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Saturday, May 29, 2004

B Writes Up the WSOP Final Table
Dear readers, this blog is named Cheap Thrills for a reason. B is a graduate student, and I am a freelance writer and book editor. Both of these occupations afford us less spending money than we'd prefer--but we do have very flexible schedules and we took advantage of them this week in order to follow the WSOP more closely then we ever have before. Alas, we couldn't bring ourselves to splurge on a trip out to the WSOP (we'd seen some of the early events once before in 1999, but that's a different post). Thus it was that this week, while the Word Series of Poker Championship was being played out, and poker bloggerati Iggy and HDouble were partying it up in las vegas--and Felicia Lee was actually playing in the WSOP--we were watching from afar--specifically, from our humble abode in Providence, Rhode Island.

We kicked off Memorial Day weekend in a most unusual fashion. Friday evening found B and me sitting in front on my computer watching the PokerStars Internet broadcast of the WSOP final table.

Picture if you will, dear readers, B and I (since you don't know what we look like, go ahead and substitute whatever good-looking movie stars come to my mind) sitting in a fairly plain room, computer and TV trays before us, dining on a lovely pot roast I cooked up before I knew we were going to be doing this all night. Hmmm . . . scratch that, and banish that image lest it make us seem uncool. And if you think this a poor way to spend a Friday evening, we must remind you of the Saturday that Mean Gene spent trying to watch the NFL draft in NYC. Heh heh.

Early on B had started taking notes on the more exciting hands, with the idea that perhaps I could use it for my blog. After some wine and a while of time it was clear we were both having a grand time watching poker history unfold, and as B's notes became more copious we agreed that she should write up the WSOP for Cheap Thrills. What follows is her chronicle and commentary (with me peering over her shoulder and spouting drunken thoughts . . . but in a helpful way).

Dear readers, I give you the lovely, the talented, the meticulously observant, B!:

The Final Table

Thanks to JD for getting so drunk I had to write this up. Here is how we saw it from the comfort of our home thanks to PokerStars. Others have reported more details, I'm just going to try to give you the feel of it.

After waiting for what seemed like an eternity for the tournament to get started (almost 1 hour late) on PokerStars we were rewarded with some quick action.

Here's the seating, clockwise from the top: Mike McClain, Mattias Andersson, Josh Arieh, Al Krux, Greg Raymer, Matt Dean, Dan Harrington, Glenn Hughes, and David Williams. Harrington is the 1995 WSOP winner and made it to the final table last year, finishing 3rd. Raymer, Williams, Dean, and CcClain all qualified online through PokerStars. We don't have much info on who the other guys are.

Arieh stole couple of pots and then on the 5th hand of the day McClain raised, Raymer reraised, and McClain went all-in for $700K. Raymer, the big stack with $8 million plus, quickly calls and McClain shows AA and Raymer TT. Greg "Fossilman" Raymer shows the first sign that he's got a horseshoe not a fossil up his ass (to steal a phrase from Hdouble) and catches a T on the flop, the river and turn are no help and McClain goes out 9th for a mere $470,000 in hard cash.

Raymer stole the next pot and then more party action. Anderson goes all-in UTG with AKo and Raymer calls with A10o. The flop comes Q-9-7 with two spades. Turn is a J and the river is an 8 giving Raymer a straight. Anderson busts out in 8th place taking along $575,000 in real money. Twice Raymer has the worst of it against a short stack all-in and won! You gotta love the big stack.

And Then There Were 7

Raymer steals another one and runs his chip count up over 10 million. A series of unexciting hands follows. Arieh and Raymer see a couple of flops together, both of which Arieh takes down.

On hand #22, Williams raises, Arieh reraises, and Williams calls. The flop is A-6-5 rainbow. Arieh goes all in and is quickly called by Williams. Arieh shows AKo and Williams shows a pair of 5s for a set. The turn yields an A giving Arieh trips but Williams a full-house. The river is a 9 and Williams doubles up to $3.6 million just ahead of Arieh who is down to $3.4 million.

On the next hand, Krux, the short stack raises and Raymer puts him all in, Krux calls and shows a pair of 6s. Raymer has AK. The best hand pre-flop finally holds up and Krux doubles up. Two hands later Krux takes down another pot against Dean and is up to $2.5 million. Dan Harrington is now the short stack with $1.7 million.

