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  • 2008 WSOP – Day 6

    By Anthony Holden

    So much for the effect on poker of America’s anti-gaming legislation! After last year’s dip, the 2008 World Series of Poker has proved the largest and richest in its 39-year history, its 55 events drawing a record total of 58,720 entrants. Event No. 2, the $1,500 NLHE, boasted 3,929 runners – the largest field ever outside the main event. This year’s prize-pool totals $180,676,248, more than $20 million up on last year.

    That poker is now a truly international game (or, to some, sport) is witnessed by the participation here in Vegas of players from 118 countries, a third up on last year’s 87 (in 2004, it was a mere 24). Players from 57 of those 118 countries have (so far) cashed at least once, as have entrants from every single U.S. state and Canadian province.

    Today’s 79 world-title event survivors (from 6,844 starters) played down to 27, who will tomorrow be reduced to nine – when, as a controversial experiment, the final table will be ‘frozen’ (largely for TV’s sake) till mid-November, when it will be shown on ESPN the day after it is played. As the pros and cons have been exhaustively discussed, on this site as elsewhere around Pokerdom, few have noticed one result of all this calculated yesterday by a wily number-cruncher at Poker News.

    As Days 3,4 and 5 progressed, players began to moan that this year’s payouts were somewhat measly for all those gruelling hour of survival. Yes, added others, they do seem to be lower than in previous years. How come, if the starting field was so much higher? Subtract Harrah’s rake for the event – $600 per player, or a cool $4.106 million – and start doing the sums. The results show that the money is tilted much more than in previous years towards the final table. Could this, too, be TV-oriented?

    Of the $64,333,600 prize-pool, $32,633,446 has been allocated to the final table. That’s just over 50% – for 0.13% of the field. OK, they’ll have earned it. But this top-heavy guarantee of more than half the dough for Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack’s ‘November Nine’ compares with just under 37% for last year’s final nine ($22,019,901 of the $59,784,954).

    Other differentials are slighter if still significant. Last year’s champion, Jerry Yang, won 13.8% of the prize money with $8.25m, while this year’s champion will scoop 14.2% with $9.12m. To win $100,000 or more last year, you had to finish 81st or better (out of 6,358 starters), outlasting 98.7% of the field; to take home six figures this year, you had to outlast more than 99% of the field, placing 63rd or higher.

    Players started doing just that in mid-afternoon yesterday, when Brian Tatum of Indiana (who had qualified via an $82 PokerStars satellite) became the first of the six-figure brigade. The unlucky ones to have survived all this time, and take home only five figures (starting at $77,200), included (assume American unless otherwise specified) Robert Whalen, Matt Matros, Mark Wilds, Lisa Parsons (leaving Tiffany ‘Hot Chips’ Michelle the last woman standing, then on a handy 3.4m), Britain’s Keith Hawkins, Jamai Sawaqdeh, David Benefield. As the money moved up to $96,500 (at 72nd place) out went Daniel Buzgon, Ireland’s James McManus, Terry Lade, Sean Davis, Suresh Prabhu, Justin Scott, Chris Zapf, Victor Ramdin.

    $115,800 (63-55) went to Tatum, Holland’s Geert Jans, Thomas Keller, Mark Owens, Jeremy Joseph, Eric Bamer, Brazil’s Rafael Caiffa.

    $135,100 (54-46) Alex Outhred, Alan Gould, Mark Ketteringham, Alfredo Fernandez, Allen Kennedy, Adam Levy, Nhan Le, Australian David Saab.

    At 45th place, the money jumped to $135,510 – and the first player eliminated at this new level was one we have all heard of –­ but not much, for once, today. Indeed, he was not supposed to have begun the day. But Phil Hellmuth caused some surprise by strolling in bang on time, taking his seat at the TV table (natch), and playing the first hand – raising from under the gun to take down the pot – despite the one-round ban he was given at the end of last night’s play. ‘It was over-ruled,’ explained the floorman, soon confirmed by Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack, who later issued a formal statement:

    This morning Phil Hellmuth met with Jack Effel, WSOP Tournament Director, Howard Greenbaum, Harrah’s Regional Vice President for Specialty Gaming, and Jeffrey Pollack, Commissioner of the WSOP. Based on that meeting and an official review of the situation, it was decided that the penalty imposed on Mr. Hellmuth at the conclusion of play last night was excessive. 

"Warnings and penalties are intended to correct inappropriate behavior and our rulings should be as fair as possible, given the circumstances," said Pollack. "In this instance, the punishment did not fit the crime." 

"Phil has now been warned and put on notice in a way that he never has been," Pollack added.


    No favouritism there, then. At 4.45pm, under the gun again, Hellmuth pushed his entire stack of 405,000 into the middle. The action was folded round to Andrew Rosskamm of Ohio, who made the call. The crowd rose and, and after the other players had folded, the cards went on their backs : Hellmuth Ah-Qd, 
Rosskamm Jc-Jh. Hellmuth turned his back on the scene as the flop came down Kd-4h-3h. The turn brought 10h, giving Hellmuth nut flush and gutshot straight draws to go with his overcards.
 But the river came 2s, and Rosskam’s celebrations underlined the fact that we now know, for sure, that we’re going to have a new world champion this year. Probably, as usual in these ‘boom’ years, someone we’ve never heard of.

    $154,400 (45-37) also went to Chris Crilly, Jason Glass, Canadians Jonathan Plens and Mauro Lupo, Kido Pham, Craig Stein, Germany’s Felix Osterland and the aforementioned Andrew Rosskamm.

    Just before the dinner-break, after seven hours of play, Peter Neff of California was the first player to go out at the $193,000 mark (36-28). Next out, when play resumed, were Andrew Brokos, Gregory Byard, Jamal Kunbuz, Clint Schafer, Garrett Beckman and in 30th place, the only remaining ‘name’ – Mike Matusow, on a truly brutal beat at this stage of a massive tournament in which he seems to go so deep every year.

    All main-event entrants had been reduced to a mere ante when, with the blinds at 30,000-60,000 and antes of 10,000, New York pro Paul Snead raised to 200,000. Matusow re-raised to 660,000 from the big blind. Snead called, and the flop came Ad-As-5h. Both men checked, and the turn brought the 9h. Matusow bet out 500,000, and Snead moved all in. Matusow called, only to find that his Ah-Js had been pipped by Snead’s Ac-9c. Only a J could save Matusow now. But the river brought the Kc.

    There seemed to be an awestruck pause before play resumed at Level 28, with blinds at 40,000-80,000, and antes still at 10,000. The players eliminated in 29th and 28th places, Romanian Cristian Dragomir and Russian Nikolay Losev, also won $193,000 in hard cash before play was halted shortly before midnight, when the field finally reached the last 27.

    I don’t know him personally, but Betfair reports that the Aaron Gordon who lies 24th of the 27 remaining players is a Brit from Brighton. All 27 are guaranteed a minimum pay-day of $257,334. Tomorrow they will play down to nine – the ‘November Nine’, as Commissioner Pollack wants them to be known, all guaranteed at least $900,670 as they chase their way up the million-dollar increments towards that $9.12 million first prize.

    But that won’t happen till November. If you’re itching to play on right now because you feel like you’re ‘in the zone’ – well, tough.


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