"The Return of the Man Called H.O.R.S.E."

By Andrew N.S. Glazer, "The Poker Pundit"

A quick note before I jump into today’s action: there were a few errors in my report yesterday about the PLO event, and I will explain and correct them at this end of this article. Now, let’s get to what might have been the most interesting WSOP event so far, the final table of the $2,000 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. event.

Amateur basketball players are probably familiar with “HORSE,” a game in which you must match and eventually exceed your opponent’s unusual and creative shots. In the poker variety, you must also exceed unusual and creative “shots,” but they are move like moves rather than shots, and you must excel in the five different poker variations that give the game its name: Hold’em, Omaha eight-or-better, Razz, Seven-Card Stud, and Eight-or-Better Seven-Card Stud.

These five games are played in a rotation format. At the final table, the eight finalists (eight, rather than ten, because the games include three stud variants) played each flop game (hold’em and Omaha) for 40 minutes and each stud game (Razz, Stud, and Stud/8) for 50 minutes before shifting to the next one.


If you’re wondering why the stud games seem “emphasized,” it’s just a matter of logistics. Stud hands tend to take longer per hand than flop games, although when played to the river, the pots tend to be larger, in part because there is an extra betting round, in part because “chasing” is more correct in stud than it is in flop games, where community cards often help players equally – which is to say not at all, if you are trailing.

In a format that Max Shapiro and I more or less stumbled upon due to my now-receding back problems, Max covered the final tables early moments, and then I came in to finish and to use his hand notes for the early action.

Because the final tables are so long under the new blind and ante structure, Max and I are planning on using this method for much of the Series.

That’s enough about backs and Max. When play began at the final table, the seats and chip positions were:

Seat Player Chip Count
1 Brian Haveson $20,000
2 Chip Jett $25,100
3 Doyle Brunson $40,500
4 Scotty Nguyen $19,300
5 David Plastik $59,900
6 Randall Skaggs $9,000
7 Scott Numoto $15,700
8 Bill Gazes $36,600

When I arrived at hand #43, only the short-stacked Skaggs had been eliminated. This certainly wasn’t the first time Skaggs had made noise in a rotation game tournament: he made the final table at the inaugural Tournament of Champions, which employed limit hold’em, Omaha eight-or-better, and seven-card stud in rotation until the final 27 were set, when the tournament shifted entirely to no-limit hold’em. He went down on hand #11, when he raised with his pocket threes from the big blind, but got out-flopped by Plastik’s Jh-8c.


When I arrived the game was Razz: seven-card stud played for low, and probably the most frustrating (and boring) form of poker played in modern poker. Razz isn’t played much for the same reason that five-card stud isn’t played much: it’s just too easy to see that you are trailing, and since the modern poker player is just a tad more sophisticated than the Old West poker player, he doesn’t really like to play when he knows he’s trailing.

The antes were $300, with a $600 forced high card bring-in bet, completion to $2,000, and $2,000-4,000 limits.

My timing was good (or bad, depending on your perspective). On the first hand I saw, Gazes, who would be the pride of Marina Del Ray, California if so many other championship caliber players didn’t live there, got stuck with the bring-in, Jett completed to 2k showing a deuce, and ’98 World Champ Scotty Nguyen re-raised to 4k showing a five, with Jett calling.

Jett caught a brick with a jack on the turn, with Nguyen one pip better with a ten. Nguyen bet Jett’s last few chips and Jett was essentially forced to call. When they turned the hands over the cards got mixed together in a flurry, but we saw Nguyen with 7-4-5-10-8-A, and Jett with 10-3-2-J-9-9. Drawing to a ten low while Nguyen had a made eight, Jett just turned his cards over and departed.