Arieh proceeds to play the next four hands, stealing two, winning one uncontested and folding one. Harrington steals one and Arieh is back winning a $570K pot against Williams with Q high. You are probably starting to see a pattern here. At one point I counted and Arieh had been involved in about 35% of the hands. While this is normal at the .50/$1.00 games I usually play online, it's a little high for big bet poker. I have to say I liked his play and I'm sure he'll be interesting to watch on TV.

At this point tournament director Matt Savage proposes to his girlfriend and she accepts! It probably wasn't her dream, romantic moment-but it was definitely a very public declaration of love. I wish the happy couple all the best!

Right after the exciting love story (the boys probably all thinking "get on with it already"), we had another exciting hand. Raymer raises in late position and Harrington calls on the BB. Flop is Jc-7h-9s. Raymer bets and Harrington goes all-in. Raymer calls and show AcJs ahead of Dan Harrington's Qd9h. Harrington spikes another 9 on the river and finally shows Raymer what it feels like to get rivered. Go Dan! He doubles up to $3.5 million and Raymer is down to just under 7 million.

We then saw some action from Krux who picked up $870K on a four-way flop after thinking for two minutes and then betting half his remaining stack (of 2 million).

ESPN Highlights Are Shaping Up

The next set of hands was essentially the Josh Arieh show again. I can't believe how many hands this guy plays. I was really impressed by the way he seemed to own the table. Raymer was trying to do this with his big stack but I don't think he was as successful early on.

Arieh lost about $2 million on the first of these pots to Williams. Then two hands later goes all in after the flop against Raymer who folds, and Arieh wins back a million. At this point a drunken JD announces "I really like his moxy." The next hand Arieh takes down another pot for $600K after the flop.

Arieh miraculously sits out the next hand and we see some action from Hughes. Hughes raises, Raymer reraises to $500K and Hughes predictably goes all-in for $1.5 million. Raymer thinks for a while and folds. I didn't really get this move. Hughes was clearly waiting to make this move and he's not going to call for 1/3 of his stack. I guess Raymer wanted him to fold but given how tight he's been playing. I just don't see there being that many hands Hughes is going to raise with that he won't want to go all-in this short stacked. But hey, I'm not playing in the WSOP-let alone chip leader at the final table.

Two hands later there was another fun hand between Raymer and Arieh. Arieh raised it to $175K and Raymer and Harrington called. The flop is 9-8-2 all spades. Arieh bets $550, Raymer calls and Harrington is out. The turn is a 9d and is checked through. The river is a Kh. Arieh bets $750K and Raymer calls. Raymer wins the pot reportedly with Kd9h which didn't make a whole lot of sense. Why call with the near nuts. I guess it's possible that Arieh has pocket Ks but I can't see Raymer backing down on that possibility. And why wouldn't he have bet the trip 9s? Moments later PokerStars noted that this hand does not make sense given the betting even though that's what they were told his hand was. Arieh mucks and either way Raymer takes down the pot even if it wasn't with K9.

Arieh sits out a whole two hands before taking down a pot against Williams with a pair of 8s. He wins almost $2.2 million for a chip total of $3.8 million. So although we admired his aggressive style it seems to be costing him chips overall.

Arieh also plays in the next three hands. The first one is a party-like flop with 4 players: Harrington, Arieh, Raymer, and Dean all in for the minimum. The flop is Ks-6s-10d. Raymer and Dean check, Harrington bets $250K and everyone folds.

Arieh steals the next pot. Then raises the third to $175K. Dean reraises to $500K and Arieh calls. Flop is a very scary As-Ah-Kh and is checked through. Turn is Kd and is also checked through. At this point JD calls Dean a wuss for not betting and I said I thought Arieh has an A and is trying to trap Dean. The turn is 5c, Arieh bets a measly $400K and Dean calls. Arieh shows A4o and Dean mucks. JD remarks that over-aggressiveness "might" be a flaw in his own game. Hmmm, that might explain why we are watching this from Providence and not playing in it.

