There was about an hour-and-a-half left in Level 41 of the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event when play began tonight, with blinds 1M/2M and a 300K ante. They’ve almost made it through those 90 minutes of tournament time, though with commercial breaks it has taken over two hours.
Three players started the night. And three players still remain.
Frequent breaks for commercials come every five hands or so, imposing a strange rhythm on the proceedings. During each the three players retreat to their rails, a bit like boxers returning to their corners, getting advice about how to proceed.
Holding the side of his hoodie over his bearded face, Dan Ott came out attacking from the opening bell. He three-bet Benjamin Pollack’s button raise on the first hand, then opened his button on hand number two. He and chip leader Scott Blumstein then battled to the river, with Ott claiming another pot to push up over 100 million.
Hand number three saw Pollak reraise all in (with K♣7♣, we later saw on the broadcast) over a Blumstein open and the latter fold, then Pollak took the next pot before the flop, too. Ott took the next two hands and the trio were already taking a first commercial break.
More small pots followed — one for Ott, another all-in reraise by Pollak uncalled, another three-bet by Ott over a Blumstein raise forcing a fold. On the next hand it looked like Blumstein was taking a stand, reraising an Ott open. But Ott reraised again. The hoodie went back over Ott’s mouth. Blumstein sat quietly and stared. He folded again.
After steamrolling through the first two days of the final table, Blumstein had gotten off to a slow start, not winning any of the first 10 hands.
Then came hand number 11.
After an Ott open, Blumstein three-bet from the small blind and Ott called. Blumstein then led each postflop street, with the pot reaching 100 million by the turn and Blumstein shoving all in on the river. With the board showing 3♣A♣4♣9♦2♠, Ott tanked for over a minute, then finally let his hand go.
When Ott released his hand, Blumstein swiveled in his chair and punched the air several times as his rail roared in approval.
What did TV viewers learn a half-hour later? Blumstein had bluffed with K♣10♦, while Ott had let go of 8♦8♣.
All that work. The stacks were essentially back to where everyone had begun.
More small chip exchanges ensued, with Pollak shoving twice more without getting interest.
From there Blumstein began building again, grinding the other two back down to even shorter stacks.
Then a hand arose in which Pollak raised the button, Ott jammed from the small blind for 17 bigs, and when it got back to Pollak he contemplated a moment then called.
Ott’s A♥Q♥ needed improvement versus Pollak’s 8♠8♥, and a queen on the flop brought that and a huge cry of joy from Ott’s rail. Nothing changed on the turn or river, and Ott doubled while Pollak is now on fumes.
There’s another delay right now as they appear to be double-checking the stacks. The crowd murmurs, while the players again consult their rails.
We’ve waited more than two weeks. The players are now playing their 10th day of poker, going on 82 hours of actual game play. Everyone can wait a little longer.
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.