywte Pilgrim got things going by talking about the recent changes to the Circuit events, and then by announcing the words “shuffle up and deal.” I headed directly over to the Pavillion room where about a dozen tables would begin the day, and they wouldn’t last very long before they were gone completely. It was a special moment for me personally when the last table of the Pavillion room was broken. I’d never before seen a poker room that paralleled the size of the Pavillion, and having just 1 table in action in that giant area was awe-inspiring. Someone commented “it feels like we’re at the final table of this event,” and they were…the final table of a great story in the Pavillion room. For nearly 6 weeks, the Pavillion room housed the early stages of every major tournament at the World Series, and it’s cash games and satellites brought hopes to many players throughout the Las Vegas desert. But on this day, the final hand was dealt in the Pavillion room, and players got new seat cards in the Amazon room. For the first time in the 2010 Main Event, all of the players were officially located under 1 roof.
No more action in the Pavillion room meant not having to run back and forth between the two areas to cover the Main Event. For the first time, I got everything that I needed by simply roaming between the Blue, Red, and Orange sections of the Amazon room. It made life a lot easier and it made for much better reporting of the action as you could much more clearly see the action that was taking place. There was only one table that was really held out of view, and that was the ESPN featured table which was located in the corner. The featured table was surrounded by the grandstand seating area, and a platform that people occupied for viewing the action on the screens that were suspended just over the table. It was a great way to view the action at the WSOP, and for spectators it might actually be the best way to view the live poker action. There is a “caller” at the featured table, who holds a mic and tells the audience all the action (the bet sizes, who placed the bets, the community cards, etc.). This job is passed to a few of the tournament directors, and some are better than others at the job. But when you’re at the featured table, you know everything that’s going on. Today’s featured table was a good setup, as the folks at ESPN finally placed Johnny Chan under the lights and in full view of the cameras and the audience to watch the 2 time main event champ in action with a big stack.
Action began quickly on day 4 as we saw a few eliminations take place on the first hand of the day. Dewey Tomko and Kathy Liebert were among the old guard pro’s that would go broke in the first level of the day. But a good story emerged as well as 1998 Main Event Champion Scotty Nguyen found himself a double up. Getting KK in against 88, Scotty doubled to 75k on that hand, then found another double shortly after with A-J, and gave “Scotty Nation” hope that there might be another deep Main Event run in the champ. But the casualties began to outweigh the good stories short of the bubble as we saw reigning WSOP-E Main Event Champ Barry Shulman go broke, along with Barry Greenstein, Robert Varkonyi, Raymond Rahme, and Annie Duke. Also going broke before the money bubble was actor Hank Azaria of “The Simpsons” fame. Hank shipped in his last 40k with pocket Queens, but he ran into an opponent with A-K, and lost the flip with an Ace on the river.
As the bubble drew nearer, smiles became abundant in the Amazon room and play tightened up for the very first time in the tournament. The “All in and a call!” shouts from dealers became more sporadic throughout the room, and each one was now being paid close attention to by the players at nearby tables. Chips mattered now as so many players were simply hanging on to reach the money. Stalling began to take place by some of the shorter stacks, where at one table a larger stack had to complain to the tournament director that someone was “tanking every hand.” The stalling player asked the tournament director “how long can I take?” to which the director said back “Well, it can be real short if you keep wasting time. This isn’t online where you get an allotted time. Just no stalling please.”
As more and more tables broke, the tournament staff elected to remove the tables and chairs from the Amazon room completely, instead of leaving empty tables. It was a noisy process, but in the end, it allowed the rail to get closer to the action as the line around the playing area began to creep inward, as tables were removed from the Orange and Blue sections. Every so often, Jack Effel would take to the mic and announce the number of players remaining. It would always end with smiles throughout the room by the remaining players. Things got serious when Effel announced “Seven Hundred Fifty-Six players remain” signifying that only 9 more players would end the day with nothing to show.
Shortly after that announcement, groans went up throughout the room as Jack again took the microphone and said “Ladies and Gentleman, give a hand to Main Event Champion Dan Harrington, who has just been eliminated from the Main Event.” Everyone applauded the effort of “Action Dan” but Harrington’s exit was met with sorrow by everyone who was in the room. The anticipation of the money bubble was tense, but really a joyous time. This elimination really grounded the remaining players in the field and was a keen reminder that their “A” game was needed to survive till the cash.