The players go on a break and chip counts are updated:
Arieh $4.620M
Krux $2.635M
Raymer $7.730M
Dean $2.505M
Harrington $2.805M
Hughes $2.125M
Williams $2.745M

Blinds are now 40/80 with 10 antes

PokerStars notes that the button didn't move on hand #52 causing double blind paying. I'm not sure who paid twice (I think Arieh and Krux). Tournament director Matt Savage says they regret the error but there is nothing they can do about it. I don't feel so bad now that this happens sometimes in our home tourneys.

The first hand after the break is between Arieh and Dean and Dean takes it down for $600K. Two hands later Arieh is back in it with Williams, Hughes, Krux and Raymer for another party flop. Flop is Q-10-7 rainbow and Williams takes it with a bet.

Hand 56 is folded around to Arieh, who you guessed it, raises to $220K. Raymer reraises to $700K on the small blind. Dean on the BB folds as does Arieh.

Three hands later, Arieh again makes it $225K to go, Raymer calls, and "action" Dan Harrington reraises to $1300K and they all fold. Undaunted, on the next hand, Arieh raises again, Dean calls. The flop is K-4-5 rainbow. Arieh bets, Dean raises, and Arieh goes all in. Dean thinks and thinks and thinks and folds. Arieh wins a $2.76 million pot bringing him back up to $5.2 million in chips. Definite moxy! Go Arieh!

The Right Move at the Wrong Time

On hand 65, Raymer makes it $200K to go and Dean who is shortstacked on the small blind, reraises to $500K. Raymer folds and Dean stays alive with $1860. Two hands later the opposite happens. Dean raises to $250K, Williams reraises to $500K and Dean calls. The flop is 8-3-8. Williams bets $300K, Dean quickly moves all-in and Williams quickly calls. Williams turns over a bullets to Dean's A10o. In the words of Lancey Howard, Dean "made the right move at the wrong time," and like The Kid he goes broke. The turn brings a 3, and the river another A, giving Williams a full-house and Matt Dean goes out in 7th place, winning $675K. Not a bad return for playing in an internet qualifier.

Williams quickly steals the next hand which brings him into third position in chips with $5.1 million, just behind Arieh with $5.5 million and Raymer is still cheap leader with just over $8 million. Krux is the short stack with 1.5 million.

Arieh takes Raymer for $400K on the next hand, and then Krux makes a stand preflop against Arieh; although it's checked through after the flop, Krux's AQo holds up and wins him another $1.2 million. This brings him up to $2.165 million and makes Hughes the short stack at the table with $2.015 million.

Situation Normal: All F-in In

There were two major snafus in an otherwise wonderful public service by PokerStars. The first happened around hand 75. Krux was on the BB when Raymer raised it to $200K and Arieh and Krux called. The flop came Ac-Kd-5d. Arieh and Krux check, Raymer bets, and Krux goes all-in for about 1.9 million more. Arieh folds and Raymer calls. Raymer shows AhQd and Krux shows As6? Here's where it gets weird. We didn't see the turn or the river; the chips get pushed to Raymer but all of the sudden Krux has 7 million in chips? WTF? Pokerstars then says, we're so sorry, lots of actions lost, chip counts swapped, and eventually fixes it. Kinda feel bad if Krux's mom was watching and thought he somehow had made it up to a huge stack only to find out he was officially out in 6th place with $800k. Still, not too shabby.

And then there were five, and everyone is guaranteed at least a million….

Arieh is off and running again and this hand, although not the final blow, I do believe was the beginning of the end. After a while that kind of aggressive play just catches up with you. His aggressive smallish raises worked to get him small pots, but seemed to get him in trouble by letting people limp and catch something on the flop and then take him for more.

Arieh raises yet again to $275 and Raymer calls. Flop comes J-10-6, 2 clubs. Arieh bets $525K, Raymer calls. Turn is 8h. Arieh checks, Raymer bets $1 million even, Arieh calls. River is 4c. Arieh checks, Raymer goes all in. PokerStars kept us informed through chat technology that Josh got up and walked around, took of his glasses, etc. and finally folds! It was honestly very exciting! Man, I would love to know what Raymer had. Q9? 79? Two clubs? Nothing? Arieh is down to 3.3 million, Raymer up to 11.7.

