Saturday, June 27, 2009

2009 WSOP Day 30: Dying HORSE and Never Mind the Pollocks, Here Come the Sex Pistols

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV


That's the total number of runners for the $50,000 HORSE and much lower than the 148 runners from last year and the year before. 95 runners represented less than 50% of the total entrants in the $40,000 NL anniversary special, and only 67% of last year's numbers.

Before the WSOP began, I figured that 300 combined runners would buy into the 40K and 50K. I wanted to hold off until I saw the 40K numbers before I placed prop bets on the HORSE. So when 201 players showed up for the 40K, I set my HORSE number around 100. The bulk of my bets were in the 100-120 range.

Since word got out about the 40K anniversary event, there was plenty of speculation on the total number of entrants in HORSE. Unlike the $1,000 Donkulus, the suits at Harrah's (er, Caesar's Entertainment) kept the price tag for HORSE at $50,000 instead of reducing the buy-in by 33%.

The economy is shit (albeit with minor rumblings of some improvement depending on who you talk to, but then again these "financial wizards" were completely oblivious to credit default swaps, so why should we trust their expert opinion?) but the biggest obstacle for pros to overcome is this fact... pros are forking over $50,000 to play against some of the best mixed game pros in the world on a non-televised table.

Yeah, the granddaddy of all events, the 50K HORSE, will not be aired on ESPN as it had been in the previous three years. The ESPN suits offered to televise the HORSE event if the final table format was switched to NL, just like during the inaugural year when Chip Reese won in that marathon heads-up match against Andy Bloch. Some of the members on the Players Committee were against the NL suggestion and preferred to maintain the purity of the HORSE event. (And even a handful of players wanted to switch the format out tright and make the Players Championship a 8-game mixed format.) ESPN argued that their numbers for non-hold'em events like HORSE were significantly down, and that NL was the only way to spice up the final table. However, the players balked. The result? ESPN chose not to tape the event.

The domino result? Only 95 runners.

Some of the online poker rooms chose not to pony up $50,000 to their sponsored players to play in a non-TV event. Although 25% of the field were Full Tilt players, the majority of the financial responsibility of the buy-in fell upon the players.

Yeah, the 95 runners is a fairly accurate number when you look at the overall state of the poker economy, decreased staking syndicates, and the fact the final table will not be on ESPN. That all accounts for a 33% drop off.

There were far less Russians in the event than I anticipated, although several of the top pros from Mother Russia were in the mix with Alex Kostritsyn, Alex Kravchenko, Vitaly Lunkin, Mikail Tulchinsky, and Nikolay Evadakov. I had bet Benjo that I'd put together a team of Russians against his fellow Frenchman in an overall last longer. One of them is gonna make the final table. Just wait and see.

The event did not start without any controversy and was delayed by one hour late in a weak-ass attempt to boost numbers by extending registration. Only 35 pros had signed up with less than 15 minutes to go before the noon start time. According to Commissioner Pollack, they did not have enough players to start and that was the cause of the delay since the majority of pros took advantage of the "late registration" and decided to show up as late as possible testing the elasticity of the rules.

A couple of pros welcomed the late start time while several pros who showed up on time were miffed. Mike Matusow wandered inside the ropes at exactly noon and he was furious when he discovered the delay. Expletives flew all around. The Mouth was not happy.

Phil Ivey might have been the most pissed off. According to the Poker Shrink, Ivey was playing in a private heads-up game with 5K/10K blinds. He was supposedly destroying his opponent and left his juicy game to play in the 50K HORSE, only to find out about an hour delay. Ivey definitely vented his frustration with as many suits as he could find.

The significant drop off in entrants in the 50K HORSE was almost overshadowed by a Sex Pistols song. Everyday around 2:20pm or so, there's a bracelet presentation for the previous night's winners, who are awarded their bracelet and the national anthem of their home country is played out loud. At Friday's bracelet ceremony, John Kabbaj from the UK collected his bracelet for winning the 10K PLH event. As we all awaited a rendition the national anthem for the UK, Snoopy, one of my favorite British scribes, wandered by and I joked, "Are you here to hear God Saves the Queen?"

"Believe it or not, we don't care that much for the monarchy," he explained.

At that moment, Commissioner Pollack cued the music for the national anthem. An alternate version of God Saves the Queen by the Sex Pistols blasted on the PA system.

Moments after the ceremony ended, one British player vehemently objected to the version. John Shoreman, a well-known industry figure in the UK poker scene, had words with the Commish.

"Absolutely disgusting!" he said as he gave a handful of guff to WSOP execs.

Apparently, a few British players had requested the Sex Pistols version for the next victory by a UK player. The gang at the WSOP took a risk and played the Sex Pistols' version instead of the standard dry orchestra version. I thought that moment have been one of the cooler things I had seen (and heard) so far at the WSOP, which really demonstrated that the WSOP execs had a sense of humor.

"It was one of the funniest things this year," said Foiled Coup, and ex-pat from the UK and someone who was around the British music scene many moons ago.

I asked Snoopy if he was offended and he said, "It didn't bother me one bit."

"It was perfect," explained Homer, another British writer, "It was a moment of pure confusion as everyone stood up in silence."

A few people were miffed, so much so that the Commissioner quickly apologized for the misunderstanding and "communication error." He also decided to have a second and (more proper) bracelet ceremony for Kabbaj on Saturday.

It turned out that they never asked Kabbaj's permission to play the Sex Pistols, and he was not pleased with their decision. At this point, everyone involved knew that the proper course of action would have been to clear it with Kabbaj first. Alas, I think this will be the first and last time that the WSOP folks deviate from the traditional national anthems.

The one time the WSOP attempted to do something fun and cheeky, a few rotten spoil sports decided to ruin it. Boo to those blowhards! Thumbs up to the Commish and company for busting out a little anarchy-fueled punk rock with Sex Pistols.

Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten would be proud. As one of my favorite (and legendary) British writers Tony Holden said it best in his very proper accent, "They can play the Sex Pistols as far as I'm concerned."

The Poker Shrink was the lone voice of reason in a sea of torrid waters. "People, people," he wrote on Twitter, "A tournament starts late and they play an alternative version a song and this is what gets your panties in a bunch?"

* * * * *

Bouncin' Round the Room on Day 30...

The Iranian National Anthem will be played tomorrow after Bahador Ahmadi won a bracelet in the Mixed Event. He outlasted a final table that included Barry Greenstein and Ylon Schwartz. I know that the suits will be extra cautious. And there's no way in hell that they'll play Eminem's rendition of the Soroud. Otherwise, we might have a bloody fatwah on our hands.

Bahador Ahmadi
Photo by Flipchip

I almost got run over by TJ Cloutier on his scooter. Poor TJ was unable to pull together enough scratch to play in the HORSE event. At one point he was wandering around the tournament and Change100 joked that he was looking to borrow money to lose at the craps tables.

I can't stress enough... put your bankroll in the safe BEFORE you fuck the hooker. According to LasVegasVegas, David Sklansky was the victim of a home invasion the other night. He got robbed at gunpoint. Insert your own rolled by a hooker joke here _______.

Speaking of hookers, while on a late night run to the gift shop to buy cookies, I spotted a gaggle of hookers congregating by the elevators of the Ipanema towers. At closer inspection, I recognized one as the infamous Tela.

Back by popular demand...
Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next To...
1. Teddy "Ice Man" Monroe
2. Minh Ly
3. Robert Goldfarb
4. Bryan Devonshire
5. BoostedJ

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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