Two card poker: Reflections on Bay 101/Shooting Star
As I watched the final table of the Bay 101 World Poker Tour event, I couldn't help but begin to wonder if this is what the future of tournament poker would hold. Savvy amateurs are figuring out things like "Hey, I can't outplay the top players in the game, let me play some big bet poker.", and they are pushing chips around.
Danny Nguyen won $1,000,000 last Friday by playing big bet, pre flop two card poker. Danny was not discriminate about the two cards he was holding when he moved in, either. Two hands he was called on that come to mind are 84 of hearts, and 56 of diamonds. Before we go any further, let me state this. I am not being critical of Danny here. In fact, if anything this may wind up being a story supporting Danny, and his strategy in this specific situation. One of the core philosophies I believe in is: scoreboard. Look at the scoreboard, and tell me who won. Don't tell me how they got there, whether they got lucky, etc you won, or you lost. Danny Nguyen won $1,000,000 Friday. Period.
If anything, the amateurs at the final table were the ones pushing the other players around. It was a sight to see, and I was impressed that Gus Hansen kept his exterior cool; despite being raised or moved in on about two-thirds of the time he was in a pot. Whether they realized it or not, the amateurs had a formula, and it consisted of push, push, push. More remarkable than exciting to watch, this final table was an exercise in patience for some, and pure guts for others.
After all of this pushing and pushing, a strange thing happened. The pushing began to work. Sure, cards were falling, and players were playing rushes, and getting some extraordinary luck. But, the way the final table was playing out, you just got the feeling that this strategy was going to work. At one point, Gus doubled up, and was the chip leader (or right near it) for the table. At that point, I thought, "OK, here we go, now these guys are going to crumble". There was no crumbling, and in fact, only several hands after the double up, Doc Martens made a tough call with AQ, into a 9 high board after Gus put him (essentially) all in. It turned out Gus had the best hand with top pair, but Doc had 6 outs, and one of them fell on the turn. At that moment Doc probably felt it was possible that he had the best hand, and even if he didn't, he knew his six outs were probably live, and those six outs might be his best chance to beat Gus. That hand was basically the end of Gus, and in a way the end of the tournament, as only a half dozen more hands were played. Of those six remaining hands, someone moved in on half of them.
Players who play against the best in the world are beginning to realize that their best chance to beat the best in the world is probably on the turn of a few cards, rather than over the course of a few hours. In the edited down world of televised poker, the 2005 Bay 101 will go down as one of the most exciting, stomach turning televised poker events ever. In the grand scheme of tournament poker, I wonder if the 2005 Bay 101 will also go down as the television advent of "How to play big bet poker, and beat the best with a little luck"
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