Another pair of episodes have aired from ESPN's coverage of the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event, this time picking up the proceedings at the start of Day 5 when just 251 players were left from the 6,737 who entered to fight for the a spot at the November Nine and chance for the $8 million first prize.
The overriding theme for this week's shows was table talk, with Alex Keating carrying the conversation at the feature table while William Kassouf was the center of attention elsewhere. By the time this week's shows completed, just 140 players were left with Michael Niwinski — shown winning several pots — the chip leader and Kassouf sitting with a top five stack.
There were a number of interesting hands highlighted, including the very first one of the day in which Melanie Weisner unfortunately lost a decent-sized pot to Per Linde after the latter flopped a set of eights, then improved to a full house on a turn card that gave Weisner trip kings. Multiple hands were also shown involving Gaelle Baumann — 10th-place finisher in the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event — as she tried to negotiate her way through another Main Event Day 5.
But for this week's round of "What Would You Do?" we're highlighting a couple of other hands and not-so-simple decisions, inviting you to play along with one of the players involved in each. Both also happen to involve players holding that notorious "trouble hand" — ace-queen — and having to decide whether or not to let it go when their tournament life is at risk.
Hand #1: Praninskas vs. Ruane
With 206 players left Rytis Praninskas got involved in a hand versus eventual November Niner Michael Ruane who will be sitting fifth in chips to start the final table. We know Ruane survived this one, but how about Praninskas?
The blinds are 12,000/24,000 with a 4,000 ante, and with right at 1 million to start the hand Praninskas looks down at in early position and raises to 55,000. It folds around to Ruane in the cutoff who with about 1.5 million to begin three-bets to 150,000, and after everyone else folds Praninskas chooses to call.
This was the first hand we'd seen of Ruane's, while Praninskas was just shown successfully bluff-shoving versus Baumann with queen-high to win a pot.
The flop comes , and after Praninskas checks, Ruane fires a bet of 180,000 (a little under half-pot). Praninskas calls, and suddenly the pot is up to 742,000 — almost what Praninskas has behind.
The arrives on the turn to give Praninskas top pair, and after he checks he sees Ruane check behind. Then the falls on fifth street, and Praninskas checks one more time. Ruane then bets enough to put Praninskas all in for his last 766,000.
What did you decide? Alas for Praninskas, he did call and saw Ruane table to send Praninskas to the cashier's desk to collect 206th-place prize money ($42,285).
In some post-hand commentary, Phil Laak and Antonio Esfandiari focused on Ruane's check behind on the turn, which they suggest was done to control the size of the pot. Of course on the river Ruane's push showed he had other ideas, and they agree Ruane's turn check made the river call that much harder to resist for Praninskas.
Hand #2: Kassouf vs. Matuson
Our other hand this week came right at the end of the first episode, the first of a couple between the chatty Kassouf and Stacey Matuson.
The action gets picked up on the turn, with the board showing and 640,000 in the middle. Kassouf checks from middle position, and Matuson who has for top pair puts out a bet of 225,000.
"Still going to keep bluffing me?" begins Kassouf. "You know I like to gamble with the nuts, right? With a redraw to the coconuts."
He continues for a while, talking about Hollywood (and Hollywooding), then asks "you wanna gamble? Let's gamble with the nuts. I'm all in."
The check-raise is a big one, putting Matuson to the test for the 920,000 she has left behind. Meanwhile Kassouf still would have about 2.35 million left if he were to get called and lose the hand.
Kassouf continues to talk as Matuson tanks, then finally she begins to talk as well, suggesting she believes she is the one who is ahead in the hand. Kassouf then asks Matuson what she has, and she responds with a question: "What do you think I have?"
"Top pair, and a heart," says Kassouf without hesitation. "If you're winning, you have to call, right?"
"Why would I want to gamble at the Main Event?" asks Matuson.
The encouragements to call continue from Kassouf. Finally, Matuson makes a decision.
Matuson decided to fold her hand, showing her ace-queen as she did. Kassouf did not show his hand, but viewers knew he was doing all of that talking with — a straight flush, or the nuts. Or is it the coconuts?
The pair would clash again in a hand shown at the start of the next episode, one that created a lot of buzz at the time and even more this week after its being shown. More to come here at PokerNews about that hand and Kassouf's "speech play" that caused so much consternation for some this summer.
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