When last we met, I was off to cover the end of the $1,500 Stud 8 event. The final day was interesting, with some blowups at a table featuring Bryan Devonshire, Gaurav Kalro, and Michael Ross. It may be one of the first times “Angry” John Monnette was observed trying to calm down an argument. Monnette and Kalro went on to the final table, along with Brandon Shak-Harris, who wore a polar bear suit all three days of the tournament, even on the Thunderdome stage.
The final table was where I made a monumental screw-up, writing down cards on Monnette’s third-place bustout hand in a way that when I wrote it up made it look as if he should have won. It took me more than twenty minutes to figure out the right sequence, and by then I was already in hot water for not getting an important final table elimination up on time. That wasn’t pleasant, and it was less so when I went to the Orleans after David Prociak won his bracelet to try to take my mind off of messing up and lost my buyin on the first hand when I flopped top two with against and the queen came on the turn.
Bricked four WSOP.com tournaments the next day; five if you count the Bovada game I took a couple bounties in without making the money (still a loss). Made a little playing low-stakes cash online.
The next day was Saturday, the first of the starting days of the Main Event. I saw a lot of NW players over the three days, including a lot of Portland Meadows’ Brian Sarchi.
Somehow the schedule I’d been working 2pm or 3pm starts through 2am, seemed to leave more time in the day than the 11am (and now noon) starting times for the Main. And, of course, the fields just got bigger and more draining, with 764 players on 1A ballooning to 4,240 on 1C. The live reporting staff did not grow, however, so we were increasingly spread out over multiple rooms trying to track players and put up content. Despite being pretty drained each day, I fit in a couple of small tournaments on Bovada, getting into the top half of a PLO game and a NLHE Super Turbo, but missing the money on both.
On my day off between 1C and 2C, I did some stuff around the house, then played the WSOP Media Tournament, where fellow reporter Molly Mossey made a better two pair to take most of my chips, then an old lady from Vegas and some dude teamed up to take the last of my chips when I shoved and they had and , both making the low pair. 36th of 100.
Then went to Orleans for the evening, hoping to catch an O8 game. While I was waiting for a seat, I played the 1/3 NLHE, got queens on the first hand, and raised to $20 over a couple of limpers. Two players called, there was a flop of something like and I bet $50. Two callers again. I’d bought in for $200. One of them had more than that but the other was a little shorter than me. They check to me on the turn and I put in the rest of my chips, and the shorter stack calls with , with a pair, and whacks the eight on the river, leaving me with $17 as I got called over to the O8 game.
That was also a shitshow, as the guy on my right raised every single pot. It wasn’t to his advantage; in the time I was there he made three or four extended trips to the cash machine for fresh hundreds, but the money he was blowing off was not going to me, and the high variance of the bloated pots eventually caught me. He actually got the last of my chips, but he was still down several hundred dollars. Went back to the house, played a $1.25K guarantee on WSOP.com and took fifth place out of 180 for a small amount of redemption.
My last days on the WSOP Live Reporting crew were kind of a letdown. There were more than 3,200 players coming back for Day 2C, with the bulk of them starting the day in Paviliion, the biggest of the rooms, where the cash games are staged through most of the series. More than 350 tables. Part of challenge of live reporting is knowing where people are. With about ten people covering the day, that’s 35 tables each to start the day, and if you’ve ever played an event the size of the Main, you probably know how quickly players get moved around.
Small clubs that use applications like The Tournament Director can find players when they move, but most large tournaments is a little less rooted in the 21st century. The floor staff doesn’t keep track of where players go, they just randomly assign seats with cards. It’s a flexible system that works fine for keeping the game going—the mechanics of the game don’t rely on who is where—but if you have a need to keep track of a chip leader or famous pro in a sea of ball caps and hoodies, you’re SOL. So live reporting teams need to track the players by being at the tables as they break and looking at the seat cards as they move (or asking the players).
Spread out over multiple rooms, though, the Main Event sends players throughout the complex, and they don’t get their seat assignments until they get to the new room, so if a table (or usually 2 or 3 tables) is moving from, say, Pavilion to Amazon, they get walked through the back halls or the main corridor, to a door where they get their seat cards. Which means someone has to follow them from one to another, and hopefully catch each and every one of them as they get their seats. That’s all I did on Day 2C. Didn’t write a word, I think, because the pace of table breaks meant I never really would have had time to get to the other side of the room to my computer to write something up: I would have missed a table breaking or been interrupted so that the hand would have been old news by the time I finished it. I did put in about seven miles of walking, more than twice what I did on usual reporting days, according to my iPhone.
Day 3, I spent the day doing chip counts. Nothing but chip counts. Then on Day 4, I was back on breaking table duty. The duty was a little different, there were only about 750 players to start, everyone was in the Brasilia Room, but the number of notables on each table was concentrated.
Most everyone else uses handwritten notes to track players, but as a multimedia producer and computer programmer, much of my time over the past several decades has been asset tracking, so I went with a little more high-tech approach and used Google Sheets. I could track and update players, switching off between my iPad and iPhone as I needed to charge up. If I saw anything interesting, I just flagged down Will Shillibier or Valerie Cross, who were working the breaking side of the room.
