WSOP 2016: Who needs a live stream anyway?

July 18, 2016


The table under scrutiny

To the great chagrin of many remote supporters of the World Series of Poker Main Event, there’s no live stream of proceedings from the Amazon Room this year. It has left fans reliant on that most archaic of media: text.

There’s not much anybody can do about that, I’m afraid, but here’s a special edition of our “A Round With…” series, which takes a close look at the action on one table for one orbit. It’s a warts and all glimpse at the action that you wouldn’t see on the live stream anyhow.

If you want, imagine the dead time between hands is filled with Matt Broughton showing you vegetables that look like poker players, or James Hartigan talking about James Bond, or Joe Stapleton dressed as a cocktail waitress trying to hoodwink spectators into swapping their children for a spin on a big wheel. Or something like that. It’s the closest we’ll get to an EPT Live equivalent at the World Series.

This round is the first to be played on Table 2, which features James Obst, Tom Marchese and Jeff Hakim. This is the first table due to break today. Here’s the full line-up:

Seat 1: James Obst, Australia – 19,560,000 (97 bb)
Seat 2: Qui Nguyen, United States – 4,790,000 (24 bb)
Seat 3: Fernando Pons, Spain – 17,270,000 (86 bb)
Seat 4: Philip Postma, United States – 2,225,000 (11 bb)
Seat 5: Tommy Miller, United States – 17,185,000 (86 bb)
Seat 6: Jeff Hakim, Lebanon – 4,375,000 (22 bb)
Seat 7: Tom Marchese, United States – 15,420,000 (77 bb)
Seat 8: Mike Shin, United States – 19,345,000 (96 bb)
Seat 9: Michael Ruane, United States – 24,565,000 (122 bb)

Blinds are 100,000-200,000 with a 30,000 ante.

Hand 1 – Button with James Obst

Later on today, I’ll tell you a story that features James Obst. It’s about the only story I have that features a poker player, but it’s a six-out-of-ten anecdote at best, if I’m honest. But stand by. I’ll write it later.

Right now, Obst is sitting beneath a red hoodie, with dark-rimmed glasses and a tuft of brown hair sprouting from under the hood. I’m sure he looks like a character in an early-period Adam Sandler movie or something, but these are the references I’m unable to pinpoint. Another reason why text will lose to EPT Live.

He was on the button for the second hand of today, and the first of this “A Round With…” episode.

Everyone folded to James Obst on the button. He raised to 400,000 and the two blinds fold. ♫♫ “Everyone loves a blind steal!” ♫♫


James Obst: The Day 6 version

Hand 2 – Button with Qui Nguyen

Michael Ruane, the big stack at the table, is eating an apple. It’s a red apple. ♫♫ “Everyone loves a red apple!” ♫♫

A nervy fold from a player early to act exposes the 8♦ to the table and raises a nervy chuckle from other competitors. The laughing stops when Mike Shin, in late position, raises to 430,000 and everyone folds. ♫♫ “Everyone loves a blind steal!” ♫♫

Hand 3 – Button with Fernando Pons

The man on the button, Fernando Pons, is the last Spanish player in this event and is hoping to emulate his countryman Carlos Mortensen, who is still the only Spaniard to win the Main Event. Before that can happen, Michael Ruane needs to dispense with his apple core and wanders from the table to toss it into a bin. It makes a satisfactory thud. You see, you really don’t get this kind of detail on a stream.

While he is away–all of 15 seconds–a cameraman swoops towards his chair to get a close-up of the rest of the table. Ruane drops a shoulder and swerves inside the cameraman to get back to his seat.

Jeff Hakim opens the pot. He makes it 450,000 to play and Tommy Miller calls from the big blind. It means they’re going to see the first flop of the day.

It comes 7♥J♠7♥ and, after Miller checks, Hakim bets 400,000 and wins his first pot of the day.

A spectator, in complete defiance of the rules banning anyone but players and television crew from within five yards of the table, stages something of a pitch invasion when he takes two steps inside the rail. He is vaporised like a losing contestant in the Vortex on the The Adventure Game*

(*A reference possibly too niche even for poker live stream viewers.)

Hand 4 – Button with Philip Postma

Tom Marchese has a cold. He wanders away from the table to blow his nose. ♫♫ “Everyone loves a blown nose!” ♫♫ Fernando Pons raises to 450,000 from the cutoff and wins.

Hand 5 – Button with Tommy Miller

Fernando Pons is the action player at this stage and he raises to 450,000 from the hijack. Tommy Miller calls on the button, hoping to exploit his table position. But after the flop comes A♦3♣Q♠, Pons bets what looks like 325,000 and gets a fold from Miller.

