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Five Thoughts: The 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event

2011 WSOP

The 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event is in full swing, which means the summer is coming to an end. However, even though the halls of the Rio are becoming quieter and quieter, things will get louder and louder as we reach the money bubble, and get closer and closer to the $8.7 million first-place prize. We’ve said goodbye to dozens of pros and thousands of players already, but there are still plenty of friendly faces battling it out. Phil Hellmuth, Ben “Benba” Lamb, Daniel Negreanu, Sebastian Ruthenberg, Peter Jetten, and JP Kelly are just a few of the notables who will be returning for Day 4.

With seven days of play already in the books, we’ve had a lot of time to think. So now would be a good time to spill the beans.

1. If you bet the under: pay up!

A mind-boggling 6,865 players signed up for the 2011 WSOP Main Event, making it the third largest in history. The winner will walk away with $8,711,956, while every member of the November Nine is guaranteed at least $782,115. There were a lot of naysayers at the beginning of the summer – including me – but if you were paying attention to what was happening here at the Rio, then you knew the Main Event was going to be big. The bracelet events attracted record-setting fields, the daily deep-stack tournaments grew every day, and the cash games were never-ending. There were also the satellites and mega-satellites that ran continuously at the beginning of July. All of these things pointed to a massive field.

While some may see this WSOP as a “last hurrah” for the post-Black Friday poker industry, I see it as a testament of poker’s popularity on the whole. Surely, for some players, this summer was their last shot. It’s quite easy to brick-out – one year of WSOP events is comparable to a single Sunday online – and now it’s time to find another occupation. However, the casual player will continue to play with their friends, family, and co-workers, because poker is a pastime that will never die.

Here’s to the WSOP, and its staff. Great job this year, and thank you for keeping the Main Event as the greatest tournament in the world.

2. ESPN live coverage is great, yet imperfect

In January, ESPN changed the game when they broadcasted the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Evenet final table live, with hole cards. It created a whole new experience, allowing the viewer to see everything that was happening, where in the past, most hands were left on the cutting room floor.

It also allowed fans to watch Galen Hall make the sickest fold ever on just an hour delay.

On Day 3 of the Main Event, the live streaming coverage began, and it will run all the way up until the November Nine is set. While coverage at both feature tables is standard, the production team also has satellite tables, where there are two cameras at almost all times. Herein lies the problem, because unlike the feature table where play is stalled only on all-ins, on the outer tables play is stalled on every street so that the cameras can record the board. Then, at the end of the hand, the production team takes a small, handheld camera and places it on the table so the editors can know who had what cards for graphics. This stalls play even further.

I know these are necessary hiccups, and that live coverage is the next step in poker evolution, but the players should not have to work around the cameras at all times. Sweating peoples' cards after big hands is essential, but not when there is a simple battle of the blinds. As the tournament progresses, the production team will certainly get a better feel for life on the tournament floor, and I am certain that this year’s presentation by ESPN will forever change the way we view poker.

3. Phil Hellmuth knows something that we don’t

Phil Hellmuth gets made fun of all the time for his short-stack play. Raise-folding with less than ten big blinds is not a foreign play to him, but what’s scary is he’s often right. There are countless situations where most players would, without thinking, get the rest of the stack in the middle just because the math says, “call.” But Hellmuth, being one of the best live players in the world, trusts his reads and physical tells.

There were two folds that he made during Day 3 of the Main Event that were incredible. The first hand, he opened to 5,400 from the hijack, leaving 25,000 behind, and the player to his direct left three-bet to 15,400. The action folded back to Hellmuth who, instead of instantly shipping it in, tank-folded {j-Spades}{j-Hearts} face-up. His opponent had two queens. Hellmuth then dodged bullets against Kevin Howe. Howe opened to 5,500 from middle position, and Hellmuth called from the big blind. Hellmuth check-called 7,500 when the flop fell {k-Clubs}{6-Diamonds}{2-Hearts}, then check-folded after the {9-Spades} turned. Hellmuth showed {k-Spades}{q-Diamonds} for top pair, and Howe opened up {a-Hearts}{a-Clubs} for a pair of aces.

I am certain that, given the action and the stack sizes, the vast majority of players in the Main Event are going broke on those two hands – unless of course they suck out. Some how, some way, Hellmuth continues to find massive folds, and is waiting for his heater to make a run in this Main Event.

4. Eat my shorts, dude

Sam Simon, developer of the The Simpsons, has played unbelievable poker for the first three days of the Main Event, and enters Day 4 with 509,000 chips – well above the chip average. Unlike Brad Garrett, Ray Romano and Jason Alexander, who are constant entertainers, Simon prefers not to put on a show. This doesn’t mean he is a mute however – he is usually laughing and joking with the players at the table.

Simon would make a great Main Event champion. He combines the amateur-like dream with a recognizable face, and provides a fun and exciting storyline. Who knows whether or not Simon would be a good ambassador for poker – or if he’d even want to be one – but his journey to the November Nine would provide tons of people with a rooting interest, and yet another reason to watch the final table.

Simon’s best finish in the Main Event is 329th in 2007. We’ll see if he can best that in the coming days.

5. Brett Richey is ballin’

Brett Richey wrote a PokerNews rap and filmed a music video with the lovely Kristy Arnett. We think you’ll really enjoy this one.

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