With 753 players remaining, Jack Effel ordered a stop on all hands as Hand-for-Hand action was going to be used to break the bubble. But the announcement was met with a ton of boo’s as Jack went on to announce that Hand-for-Hand action would begin….after the dinner break. It reminded me of how Ryan Seacrest always says ”we’ll find out the results…after the break,” during his American Idol hosting. There wasn’t a soul in the room that was happy about the decision, but in the end I think that it was the right move. 90 minutes later, the 753 remaining players (with much more full bellies) took their seats in the Amazon room and began the hand-for-hand play. The tournament staff was now ready for the zoo that was the bubble, by having a host of employees next to the stage. Here’s how the process worked:
A hand is dealt. Once the hand is completed, the dealer stands up at the table. Once all of the tables have standing dealers, then the next hand can proceed. If a player busts, the tournament director for that section of the floor uses a walkie-talkie to radio up to the booth at the stage in the direct center of the room that there was an elimination. This process would repeat until we were in the money.
In hand #1, we lost 2 players, that signified my loss in a prop bet with Gary Wise. He’d asked if anyone wanted action on the “under 1 player busting” on hand #1. I took the action as the WSOP newbie, and lost my 2nd prop bet of the series. On the third hand of hand-for-hand play, Angel Guillen was eliminated in 749th place when his pocket Aces was cracked by pocket Jacks. The money got in before the flop, and the flop produced the two out Jack to send Guillen packing 2 spots short of the money, and we were on the real money bubble. 2 hands later, the bubble would burst. I recorded the action, and you can hear how it sounded here: 2010 WSOP Main Event Bubble Bursts
Tim McDonald’s 748th place elimination resulted in the sounds heard on that clip. Once the players found themselves in the money, it was an all-in fury throughout the room, with eliminations happening at a staggering rate. When an all in and a call was announced, that hand is played out, and the tournament directors use the walkie-talkie to radio the results to the stage at the exact center of the room. They say into their walkie-talkie “elimination on table ____” and a Harrah’s employee that was at the center stage proceeds to that table, and escorts the busted individual to the center stage where he/she is given a card that signifies the place that the individual finished in. From there, the player walks that card up to the payout table to collect their earnings. About 10 minutes in, action had to be halted to keep up with the excessive number of eliminations so that the players could be properly recorded in the spot that they were eliminated in, and be paid properly. We lost 41 players in the first 10 minutes of play after hand-for-hand, including Humberto Brenes, Gavin Smith, Amit Makhija (of the Brunson 10), and the elimination of the 2010 Player of the Year leader, Frank Kassela. Kassela got it in with the best hand (pocket Kings) vs. two other opponents (QQ and A-Q), but a Q hit the flop, and running spades went on to make a flush for the winning hand, and eliminate Kassela from the main event.
With Kassela’s elimination in the money, it virtually assured that he would walk away as the Player of the Year. Only a win in the main event by Michael Mizrachi would tie Kassela for the points lead. Michael had made the money along with all of his brothers, but the post money carnage affected one of them. Eric Mizrachi joined his other 3 brothers in cashing the Main Event, marking the first time that 4 siblings had made the money in the same main event. It was quite a story and quite a hand that he went broke on. It was a 3-way all in where Mizrachi held JJ vs. his opponent’s AK and AA. No two-out Jack for Eric sent him home, but richer than what he began the day.
As play wound on throughout the remainder of the day, we saw a few more noteworthy bustouts, including Patrik Antonius, Court Harrington, and Allen Cunningham. But the story had now turned to the names that had a chance to win the event. 22 players had reached the $1 million chip mark, led by Tony Dunst. Dunst had made name for himself with his smooth looks as he wore a full suit and tie to each day’s play, and he’d bag up a stack of some $1.5 million chips to end the night. Also among the chip leaders at the end of the day was Matt Affleck with almost 1.4 million in chips. Affleck is remembered for being that guy who had the chip lead on Day 4 during the 2009 Main Event. That year, he tilted something awful on his way to busting out in 81st place. Affleck had become a warm story that people could follow. Phil “OMGclayaiken” Galfond finished the day among the leaders as well with 1.39 Million in chips, and Johnny Chan was also over the million mark, with 1.1 million chips at the end of the day.
Other notables to survive included Scotty Nguyen who ran his 40k stack to start the day, all the way up to 630k. Also finishing the day with decent stacks were Adam Levy (951k), Scott Clements (850k), Tristan Wade (720k), Praz Bansi (662k), and Eric Baldwin (540k). Finishing the day with short stacks, but still alive were Bernard Lee (68k), Lauren Kling (70k), and Karina Jett (80k). In all, 574 players would resume their Main Event run with hopes that a trip back to the Rio in November might be for them. For most though, it would be a story about how to survive just one more day, and see if they could increase their cash that they’d just made. I’ll have more on that in the next post.