Hand 6 – Button with Jeff Hakim

Michael Ruane, his apple now a thing of the past, raises to 450,000 from under the gun and from his huge stack. Fernando Pons is going to have a crack at winning three on the spin and calls from a few seats around. Pons is a statuesque figure: right hand positioned over his mouth and with index finger crooked across his top lip. Still and silent.

On the feature table, right next door, one of William Kassouf’s friends has arrived from the UK. “Up to 100 million yet?” Kassouf’s friend asks. Kassouf chuckles and comes over to the rail for a chat. Still and silent he is not.

The flop comes A♦3♣9♣ and Ruane has a stab at it. Pons calls, taking them to their first turn of the day. It’s the 7♣, which both players check. The Q♠ falls on the river and, after Ruane checks again, Pons bets 750,000. That’s a winner. Three in a row!


Three in a row for Fernando Pons

Hand 7 – Button with Tom Marchese

Qui Nguyen is being watched from the rail by his brother, who explains that had he not lost two pots late last night, he would have about 15 million chips. As it is, Nguyen is one of the short stacks, but has won every pot he has entered today.

Armando, a server, arrives to the table with a buckler-sized tray of waters and popular-brand energy drink. The ratio of water to popular-brand energy drink on these trays has shifted as the tournament has progressed: popular-brand energy drink is now a two-to-one favourite, approximately. The days are long at the WSOP.

Nguyen opens to 450,000 from early position and Tom Marchese calls on the button. It’s just the two of them to a flop of K♣7♠6♠. A spectator ambles by the table and positions himself directly in front of the monitor from which the live reporting team are getting all the information to write up the hand histories. These are the monitors that have a sign attached to them that reads: “PLEASE DO NOT STAND IN FRONT OF MONITORS”.

The moment recalls nothing so much as when my grandmother came into the lounge during the 1991 FA Cup Final and stood directly in front of the TV saying, “What’s going on here, then?” just as Gary Lineker was taking a penalty for Tottenham Hotspur against Nottingham Forest. She was a lovely woman, my grandmother, but she was not especially popular at that moment, I can tell you.

Lineker missed that penalty. But back at the poker, a security guard tapped the man on the shoulder and handily pointed at the big sign. The live reporters also bellowed at him, rather like my father did to his mother back during the 1991 FA Cup final scandal. It meant the man got out of the way, Nguyen bet 575,000 and Marchese called.

The 8♣ fell on the river and Nguyen’s bet of 775,000 took it down.

Hand 8 – Button with Mike Shin

All of a sudden there is a huge commotion from the feature table. This was the moment that Christopher Kusha timed an all-in push pretty badly, running A♠2♦ into Jared Bleznick’s 9♥9♦. After the board bricked, a supporter of Bleznick ran around the bleachers of the television stage shouting, “Terrible shove! Terrible shove!” in a moment of quite poor sportsmanship. Although, while we’re talking of terrible shoves, neither my father nor I is proud of how we got my grandmother out the way of the TV back in 1991.

Back to the table: action folded to Michael Ruane in the small blind and he called, giving the option to raise to James Obst. These are the two big stacks at the table, but Obst doesn’t feel like playing a huge pot just yet. He checks.

The flop comes 3♣4♠10♠ and Ruane bets 225,000. Obst raises to 725,000.

In the neighbouring bleachers, two poker fans are discussing Kusha’s shove, which has left him with less than one big blind. “I fold ace-deuce like this,” one man says, miming how he would fold it. “It’s nothing to me. It’s dead to me that hand.”

This is one of the peculiarities of the World Series. The people standing on the rail are far better players than those who have outlasted 6,600 others and are closing in on an $8 million payday. If you really want to know how to play poker, you should talk to one of the rail-birds. That’s where the real talent lies.

Ruane calls Obst’s bet and they both then check the J♠ turn. After Ruane checks the 5♣ river, Obst bets 1.6 million and wins.

Hand 9 – Button with Michael Ruane

It’s the last hand of this orbit. Are you sad? I’m sad. Anyway, it’s a thriller as Philip Postma, with only 10 big blinds left, open shoves. Action folds to James Obst, who has easily enough chips to make a speculative call.

However, there’s nothing speculative about it. Obst takes a long while before committing his 1.625 million but nobody else in interested. Obst is surely annoyed by that because he has found A♠A♦ and likely wanted somebody else in the pot too.

Postma’s Q♠Q♥ are in bad shape and the board runs 3♣2♠J♣5♣4♦ to send Postma out in 26th, the second player eliminated today. (Kusha lost his last blind to William Kassouf’s set of fours on the feature table.)

Postma shakes hands with Jeff Hakim and heads away, picking up $269,430. You humble reporter also heads away, picking up a dime and a pizza crust that a spectator appears to have dropped in the excitement. It all counts.

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