Although most online poker sites these days have teams of sponsored pros, we haven’t yet reached the point that they make transfers or trades for the millions of dollars (or euros or pounds) that it costs to “buy” sports stars. Players simply sometimes drift away at the end of their contracts, while others arrive.
Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier was one of the earliest leading lights of Team PokerStars Pro, and we had a blast covering the Frenchman’s career: glittering in both substance and couture. He now does his work with a different patch on his sleeve, while we’re all about ElkY’s fellow Parisian Kalidou Sow, who signed for the red spade at the beginning of this year.
In one of today’s quirks at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, ElkY and Sow have found themselves sitting directly next to one another, in seats five and six of Table 134 in the Pavilion Room. It seemed like a decent opportunity to put the pair of them under a magnifying glass and watch how they are going about their business in this Main Event, as they both chase WSOP glory.
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Our “A Round With…” series always needs to carry a disclaimer: there’s no guarantee that anything that happens will be the kind of thing that would make a television highlights reel. In fact, it’s usually the opposite. But it also serves as perhaps the most authentic answer to the question, “What’s it like to play the World Series Main Event?” This is what it’s like. Hundreds and hundreds of orbits like this one, occasionally punctuated by high drama. This is what Sow and ElkY, and their other table-mates, did for nine hands about 30 minutes into Day 3.
At the start of the orbit, the table looked like this. Blinds were 1,200/2,400 (they’re playing with a big blind ante).
Seat 1: William Klevitz, United States 190,000
Seat 2: Angel Maria Perez Calvo, El Salvador, 42,000
Seat 3: Anselmo Villarreal, United States, 188,500
Seat 4: Robert Remi, France, 80,000
Seat 5: Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, France, 430,000
Seat 6: Kalidou Sow, France, 160,000
Seat 7: Justin Liberto, United States, 130,000
Seat 8: Dominick Giovanniello, 95,000
Seat 9: Hyung Sun Jung, South Korea, 250,000
Hand 1: Button in Seat 1
ElkY, sitting UTG+1, opened to 5,000. Justin Liberto three-bet to 15,600 two seats around and only ElkY called. The dealer put the 3♣4♦10♦ on the table. Grospellier, through the mirrored shades he has worn for all of his career, stared at Liberto but checked, leading Liberto to put out a near pot-sized bet. Grospellier folded.
As a floorman wandered past the table, he was stopped by another player clutching a tournament buy-in ticket.
“Where’s late reg?” the player said.
“What tournament?” the floorman said. “This is the Main Event. Late reg does not exist.”
Duly put in his place, the player scuttled off.
Hand 2: Button in Seat 2
Liberto got this one started too, with a raise to 4,800 from mid-position. The only call came from Robert Remi in the big blind, and the two of them saw the 2♣Q♠10♦ flop. Remi is a third Frenchman at the table, and is sitting beside his two other countrymen. None of them are talking to one another however, preferring the distractions of their phones when not in hands. Remi checked the flop, Liberto bet 3,700 and Remi folded.
Hand 3: Button in Seat 3
Angel Maria Perez Calvo had fewer chips than he had letters in his full name, and open-pushed from the cutoff. Everyone else folded.
Hand 4: Button in Seat 4
Liberto, the most active player at the table so far, opened to 4,800 again, this time from UTG, and he picked up two callers. The first was William Klevitz, in mid position, and the second was Sow in the big blind. They were three-way to the 10♥Q♠A♠ flop. Sow checked, and Liberto bet 5,800. Klevitz stuck around, but Sow departed.
The turn was the 5♦ and Liberto’s check brought a bet of 11,200 from Klevitz. Liberto called.
The 7♠ completed the board and, after Liberto’s check, Klevitz’s bet of 18,300 completed the meaningful action. Liberto folded.
Hand 5: Button in Seat 5
As the dealer prepared the deck, the only conversation in the vicinity came from the neighbouring table 135, where Warwick Mirzikinian was busting out some classics. “I’m good at reading cards when they turn them over,” he said. “I go, ‘Oh that’s an ace. And that’s another one.’ When they turn them over, I’m very good.” Everyone at Sow’s table buried themselves deep into Instagram.
Klevitz opened the next pot, making it 5,000 to play. Calvo still had a short stack and pushed it in, earning folds from around the table.
A friend of Dominick Giovanniello arrived to the table but was quickly assigned an errand. “Can you get me a banana and a Gatorade,” Giovanniello asked, and off scooted the new waiter.
Hand 6: Button in Seat 6
ElkY opened to 5,000 from the cutoff and met with no resistance.
Hand 7: Button in Seat 7
Sow opened to 5,100 from the cutoff, but he couldn’t get it through. Hyung Sun Jung called in the big blind, and the pair saw a dangerous A♥4♥8♥ flop. Jung checked and Sow bet 4,000. Jung called for the 7♣ turn. Both players checked that, but after the dealer placed the 5♣ on the river, Jung’s bet of 11,000 persuaded Sow to leave it.
Hand 8: Button in Seat 8
“Raise,” Sow said after watching the rest of the table fold to him. He put a single orange 5,000-denomination chip forward. Jung called again from the small blind and Klevitz also called from the big, and so three players went to the 8♦9♥2♥ flop.
Jung led at it, putting 6,500 forward, but Klevitz then bumped it up quickly to 15,500. Sow flicked his cards away again and Jung called.
They both checked the 4♦ flop, just as the banana and Gatorade arrived (see earlier). The 5♣ appeared on the river, but all eyes were on the banana. Giovanniello quickly opened it, nibbled it down to nothing, and handed the skin back to his friend.
The players both checked and Jung showed A♥4♥ for a missed flush draw, but a turned pair of fours. It was good as Klevitz folded.
Hand 9: Button in Seat 9
With an orbit of almost painful nothingness drawing to its conclusion, everyone folded around to Klevitz in the small blind. A walk would be the perfect end to this kind of tedium. But Klevitz actually decided to raise to 6,100, attacking the big blind of Calvo. Calvo was having none of it, and pushed all in. Klevitz decided to let him have it, as this one fizzled out too.
So there we have it. I’ll confess we didn’t learn much there about the relative prospects of either Sow or Grospellier in this Main Event. Both still have decent stacks, however, and will hope to stick it out through the rest of the day at least.
WSOP photography by PokerPhotoArchive