And so it begins. It took nearly 120 days for this very moment.Two men from distant lands face-to-face in a battle for poker immortality.
Thirty minutes ago, Michael Buffer (yes, the Michael Buffer) introduced Ivan Demidov and Peter Easgate and belted, "Lets get rrrrrready to shuflllllllle and deal!" The crowd, as you might expect, went wild.
There were skeptics who didn't think this Penn and Teller Theater would fill. Those people were proven wrong yesterday when there was a line out the door all day. Then there were people who believed that once the first seven busted out and their fans went looking for a bar that the heads-up battle would be void of spectators. Wrong again. Tonight, this theater is once again filled to capacity with a line of people waiting to get in. As one person here noted, "These aren't people who are here to watch one player. These are fans of poker."
Perhaps we should've expected it. Millions of people watch "Deal or No Deal" on television every week and the contestants on that show employ basic strategy and a little gamble to compete for a piddly million bucks. The two players who remain tonight are fighting for a combined $15 million and they will be doing a lot more than picking a numbered suitcase from a half-dressed model.
And what has the action been like?
Well, any belief that the chips would be kept out of the pots as the opponents sized each other up were quickly dissolved by a couple of action flops in the first few hands. First up, Eastgate raised out of the small blind to 1.5 million, which Demidov called, an additional 900,000 on top of his 600,000 big blind. The flop was a perilous 10s-Kh-10h, which was checked by Demidov. Eastgate bet 1.75 million and Demidov called. The turn spiced it up even more -- it was the Kd -- and both players checked, only to see an even more frightening Kc on the river, making a full house on the board. Demidov was first to act, and act he did, sliding out 8 million and forcing a reluctant fold from Eastgate.
Demidov kept his foot on the gas through the opening few hands, picking up three in a row. But Eastgate found his own accelerator pedal soon enough, repopping Demidov pre-flop on one hand to take it down, then continuation betting a flop of 9h-As-8h to take down back-to-back pots of his own.
The tournament director Jack Effel soon announced that we'd entered level 38, where the blinds and antes had raised to 400,000-800,000 (100,000), and the "standard" opening raise went up to 2.25 million or thereabouts. There are millions of chips in every pot, but no huge swings just yet.
Earlier, the PokerStars Video Blog team asked Ivan what he thought of Peter's abilities. Here's what he had to say.
Watch WSOP Final Table: Ivan on Peter on PokerStars.tv