We now had six players left, and I estimated the chips at

Haveson, 16k
Brunson, 55k
Nguyen, 52k
Plastik, 55k
Numoto, 27k
Gazes, 21k

We were immediately treated to 22 hands that explained not only why Razz isn’t played much anymore, but also why Razz players tend to be grumpy. With very few exceptions, someone got stuck bringing the hand in with a big card (hence the grumpiness), one player raised, and everyone else folded. Yes, the raiser might be bluffing, and it’s tempting to play that (A-9) 2, but you don’t get to find out if he’s bluffing with that seven showing for a long time, and it’s a very expensive proposition if you’re wrong.


It wasn’t until hand #66 that we got some real action. Haveson and his king got stuck with the bring-in. Nguyen flat called the $600 showing an eight, Plastik made it 2k showing a six, and Gazes jumped right in showing an ace. The two $600 hopefuls folded while Plastik and Gazes went to war.

On fourth street, Plastik caught a deuce and Gazes a five; Gazes check-called Plastik’s 2k bet. On fifth street, Plastik caught a grumpy card, a king, while Gazes caught a four; now Gazes led out, with Plastik calling. When you call after catching a king, it’s a pretty good sign that your four other cards are pretty good.

On sixth street, Plastik paired his doorcard, while Gazes caught a queen; a favorable round for Gazes, if not an exciting one. Gazes bet his last $1,900 all-in, and at that cheap price, Plastik had to call.

They flipped over the hole cards, and Gazes was indeed leading, but not by much: (A-3) 6-2-K-6 for Plastik, and (4-7) A-5-4-Q for Gazes. Plastik looked at his river queen with disgust, but Gazes paired his ace, and the queen was actually sufficient improvement: Plastik’s Q-6-3-2-A edged out Gazes’ Q-7-5-4-A. Plastik had been grumbling while knocking out Gazes and taking the chip lead: such is Razz, and such, we would later see, was particularly Plastik.


After a few more “raise and take it” hands, guest announcer T.J. Cloutier drew a laugh when he said “and with that hand, we have one minute and 30 seconds left in this exciting game.

Mercifully, the Razz round ended, with a switch to seven-card stud, and I estimated the chips at

Haveson, 26k
Brunson, 55k
Nguyen, 45k
Plastik, 80k
Numoto, 20k

The limits remained the same: $300 antes, a $600 low card bring-in, complete to 2k, playing $2,000-4,000.

Although chasing is often mathematically correct in cash stud, with the limits this high relative to the stacks, playing one hand to the river could be extremely expensive, so players were giving up a little bit of equity in order to reduce their stack fluctuation.

There was so little interest in stack fluctuation, in fact, that little of consequence happened until hand #95, when Brunson and Numoto played one all the way to sixth street! Numoto started out pushing with Kd-Ac, with Brunson calling with Js-Ks. On fifth street, Numoto caught the 8h and check-called when Brunson took the initiative with his innocent-looking 6h. Numoto checked when he caught the 7c, and folded when Brunson bet his third open spade, the 2s.

At this point, I estimated the chips at

Haveson, 45k
Brunson, 50k
Nguyen, 55k
Plastik, 60k
Numoto, 16k


That Brunson was appearing at the WSOP was a story in and of itself. He had boycotted the Series the last few years while the Binion family feuded. Jack Binion has been “my best friend for 30 years,” Doyle said, and he felt he needed to stay away from the Series in order to support his friend…even though he wanted very much to play and get another bracelet or two (he’s the current all-time leader with 8) before retiring.

He came back because, as Brunson told me, “the Binion family made peace. Nick Behnen (Becky Binion Behnen’s husband) was nice enough to offer the olive branch, and I accepted.”

Hand #100 proved interesting for a play I’ve raved against for years. Numoto caught the bring-in, Haveson made it 2k showing the Ks, Nguyen made it 4k showing the 9s, and Plastik made it 6k showing the 5h.

Everyone, even Nguyen, folded, and Plastik showed everyone his rolled up (trip) fives. I was surprised he put in the third raise; this was a hand he might have grabbed a LOT of chips with, but I was even more surprised that he showed his hand for free. Yes, it might earn him some respect if he three-bet later, but that’s a lot of information to give away for free.


