Pros have been complaining to me about the Bluff Tent. Pros like to complain but the recent wave of bitching and moaning has drawn my curiosity. I love the fact that I'm not hearing these pros tell me bad beat stories, but the bottom line is that the biggest names in poker feel that having a company profit off of hidden final tables is absurd.
Ah, during Week 2 at the series, the Bluff Tent has become the focus of controversy. Last week, the Poker Shrink nicknamed it the Sequestrium. I refer to it as the Black Hole and Lance from the Poker Biz calls it The Forbidden City. It's actually none of those things, just a few drapes and black cloth covering a final table in the Amazon Room. The NGC came down hard on Bluff and forced them to make those changes on the fly if they wanted to show hole cards. The result has been a disaster. When you have Bluff employees referring to the Black Hole as "retarded," then you know you're in trouble.
I doubt that they will pull the plug on their brainchild. I applaud them for coming up with an innovative concept but after applying said concept to real life, it's obviously not working. Sure the fans booed Bob Dylan when he stopped playing acoustic guitar and went electric, but the Bluff Tent ain't Bob Dylan, babe. I fear that the Forbidden City/Black Hole/Sequestarium will become Bluff's own personal Vietnam minus the hookers saying, "No boom-boom with soul brother."
At 3am the night before, the folks in charge made a last minute change. Once they saw the roster for the final table of the $1,500 Shootout (Lindgren and Negreanu), they bumped the $2,500 NL final table out of the Black Hole and onto the main stage.
Several big wigs felt embarrassed about that decision, but I could sense that their hands were tied. It appears that Bluff is not following their published broadcast schedule. There are days with two or three final tables and they will pick the best final table and throw those players into the Black Hole to play. Popular pros like Daniel Negreanu and Erick Lindgren mean that more people at home will be more likely to buy the WSOP package versus if there's a final table with just Humberto Brenes on it. I dunno what's worse... the slam on the players at the $2,500 NL final table because they weren't popular or cool enough? Or the fact that the powers to be blatantly used and exploited Daniel Negreanu and Erick Lindgren to boost sales?
And I'd hate to bring the race card into the mix. The two pretty white boys and their final table got picked over the final table with a Costa Rica, and Asian-American, and a French kid. If promoting world-wide poker is the ultimate goal, then why ignore the Central American (and Spanish speaking markets), Asian, and European fans who would like to check out the action in Las Vegas?
I was scheduled to work the Black Hole but I begged my superiors to take me off those assignments. Since it has turned into a quagmire like Vietnam and I'm a conscious objector, I want no part of those final tables. I have asked to be relieved of any final table that is in the Black Hole/Vietnam/Sequestrium/Forbidden City due to political and philosophical reasons. The good news is that my wish has been temporarily granted and future requests depend on roster scheduling. I'm doing my best to stay out of the shit and focus on other events and final tables that Bluff deems "not as cool or interesting."
I drew Event #19 $2,500 NL final table with The Shark and The Razor. Also at that final table was ElkY (the former video game pro who plays 20 SNGs at once), Devin Porter, Lars Bonding, Marcus Obser, Shawn Hattem, Alex Bolotin, and Francois Safieddine.
Humberto Brenes busted out the shark a few times. He made his third final table in six events that he's played in 2007. Brenes has been on a rush yet he failed in his quest for bracelet #3. He busted out in 7th place.
John Phan seemed in control. What I admire most about his game is that he takes his time with every decision. The kid is a thinker. With a bracelet and $521K for first place on the line, he's not going to make any bad decisions. Francois Safieddine tried to tilt Phan by calling the clock on him during several instances. The worst incident happened only thirty seconds after he acted. Phan objected and said something like, "We're playing for a bracelet here. You can't call a clock just after you bet."
Safieddine agreed and waited a couple of minutes before he asked the TD for a clock. Phan folded that hand but it was obvious that Safieddine was trying to take Phan out of his game by making faster decisions.
I thought Phan was going to win but Safieddine picked up a few pots when he rivered a better hand.
"Can we not play with a river? And just go to the turn?" Phan joked in a somewhat serious tone.
After playing 24 hands of heads-up play, Phan found A-A. He was shortstacked and desperately needed to double up to stay alive. Safieddine had been bullying Phan with his big stack and moving all in pre-flop or on the flop, taking away Phan's ability to out-play him on the flop. So when Safieddine moved all in from his small blind, Phan quickly called and tabled Ah-As. Safieddine frowned as he turned over the 4h-4d.
Phan led on the flop of Js-8c-2c. And if they eliminated the river card, he would have won when the 5h fell on the turn. Sadly, the room exploded when the 4s spiked on the river. Safieddine rivered a two outer to bust Phan. Had Phan's hand held up, they would have been close in chips. Since Safieddine caught another lucky card on the river, Phan had to settle for another second place finish at a WSOP final table, while Francois Safieddine picked up his first WSOP bracelet.
Phan played like a champion but sometimes in poker, the cards fall the other way.
In the Black Hole, Negreanu also missed a chance at a bracelet in Event #21 $1,500 NL Shootout. He took third while Lindgren finished in 8th place.
At the forgotten final table, Greg Raymer took fourth place in Event #20 Stud Hi/Lo. The Fossilman has made two final tables this year and he'll have to wait a little longer to win his second title.
And just like BJ Nemeth's observation from the other day, several big names continued to come in second place, third or fourth place at the 2007 WSOP as John Phan was another runner-up on Day 13.
Bouncin Round the Room on Day 13
I covered the final table with Drew, one of our junior reporters. The kid did a great job and ironically his mother back in Minnesota happens to be a big fan of Tao of Poker. She encouraged Drew to take the job with PokerNews. How cool is that? Anyway, thanks to Momma Drew.
For the last few days, several of my co-workers have been complaining about the cold temperatures in the Amazon Ballroom. They also bitched that they had to buy $40 hoodies from the gift shop just to stay warm. It's a scam! I finally felt their pain at the final table. My nipples were frozen solid. When there is not a lot of players in the room generating body heat, the temperature drops. Won't you step into the freezer...
At the final table, I sat next to Lacey Jones. She's a sweetheart but sitting next to her was tough because every horny guy in the room came over to hit on her while I logged hand-for-hand coverage of the final table. Having to sit next to a hot chick made it difficult to concentrate, and having every other moron in the media trying to woo Lacey while I was working became old after a while.
Whenever Brandi Hawbaker plays, a buzz is generated. Either those media reps refusing to cover her start bitching or those who can't get enough of Brandi swarm like flies on shit. Everyone got a kick out of David Sklansky's revelation when he found out about Brandi blowing through 30K of Newhizzle's roll on Poker Stars. The saga continues...
Over in the cash game area... CK Hua and Sabyl Cohen were playing $100/point Chinese Poker while Swedish pro William Thorsson tested out the $25/$50 NL game.
I spotted Robert Varkonyi playing satellites. Feel bad for the guy. He's the dude who leaves a party early only to find out the next day that the Swedish bikini team crashed the party five minutes after he left and brought two kegs of beer and two kilos of Peruvian blow with them. At least he has his portrait up among the banner of Champions in the Amazon Room.
I didn't get too much gossip on Day 13 while I was stuck at the final table. Since it ended early, I got to go home way before Midnight. I could have stuck around the Rio to dig up dirt, play cash games or satellites, but the last thing I wanted to do was spend more time there. And with Otis gone for about a week, I have no one to get in prop bet trouble with.
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