On a train, rocking across Italy to Venice, with no brick-and-mortar tournament likely until the last few events at the Bellagio. There are attractive events on the calendar right now, of course. Not only has the Bellagio in Las Vegas started its December event, there are two major tournaments in Atlantic City and many lesser events underway, with me personally wanting to go to the IPF tournament in St. Kitt, but as a poker player you have to choose your events and your vacations because the tournaments come like waves right now, one on top of another, with no natural break in sight! Starting January 4th in the Bahamas and then to Melbourne, Australia on January 12th, before returning to the Commerce for 6 weeks, for me all of next year is without a natural break.
I would complain, but who is listening? Thank god for the internet, I can play anywhere! Z's "Another day in paradise!" rings through for me, insightful and slightly sarcastic it says it all, using only a few words, like a Hemingway zinger.
They closed the grand old casino at Monte Carlo down (Dostoevesky complained but a little dust from his grave did not matter!) and held a live Full Tilt invitational one table, with an entry fee of reportedly 120,000 US dollars, tournament, which was broadcast live by Fox Sports Net back to the states on Thanksgiving day. Now this meant we were presenting it from midnight to 4am in Monaco and trucks with generators had to be brought from London and the whole thing sent via satellite from somewhere near Nice, France while screaming executives tried to make it all come right but hey, these live shows present challenges that are almost unimaginable to me.
The players were Dave Ulliott (more commonly known as Devilfish), Mike (the Mouth) Matusow, Phil (the brat) Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Chris (Jesus) Ferguson, John Juanda, and Gus Hansen with the color announcer being Howard (the Professor) Lederer. Four Tilters and three other invitees trying to win the 600,000 dollar first prize, or at least come in the top three where they could pay for the event. A group of players came over on Larry Flynt's private jet at a cost of about 250,000 dollars, now is that extravagant, or what? I heard Phil Ivey offer a free ride back home to someone if they would agree to play poker with him! Jajaja.
Mike was eager to see how he matched up against this premium lineup but never got going. Phil Hellmuth was heard to say he would never have come to Monte Carlo for one event only and later was stunned when Chris Ferguson called his button all-in (holding KhJh) from the big blind with only As5s. Phil is real faithful to his Dom Perignon and hopefully they have offered him an endorsement deal. If not they should. He also needs to review the structure of this event, where you were forced to gamble in order to get the event over within the correct timeframe. Clearly Ferguson understood this and did nothing wrong.
Gus seemed to lose patience and went all-in from the big blind with Q-8 offsuit and being against Juanda's KQ he was gone.
Next out was Jesus who was crippled after calling Ivey's all-in raise with Ace-baby when Phil held A-7 and paired the 7 on the flop.
Devilfish dominated early, having a big stack, but seemed to be determined to show his cleverness and gave away too much of his lead. Ivey, on the other hand, picked his spots and played oh-so-well, if a bit lucky, to come from off the pace to take the lead and then the victory over Juanda, after Devilfish went 3rd.
I was keeping the chip counts for the individuals involved, as well as the size of each pot with Suzy Lederer's help, but my overwhelming impression was that Ivey played great in this event and in Monaco in general (as I mentioned in my previous column). He had a suit too. I saw him wearing it after the first event, so I am not sure why he chose the sweatshirt for this live show.
I played in most of the early events that Phil Ivey won at the World Series of Poker and was not certain about his game in those days, but he has removed all my doubts and has to be seen as one of the best few poker players in the world today, if not the best.
Phil Ivey was once helped in his no-limit game by John Juanda and some years ago we all played in an event at the Commerce Casino, a 1,060 dollar buy-in no-limit tournament. Phil was already a very good poker player but not as polished and tricky as he is now. I will present the following hand as a quiz, it is a real hand and I have asked about 300 good players over the past three years what they would have done and their answer[s] have surprised me.
There are 12 players left and the next few out get 1450 with first place being over 90,000. We are playing at two tables of six with the blinds being 500-1000 with antes of 200. I have 26,900 in the little blind and Phil Ivey is the chip leader in the big blind with 37,400, par is about 16,500. My impression of Phil is that he is playing tight (hard to imagine nowadays, eh? Although it is important to realize that a lot of television hands that showcase his play are in shorthanded situations with rapidly rising blinds, and if you are going to represent yourself as a great player you had best be able to adjust to the conditions at hand.). The button is a European fellow that I do not know and he has not played a hand in the 15 or so hands that have gotten us to this point. He goes all-in for 5600, immediately I put him on Ace-random or a hand like K-10 or QJ. He might have a better hand, of course, but should not wait if he holds any values at all.
I look down at 7-7 with Phil (the tournament chip leader) to act behind me, there is 8300 in the pot and it would cost me 5100 off my stack of 26,400 to call. What do you do? Fold, call, or raise? If you raise, how much? The answer[s] will be discussed in the next column.
In all cases play good...and don't forget to get lucky!