At this point, announcer Cloutier, who had been calling the volatile Plastik “Mr. Plastique” (plastique is a very powerful explosive), mentioned that Brunson had 26 “in the money” finishes at the WSOP, and of those 26, only TWO had not been top five finishes – a rather astounding statistic in an era when people excitedly count third-table “cashes” that return barely more than the buy-in.

Nothing else exploded during the rest of the stud round, and when we hit the break, the totals were:

Haveson, 41k
Brunson, 53.5k
Nguyen, 48k
Plastik, 67k
Numoto, 16.5k

As we moved into the stud/8 round, the antes moves up to $500, with a $1,000 low card bring-in, completion to $3,000, playing $3,000-6,000. The stud/8 round differs from the Razz and stud rounds not only in that it’s a split game, but also that the forced bring-in isn’t necessarily in a weak position. You don’t want a low card in stud or a high card in Razz, but a baby can be just beautiful in stud/8, so the grumbling is usually reserved for later betting rounds.

Four hands into the round, East finally met West in a big confrontation. Sheer chance had placed Scotty Nguyen directly next to Doyle Brunson, and it would be difficult to imagine two champions emerging from such different backgrounds.


Brunson is one of the old Texas road gamblers, and a tall, huge man (he’s lost some weight lately as he has battled his way through a number of medical conditions, but he still probably hits the scales somewhere over the 350 mark).

Nguyen is a Vietnamese immigrant who found a way to use his ample brainpower to make a big income without facing Anglo discrimination in the legal cardrooms of Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and probably weighs 100 pounds soaking wet.

Yet they are both World Champions, and unlike some past World Champs, each is one of those players about whom you say “uh-oh” as he takes a seat at your table.

Doyle caught the bring-in with the 2h, and called when Scotty raised it to 3k with the Ac. Doyle called again when he caught the 9d to Scotty’s Qh, and called yet again when Scotty paired his queen and Doyle caught the 6s. Doyle called a fourth time when Scotty caught the 4s and Doyle the 2d (pairing his doorcard), and finally Scotty slowed down when he didn’t like his river. He checked, and Doyle bet 6k in one of those “I know you have a high and probably I have only a low but don’t you just hate having to call this knowing you can only win one way” bets.

That’s a long name for a variety of bet, to be sure, and something else got long as Scotty called: his face. Doyle showed aces-up, and scooped the pot. Doyle was now the chip leader.


A couple of hands later, Brunson and Plastik got involved in a big pot that they split when Plastik made a low and Brunson two pair. “I had a big draw, I’ll tell you that,” said Plastik to Brunson, who has probably heard everything in his lengthy career, and he proved it by replying without skipping a beat: “Yep, and you made part of it,” he said, cracking the table up with a correct analysis that Plastik had made neither a high nor a low before the river, but had managed to escape for half.

Scott Numoto had been nursing a short stack for what seemed the entire day, and on hand #125 got the last of it all-in against Plastik. Numoto scooped the pot with trip threes, beating Plastik’s kings-up…a hand he thought protected from trip threes because he held the fourth trey. Plastik cursed softly, and Numoto was back up to 22.5k.

Numoto almost made a big move four hands later, as he got his entire stack in against Brunson drawing to (7-7) 4-2-6-A against Brunson’s (A-9) 9-4-10-K, but he missed a second pair and Brunson’s nines held up for high.

Doyle Brunson knows how to play every game and every size stack, and once he got a big stack, he started using it to push people around. Whether his opponents were wary of mixing it up with him or just couldn’t catch anything wasn’t clear, but after the big pot, Brunson started eroding his opponents’ stacks by inches and hours, grabbing a small pot here and a small pot there. He was completely controlling the game, and even Nguyen couldn’t find anything to fight back with, and the times he tried to fight back, he couldn’t catch.