Our First Millionaire

Arieh shows he is on tilt after the last loss by actually sitting out a few hands. It's not long until after a couple of uneventful hands, Arieh raises again to $250K. Hughes goes all-in with KQo and Raymer calls with a pair of 5s. Arieh wisely folds like a cheap tent. The flop is 4-A-10 giving Hughes a gutshot straight draw, followed by another 10 and the river brings a 9. Hughes goes out in 5th place. Sure is hard to feel bad for a millionaire though. Hughes takes home $1.1 million for his trouble.

Raymer is muscling big time with his stack and now it's finally working. He steals a few. Arieh tangles with him a few more times and loses a little bit each time. Nothing drastic, but a slow slide down the chip mountain.

The next big hand was incorrectly shown by Pokerstars. During the dinner break we checked in with the PokerProf who had a different take on it, which was later issued as a correction by PokerStars. Here's how we saw it:

Harrington calls from the small blind and Williams checks.
Flop is 9d-5d-6h. Harrington bets $250, Williams calls.
Turn is 3d. Harrington checks, Williams bets $500 and Harrington check raises all-in. Williams calls and shows 23c to Harringtons 68o. The river brings a 4 in PokerStars-land giving Williams a straight.

Here's what really happened:
The flop was 2-5-9, turn is a 3 and river is another 3 giving Williams a full house and Harrington absolutely nothing! Although he did have a double-belly-buster draw on the turn rather than middle pair with a gutshot straight draw, as Pokerstars originally reported. Either way, Harrington is out in fourth, taking home $1.5 million, which is probably more than he won in 1995, even with inflation.

And we're down to three.
The official chip count at the dinner break is as follows:
Williams $8.630M
Arieh $2.075M
Raymer $1.4420M

Raymer has such a commanding chip lead it will be interesting to see if anyone can beat him. Pokerstars helpfully noted that the two PokerStars players (Raymer and Williams) have 91.7% of the chips). I think no matter what PokerStars is a winner here. I bet they are POed about the fact that the WSOP banned logos at the final table. Otherwise everyone would be calling it the PokerStars final table instead of the Levitra flop.

After the dinner break, Raymer takes down a few pots. He's really working the big stack nicely; Arieh and Williams are biding their time, nothing too crazy. Raymer and Williams wind up splitting a pot with Ax when the board shows 2-10-7-2-K. How cool would it have been if Raymer showed the hammer!

JD and I were discussing that Arieh was going to have to move from his raise-$225K-all-the-time strategy to an all-in-or-fold one (with a chip count 1.575 million) when he went all in with 9s. Raymer called with AQs. The flop came Q-J-Q. Truly unbelievable luck this guy had at the final table! I know it takes skill to get there but the Poker Gods were definitely smiling on Raymer today. Turn is a 3 and river is a 4-no help for Arieh who is forced to accept 2.5 million dollars for his pain.

It's One Poker Star Versus Another

And we are heads up baby!!!
PokerStars announced that the money is on the table! And it's a heaping pile. Yup, just like being there :)

We got snacks and more beer and settled in for the long haul.

Five hands later Williams raises to $300K and Raymer calls. The flop is 4d-2d-5s. Williams bets $500K, Raymer raises to $1.6M and Williams calls. The turn is 2h. Raymer bets out $2.5M. Williams calls immediately. In hindsight he maybe should have thought about this one, but maybe the pressure was getting to him. I mean if your hand is that great why not raise all-in? Why call and leave yourself with not that much left?
The River is another 2. Raymer moves all in and Williams again calls quickly. I thought one of them had to have a two or at the very least Aces. Nope, Raymer shows 8s and Williams A4, so they both have a full-house--only Raymer's is better and he wins the Big One!!!!! I'm not surprised he won, but I was expecting more of a protracted battle.

Williams takes home $3.5 million for second. Raymer turned his $150 PokerStars shootout entry into a cool $5 million bucks! Congratulations to Greg "Fossilman" Raymer. I hope we'll see him at Foxwoods sometime soon. I'm sure with his $5 mil he'll be looking for some cheap thrills and playing $2/4.

PokerStars did a bang-up job getting these guys there and in general bringing the excitement and fun of the WSOP to the online player. It was fun, it was free, some of what we saw was a little wrong.

All in all, cheap thrills!

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