Let’s get the bad news out of the way quickly: Table 23 has already broken. That’s a real shame, because it stood out on paper at the start of the day and distinguished itself immediately with a spectacular opening few hands.
Chris Moneymaker was the principal attraction, and that also applied both on paper and when action got under way. As we all well know, there’s no bigger name in the modern game thanks to his 2003 exploits in World Series. But Moneymaker also flew out of the blocks in the opening orbit of proceedings and set the tone for an all-action day.
So, let’s fill in some gaps. Moneymaker took his seat on time at noon, beside Peter Eichhardt to his right and the self-styled “poker tourist” Asif Warris to his left. Warris pops up at almost all the major festivals, to which he has usually qualified in $11-$22 satellites online. Once there he enjoys hob-nobbing with the poker celebrities, whether or not he’s playing the event. Today’s seating assignment, putting him next to Moneymaker, must have been a dream come true.
Sure enough, Warris and Moneymaker were chewing the fat as the first cards were dealt. Moneymaker was also chewing on some Godshall’s “artisan butcher” beef jerky, and swilling a red drink. They both allowed the first couple of deals to pass them by as they opened their big book of anecdotes and began to exchange.
However, things quickly got a lot more animated and the chit-chat grew more focused. On what must have been the third or fourth hand of the day, Michael Koran opened from the cutoff to 6,000 and Eichhardt called in the small blind.
“What did you start with?” Moneymaker wanted to know from the big blind, then made it 17,400 to play. Koran, who had a little more than 45,000, moved all-in and, after Eichhardt folded, Moneymaker called from his stack of 145,000.
It was a straight race, with Moneymaker’s 10♣10♥ up against Koran’s K♣Q♥. This one went Koran’s way, when the board ran J♥Q♠A♠A♥9♣.
Moneymaker said very little, just putting forward the chips and preparing for the next round. It actually proved to be just the warm-up. On the very next hand, Noel Donaldson open-shoved for around 30,000. That was a starting stack this time yesterday, but with blinds today at 1,200/2,400, it was a little devalued.
However Eichhardt, with about 90,000 in his stack, opted to call pretty quickly on the button. Then Moneymaker, one seat around, instantly re-shoved with the covering stack.
One might have expected a quick fold from Warris in the big blind, but Warris then went into the tank, clearly intimating that he had a tough decision.
“You woke up with a big hand?” Moneymaker said. “That’s good for you.”
Warris made all the facial expressions to suggest that he did indeed have something to ponder with, before adding: “I do have a hand.”
Donaldson stood up and started rubbing his hands together. And then he called the clock. “Time on Table 23!” bellowed the dealer, as Warris continued to ponder what he should do.
The tournament supervisor came over and began a countdown. Warris acknowledged what was happening, and said “Fold” before it got to the last 10 seconds. That, however, only put the decision over to Eichhardt, who also faced a decision for his tournament life.
Eichhardt pondered about as long as Warris had, before he also let it go. Warris seemed to indicate that he had folded ace-king, while Eichhardt said that he too had made a big lay-down. “Good fold!” Moneymaker said. “There you go.”
Moneymaker showed A♠J♣, which drew a couple of winces. Donaldson had 6♥6♠ and had reason to believe he had a pretty big head-start in the race given what Eichhardt and Warris might have laid down.
“Get me home!” Moneymaker implored of the dealer, suggesting that he was owed one after losing the earlier race. But the dealer did not seem to comply as he followed a flop of 7♦K♥Q♠ with a turn of 6♣.
Donaldson now had a set, but Moneymaker still had three outs. And then, yep, there it was. The 10♦ fell on the river to complete his straight.
It spelled the end for the unfortunate Donaldson, and allowed Warris and Eichhardt to breathe a sigh of relief. They too knew they could easily now be on the rail.
As it is, Moneymaker bounced back to around 180,000 and both Eichhardt and Warris had chips still when the table did indeed break. But if that very small indication of today’s action is anything to go by, stand by for what should be a very entertaining afternoon of play.