Eventually Nguyen had only $2,500 left, and he got it all-in on hand #134. It looked like Brunson and Numoto were going to just check him down, but when Brunson’s board improved to 7s-5c-9d-Ah, he bet out, and Numoto let it go. Brunson showed that he had (A-2) in the hole, a pair of aces and a low draw, while Nguyen’s cards had run (J-J) As-Qd-3d-9? Nguyen looked at his river card, tossed his hand into the muck, and exited fifth.

Brian Haveson had been quiet and careful, and had picked his spots to maintain his stack. He finally found something he liked on hand #140, raising to 9k with the 6s after Brunson and Numoto had raised his bring-in. Both opponents hung with the pot on fourth street, and Numoto gave it up on fifth, as Haveson kept pushing. Brunson stayed with him to the river, but even with a huge pot out there and a board of 7d-4h-6d-7c, Brunson was unwilling to call the river against what was obviously a high hand for Haveson, who had now claimed second place with roughly 80k.


Haveson looked like he might be a lawyer or investment banker on holiday – trim, neatly dressed, fit, wire rim glasses – but the 39 year old is a professional poker player who has been focusing almost exclusively on tournaments the last couple of years. He’s better known on the East Coast, especially after he won the all-around at Foxwoods, winning the Omaha/8 event and making three other final tables.

He’d also finished in the money in the Big One here last year, and had another final table already in this Series, so the soft spoken young man was most definitely not an investment banker on holiday – unless, of course, you count his diverse poker efforts as an investment portfolio.

After this big hand, I estimate the chips at

Haveson, 80k
Brunson, 104k
Plastik, 32k
Numoto, 10k

Numoto doubled through Plastik on an all-in hand where he caught a six to make a straight on the river, and “Plastique” indeed seemed like the proper nickname, as he explosively bemoaned his poor luck again and again. Even after he scooped the next two small pots to recoup his wayward chips, he asked the cocktail waitress to bring him a “Cyanide on the rocks.”


The cards might have been unkind to David Plastik, but it was all too clear that he’d allowed his sense of poker justice to have been violated, and he appeared to have put himself on tilt for the better part of an hour. He kept tossing cards higher and higher; it seemed inevitable that one of them was going to hit the floor sooner or later. Eventually, Tournament Co-Director Matt Savage unofficially warned him to calm down.

I’m not sure precisely how well David can play poker, even if we did once start three out of four tournaments at the same table during the Commerce LA Poker Classic. I do know he couldn’t possibly be playing his best poker while allowing himself to get this distracted. I mean, how many times have you heard a player ask the Director “Do you have a railbird I can kick the shit out of right now?”

At hand #151 the game switched to limit hold’em, with $1,500-3,000 blinds, playing $3,000-6,000.

For a while, it was a pretty close race between Plastik and Numoto for fourth place, with each holding the dubious “lead” on occasion. On hand #163, he got all of his money in with Ac-8d against Brunson’s 5-7 with the board showing 3d-4d-7h-7d. The Qd hit the river, though, and Plastik had survived with a runner-runner flush. He had a comment for this one, too: “I finally played bad to suck out and got there,” as if “playing bad” were the only way someone could win a hand.


Plastik “played good” on the next hand, when Numoto went all-in for 5k, Haveson made it 8k, and Plastik, sitting in the big blind, asked “I can call for $5,000?” Informed that this was correct, he did so, and he immediately announced “I CHECK” before the flop hit, a not-so-gentle hint that Haveson took. They both checked the hand down as the board came 7-8-2-3-K. Plastik flipped up pocket nines, and I thought he was going to flip over a chair when Numoto turned over his A-K for the main pot.

If it sounds like I’m getting on David Plastik, you’re right. I am. He was out of line, especially with cheap comments like “It’s nice to get hit with the deck, isn’t it, Brian (Haveson)?” The words might seem neutral. The tone wasn’t. I know it’s no fun to run badly when a victory seems near. I know it’s no fun to lose when you have a lead. Other players have managed to withstand those situations more gracefully. In any event, he had worked himself into such a frenzy that he’d become his own worst enemy.