Here’s a sample of the spreadsheet from Day 4. The tournament started off with players in the Tan, Orange, and Purple sections of the room, breaking in that order. I went through the sections trying to get descriptions of the players we were tracking, then I color coded and sorted as players moved. Some of the players in the sample started moved from Orange but everyone here is in Purple (too dark to read black type on, I just used a blue). I could add in players that were added to tracking like Moraes (usually because they had acquired a lot of chips), and players where I missed their seat change went to red with a ‘0’ table number until I found them. My plan was to make the Sheet public for my fellow live reporters, but I never really got the chance to explain it to anyone in time to make it useful, so you, dear reader, are the recipient of my knowledge. Not that it’s all that complicated.
The kerfuffle of the night came at dinner break when PokerNews’ Marty Derbyshire came up to me—while I was looking through eliminations on the Results page for people who would no longer be at tables when I got to them and talking to my wife on the phone—to tell me that we had screwed up the chip leader. I duly reported his observation to our group chat and things hit fans.
For the break posts, live reporters get chip counts as close to the break as possible. Sometimes big hands can make large swings in chips, sometimes action at the table makes it tough to count. That’s info that goes into the live reporting post that’s supposed to be live as soon as the break starts. According to what Marty told me later, Donnie Peters asked the dealer (we can’t touch the chips) break down a player’s stack after break had started, revealing some obscured large-denomination chips. Anyway, I was glad I knew where the guy was sitting when the head of the live reporting team came over to look for himself.
The last two levels after dinner were pretty anticlimactic for me. The pace of table breaks slowed to about one every fifteen minutes as the number of players dropped below 300. Three tables were moved to the feature tables, I tried to get in a hand near the end of the night, featuring a 60bb shove from the big blind into a pot of less than 8bb from brief chip leader Michael Botwin, but it was ruled too insubstantial to be posted. Best I could do with my iPad’s virtual keyboard, which makes entering in cards rather difficult. So I shook some hands, said goodbye to players and co-workers, picked up my check, and left the building while most everyone else was left to cover the last three days of action before the November Nine.
I have a couple of things to wrap up before I leave Las Vegas to see if there’s still poker being played in Portland so I decided to take one last shot at the big time before I left and entered a satellite tournament for the $5K buyin $2M guarantee at the Venetian this weekend. There were 6 seats guaranteed, and at first it looked a little sparse, because there weren’t even 60 players.
The first couple of levels were pretty harsh. I went from 12,000 chips down to 3,375 (I know exactly because there were three 1K chips, three 100s, and three 25s). I had Doug Lee on my left (Lee took 2nd place in last year’s $2M at the Venetian, for $330K). David Levi, who I’ve covered in a number of events over the past several weeks kept coming over and talking to a couple of players at my table—he’s waved hello to me at the WSOP a number of times—but I don’t think he recognized me at without my reporter’s lanyard and in something other than a black shirt. In any case, I knew I was in some deep company.
I recognized Lee but didn’t remember his name or exactly where I knew him from. When I asked him, he wouldn’t tell me, though he said he did remember the card cap and that we’d played together before. He also kept bringing up a hand with that wasn’t from last night. I did shove and win with against a pair of eights, but the nine-eight doesn’t sound like me. I’ll remember him next time.
I started to come back when I flopped top set with against and doubled up. Then i got aces and raised, and everyone folded when I really wanted a call (I think).
I got it in bad with against and hit the queen on the flop to double up, then took out a shorter stack with v. . Four hours in, I’d climbed up to 30K, and we had 34 players left, with 11 seats for the $5K and a cash prize of $1,068 for 12th.
We got down to two tables (see seat card above) and I had a guy on my left with about 200K. He announced after a couple of hands that he was “Done,” and he could, indeed, have just blinded off, without there being any way for him to lose out on his seat. I was up to about 70K myself by this time, and in second place on the table, although not really in the position where I could completely sit back.
I picked up in late position. I had 18BB, the big stack was still gone, there were three players to act behind me, and only one of them had a stack my size. I shoved. The button, a man, let’s just say, older than myself, hems and haws about what a position I’ve put him in, and then finally calls with . Fine. I can’t avoid that. The flop has a king on it, but by the river there’s a four-flush on the board and I don’t have that ace. We’re three spots from the money and I’ve got a big blind and an ante left.
I somehow manage to sextuple up on my first hand with . I get an ace on the next hand and win that, too. Suddenly, I’m not even the short stack any more and we’re in hand for hand.
The big stack comes back, plays some more hand, talks with Doug Lee, then heads out again. We lose another player. I get and shove, I get called by , and this time I can’t get lucky.
It’s kind of agonizing to be one card away from getting a chance to play the $5K. No spade on the river of that race with the queens and I’d have been off drinking a beer with the 200K guy with no need to play a hand. Even if the guy hadn’t had queens and folded, I could have made it with the extra round of chips I would have taken in.
Anyway, came home. Played a couple of tournaments on WSOP.com. Took third place in a bounty tournament and seven bounties that took a little of the sting off. I think I can hold my own against these guys (yes, that’s the leap of fantasy every wanna-be poker player makes).
Props to both Josh Cahlik and Mickey Doft, who were invaluable sources of info on how to do the right things on the days I worked with them. And to Live Reporting head honcho Rob Kirschen for giving me the chance.