Numoto finally ran out of luck on all-in situations when Brunson eliminated his small stack by hitting a runner-runner flush on hand #171. The chips now stood:

Haveson, 70k
Brunson, 140k
Plastik, 16k

Three hands later, Plastik bet 3k on a Js-8s-2s flop, and Brunson called. The Qs hit the turn, Brunson checked, Plastik bet 6k, and Brunson made it 12k. Plastik called for his last chips, saying, “If you got the nuts, you win.” Brunson showed that he did indeed hold the As. Plastik bent and ripped his cards, the Ks-9s (no mistakes on this hand – I kept the destroyed cards as a souvenir), kicked over a rope, and exited about as ungraciously as one can manage.


To his credit, he did return about 20 minutes later, calmed down, to shake hands with his two final competitors and congratulate them. That’s the David Plastik I’d become friendly with in the past. Whoever the Mr. Hyde was at this final table was someone else, and Plastik will do well to keep him locked away, so he can concentrate on playing poker as well as he can, which is pretty darned well, and on being as friendly as he can be, which is pretty darned friendly. A fierce competitive instinct can be a useful tool, but if it goes too far, it’s a weapon that can point in both directions.

The heads-up match thus began on hand #175. Heads-up, the small blind goes on the button (SBB) and acts first before the flop and second after the flop.

There had never been even a moment wasted to discuss a deal, and none were wasted here. The subject never came up all day, and the finalists played to conclusion. The crowd was increasing in size as the word that the legendary Brunson had a chance to extend his record with a ninth bracelet. Could Haveson, who in his own way was like Nguyen in that he seemed the very opposite of what Brunson represented, hold his own in a duel against the man who wrote poker’s bible, the first ever great poker book, Super/System?

Haveson trailed only 2-1 in chips, and the limits were pretty high. One good run of cards could do it, but of course Brunson is the man who taught a whole generation of poker players that poker isn’t a card game played by people, it’s a people game played with cards.


Brunson took the expected aggressor’s role at first, winning a lot of small pots. That’s what he wanted, of course, lots of small pots. When you’re the favorite, and it’s not disrespectful to Haveson to make Brunson the clear favorite, you don’t want to gamble in big pots.

Perhaps that’s why Brunson was as cautious as he was on hand #182. He brought it in for a raise from the SBB, and Haveson called. The flop came 4c-4s-8d, and Haveson check-called. When the 9h hit the turn, Haveson checked and Brunson checked behind him. The 5h hit the river, and this time Brunson bet after Haveson checked, with Haveson calling.

Brunson turned over pocket kings. He’d only missed one bet, and perhaps he figured that was the only way to get another 6k out of Haveson; perhaps he thought he could even get Haveson to make a check-raise move or aggressive bet at the river that way. Hmm, come to think of it, checking the turn isn’t starting to sound so bad. Far be it from me to critique Brunson’s play. I’d say he’s forgotten more about poker than I’ve ever learned, except he doesn’t play like he’s forgotten ANYTHING.


Brunson got one more big one out of Haveson on #186, when he made a flush on the turn and an unwanted fourth spade hit the river. He got a call anyway, and he looked like a runner stretching it out to pull away from the field. He’d so dominated the limit hold’em round that Haveson thought for about 30 seconds before folding his SBB on hand #189, and he joked, “I’m just stalling to get out of the hold’em round.”

“One more hand,” replied Brunson with a smile, but it was Haveson who took it down.

It was time to shift to Omaha eight-or-better, and the blinds went up to $2,000-4,000, playing $4,000-8,000. It was time for a ten minute break but both players declined it, and we moved straight ahead. I liked that about Haveson. Most people in his position would have taken the break to try to gather themselves against the storm. Haveson was confident enough to try it without any gathering time.

His confidence got some cooperation from the deck, because on the very first heads-up hand, 8k went in on all four streets and Haveson scooped Brunson and the 4d-10s-4s-9c-8d board by turning over 4-9-8-2 for fours full of nines.


He couldn’t know that the hand, #191, would prove to be his heads-up high water mark. Doyle regained some of the chips he’d lost on the first hand when he check-raised Haveson on the turn on hand #197, and Haveson let it go; he had 55k left.

Haveson’s stack was left in ruins after the next hand, when Brunson limped in from the SBB, Haveson raised, Doyle re-raised, and Haveson three-bet, with Doyle finally calling. The flop came 6s-9h-4h, Haveson checked, Brunson bet, and Haveson called. Haveson check-called as the 7s and Kc hit the turn and river. Brunson turned over A-3-3-5 for a straight that scooped the set Haveson made on the turn.

The end came in fairly dramatic fashion, on hand #201. Haveson said “I’m going to raise” from the SBB, and Brunson called. The flop came Kc-5c-3h, and things got out of control in a hurry: Haveson bet 4k, Brunson made it 8k, Haveson made it 12k, Brunson made it 16k, and Haveson made it 20k. He had one chip left, and tossed that one in.

As you’d expect, they’d each caught quite a piece of the flop. Brunson showed 5d-5s-Qh-Qs; he’d flopped middle set, not a powerhouse in your hometown “six players see the flop” Omaha game, but pretty strong heads-up. Haveson turned over As-Kh-2c-8d, which meant he had the only low draw, a swing at a wheel, and a king with an ace kicker (reasonably strong heads-up – it’s hard to know your opponent has a set).


The board finished Kc-5c-3h-10s-Jc, though; the low never got there, and the set was good for Doyle Brunson’s record-setting ninth bracelet.

Haveson was as cool and gracious in defeat as he had been at the table. “I’m happy,” he said. “If I could have picked one player to get heads-up with for the whole tournament, it would have been Doyle Brunson, just so I could say that I played him.”

The moment evoked all kinds of memories and metaphors. I thought about Jack Nicklaus winning that last Masters at age 46, about Babe Ruth hitting that home run in his last at bat, about Jimmy Connors thrilling the US Open Crowd. The only problem with those metaphors were that they really were the last chapter in legendary careers, and it’s by no means certain that this is the last bracelet Doyle Brunson will win.

“The money’s nice, but I really wanted this ninth bracelet,” he said. “I want a tenth before I retire. Records are made to be broken, but I wouldn’t mind putting it a bit further out of reach.”


I’d never quite seen a post-WSOP crowd sit this quietly and respectfully, as if they were waiting for the Dali Lama to give them the secret of life or eternal happiness. From what I know of Brunson, he hasn’t led quite the ascetic life the Lama has, but he offered some philosophy nonetheless.

“This game has a lot to do with experience,” he said, “and I guess I have more than most of these young fellows. These young guys, they haven’t been there. You’re going to get drawn out on, it’s part of poker, and you’ve got to learn how to control it.”

I can’t imagine whom he was referring to, but Doyle pressed on. “Six hundred people playing in the Big One now, that’s amazing, there was just six of us in the first one. I don’t mind playing in these big fields, though. I know it’s not twice as hard to win against a field of 1,000 as it is to win against a field of 500. At some point, there’s probably a limiting factor, but I don’t think we’re near it yet.”

I got a few moments alone with Brunson. It was during that time that I asked the question no one else wanted to ask, about how come he was finally back at the Series after his boycott. Brunson was also frank about how he’d earned this victory.


“There’s a lot of luck,” Brunson said. “I think there’s too many of these guys thinking they can just win every time by outplaying everybody. I held a lot of hands, which you’ve got to do to win. There’s no defense against someone who holds that many hands.”

Still, there had to be SOME skill to it, I said/asked. “Yes, in the play of the hands, there are some red flags,” he said. “A lot of these players look at their own hand instead of thinking about what the other player might have.”

He’d mentioned retirement. When might that come? “I’ll retire when I can’t win anymore,” he said with a smile. “I really had my horns set to win a bracelet this year. I made some bets with some folks, they laid me 10-1 I wouldn’t win one.”

“Who gave you those odds,” someone asked.

“Fella named Chip Reese,” said Brunson, and everyone laughed. Reese is Brunson’s long-time friend and gambling opponent.

“There’s one other thing I really want you to write,” he told me. “The tournament is really laid out great. The lighting is better, the seating is set up better, with more room between the tables, everything is really great. A lot of people have been bad-mouthing this place, and the Horseshoe really did a great job getting everything ready for the players this year.”


I had one more question, about that bible of his, Super/System. Doyle had already told me in the hallway that Simon and Schuster had picked the book up four months ago, and they’d already sold out the first printing. “For years, you couldn’t get that book in the stores,” he said. “You had to go looking for it. Even so, we sold 85,000 or 90,000 copies. I’m going to do an updated edition this fall.”

Brunson has said, on occasion, that he regretted writing the book, because it made it easier for his opponents to take him on. I wanted to know if that was still the case. “I regret it in a sense, but in a larger scope, it brought more and more players into poker, and those players brought more money into poker. So the money comes back around after a while.”

So too, it appears, do legendary figures from poker history.

Final Official Results
Event #9, $2,000 H.O.R.S.E.
Total Entries: 113
Total Prize Pool: $210,180

Doyle Brunson, $84,080
Brian Haveson, $42,040
David Plastik, $21,020
Scott Numoto, $12,600
Scotty Nguyen $10,500
Bill Gazes, $8,400
Chip Jett, $6,300
Randall Skaggs, $4,200

9th-12th, $3,160 each: Alan Korson, Allen Cunningham, Carlos Mortensen, Phil Hellmuth.
13th-16th, $2,100 each: Brian Nadell, Mohamed Ibrahim, Rich Korbin, Frank Henderson.

(Note: With four former World Champions finishing in the top 12, you can make a pretty good case for H.O.R.S.E. being one of the ultimate tests of poker skill!)


I made a few mistakes in my report on yesterday’s Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) event, and before I provide the corrections, I’d like to address a subject that I believe led to the errors.

Those of you who have been following my reports are probably sick of hearing about my back; I wouldn’t blame you. Nonetheless, after seeing one chiropractor and two doctors since here, I was placed on some medication, one of which was a pain-killing narcotic called Lortab.

I’m accustomed to a few typos slipping into these reports: they’re written late at night, without a proofreader. I’m not accustomed to making a huge mistake in analysis of a tournament’s final hand, or of getting notes confused about a key play (at least I copped to that one as it was ongoing).

Although I’m big on taking responsibility for my own mistakes, I think the Lortab was probably partially involved here, and I want to hold this out as an example for those of you who drink, smoke marijuana, or use other kinds of drugs, whether recreationally or (as was the case here) for legitimate medical purposes.

If I could make mistakes of a nature that I haven’t made in more than a hundred WSOP reports with just a small amount of the Lortab in my system, just imagine what other forms of judgment could be impaired by drug usage – be it while driving, playing poker, or being at work. I’m not trying to be some kind of above-it-all hypocrite – I’ve done my share of partying – but there are proper times and places for this sort of thing, and improper times and places. I’ve also seen a lot of great poker players fall prey to this particular “leak” in their games. I thought I was a good enough tournament reporter to be able to cover an event under the influence. I wasn’t.

I don’t expect a “just say no” to make any instant changes in anyone’s life, but you’ve just seen what could happen under legitimate medical usage. The poker deck tends not to be very forgiving about mistakes, and many other areas of life aren’t either. Draw your own conclusions. End of probably misguided attempt to make something good come from my errors. Now, to the errors themselves:

#1: (This one was actually Max’s). Early in the report, I wrote, from his notes, that “Brody, at his second final table in this Series, moved in for his last few chips in the small blind holding A-A-K-J double suited, and Seidel called from the button with K-J-9-3 and a suited king.” A conversation I had with Erik, making sure I cleared up any errors, brought this one out. Erik was double suited on the hand.

#2: The betting on hand #134. This was the one note-taking error that I spotted myself in assembling the report. My recollection of the pre-flop betting was indeed correct: Seidel limped in from the button, Men raised it 18k more, Duarte folded, and Seidel called, putting 54k in the pot. Where things got confused were with Seidel’s bet. Straight from Erik’s mouth, the betting action on the 3-4-5 flop was: Seidel checked, Men bet the pot (54k), and Seidel called all-in for 49k. This was one of the scenarios I posited, but I should have been able to get it right from the start.

#3: A misquote: Seidel didn’t say that the structure was a “little” too slow at the final table. He said it was a little too slow late on Day One, but that it was fine at the final table. Erik also wanted it to be clear that he liked the fast structure at the tournament’s start. I think the article indicated that, but I don’t have a problem making sure Erik’s views are clearly represented.

#4: The REALLY big one: my screw-up on the tournament’s final hand, when I wrote: “we hit the pivotal hand #182, where Men brought it in for 24k from the SBB. Seidel called.

“The flop came 3c-4s-3h. Seidel checked. The Master bet the pot, 48k. Seidel raised the pot, an all-in bet, given that he could call the 48k, putting 144k in the pot, and then raise 144k.

“Men called almost instantly, and Seidel said softly, “I think I need help.” He turned over Qd-Qh-Js-Ks. He had one pair. Such a fast call by Men surely meant that….

“It meant that Men had a BIG draw: he turned over 5-5-7-6. This meant that any deuce through seven would give Men the pot. Four twos. Two threes. Three fours. Two fives. Three sixes. Three sevens. Men had 17 outs twice. His draw actually made him the favorite. It was a new variation on the classic confrontation. One pair against the big draw.” (End of quote material.)

The problem is that the cards deuce through seven are NOT all outs. The two threes and the three fours don’t help Men. He had 12 outs twice, not 17, and that changes everything, because with 17 outs twice, he’s the favorite, and with 12 twice, he’s the underdog.

I plead not merely the late hour and the pain medication, but Men’s own repeatedly emphatic statement, “Any card, deuce through seven!” He must have said this at least a dozen times, when you add the times he said it during the hand to the times he said it after the tournament was over.

That’s not really an excuse, of course. I’m here to do my own analysis, not to blindly accept a player’s statement about his chances. But it was late, I was both tired and drugged, albeit legitimately, and Men’s statement had been emphatic. Worse still, I got caught up in being “cute.” If indeed his outs had all been the cards deuce through seven, I would be able to make a little word play about how PLO had become Deuce-to-Seven (another exciting tournament game, played no-limit style).

#5: Some missed outs. The last one involved hand #180, where I wrote: “On the next one, Men limped in from the SBB, Seidel raised 16k, and Men called. The flop came 3c-10h-10d. Seidel checked, Men bet 25k, and Seidel flat-called.

“The 4c hit the turn, Seidel checked, and Men bet the pot: $98,000. Seidel only had 77k in front of him, so if he called and lost, that was it. He sat and thought…and thought…and thought some more. Then, he thought for a while.

“Finally, Erik Seidel said “I call,” and turned over Ad-As-2d-Qd. Had all the hands Men had been turning over “free of charge” helped Seidel spot anything? Did Men have the dreaded ten that would have meant trips?

“No. Men turned over 6c-6h-5s-Jc. He had a pair of sixes, and an open-ended straight draw. A six, deuce, or seven could win for him.” (End of quoted material.)

The problem here is that because the 4c turn card fit with the 3c that had hit the flop, there was a club draw out there, and Men also had clubs working, because he held the Jc-6c. In other words, Men’s bet had been a more powerful semi-bluff than I gave him credit for. Although he couldn’t be sure that hitting his flush draw would win – Seidel could have had a bigger one – he was nonetheless betting with both a straight and a flush draw, as well as his pair, and of course the chance to win just with his bet.

In other words, I didn’t credit Men with enough outs on hand #180, and with a little help from Men, I gave him credit for too few on #182!

“Just say no” is sounding better and better to me!

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