This week, ESPN’s telecast moved on to Day Four, with the highly anticipated bursting of the money bubble. With many top name pros still left in the field, whom would they choose to be the focus of this week’s show? And would we begin to start to see the other members of the November Nine, other than Phil Ivey? Let’s find out, shall we?
While Ivey was seated at the featured table, table two was even more stacked, with former Main Event champions - Joe Hachem and Peter Eastgate, as well as two-time bracelet winner Burt Boutin and top pro Surinder Sunar.
The only player at the featured table with more chips than Ivey was Bernard Perner, and Perner challenged Ivey right off the bat. Ivey raised to 11,000 with and Perner called in the big blind with Q-9 offsuit. When the flop came 10-J-A, Perner bet 16,500, which Ivey just called. A on the turn brought a bet of 27,500 from Perner and Ivey called again. The river , which was the third diamond to fall, caused Perner to check, and he folded to Ivey’s 50,000 chip bet.
The next time the two tangled, Ivey raised to 11,000 with 8-7 offsuit and Perner called with pocket deuces. The flop of 7-J-7 gave Ivey trips, and he just called Perner’s 22,000 chip bet. Ivey improved to a full house when an 8 fell on the turn, and he bet 40,000 when Perner checked, which Perner called. Ivey improved even more to quads when the final 7 came on the river. After Perner’s check, Ivey put out 120,000, about 80% of the pot. Perner called, hoping that Ivey was playing high cards, but then saw the bad news. For the second time in the evening, commentator Norman Chad quoted Wallace Shawn’ Vinzini from The Princess Bride, “Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line.”
With the blinds at 2,000-4,000, Ivey next raised to 11,000 with pocket kings. Kevin Stammen called on the button with pocket sixes. After a flop of Q-Q-7, Ivey checked and Stammen bet 16,000 into the 32,500 pot, which Ivey called. Ivey checked once more when an 8 fell on the turn, and Stammen followed suit. When the river brought another 7, Ivey bet 25,000, and Stammen then put Ivey to the test with a raise to 75,000! Ivey considered it carefully, but finally made the call to take down the big pot. Ivey’s reads would continue to be expert all night long.
Starting the day there were still six former Main Event champions remaining in the event, as, in addition to the two sitting at the secondary table, Dan Harrington, Bobby Baldwin, Phil Hellmuth and Chris Ferguson were still alive. With Harrington still wearing a neck brace to support his head during the long days, Chad quipped, “What’s with the neck brace? Did he have a bad flop?”
With the bubble drawing ever nearer, Ben Wu raised to 10,500 with K-J offsuit, only to be called by both Richard Kane with and Eugene Fouksman (small blind) with a hand not picked up on the camera. Ivey then put in a big re-raise to 48,000 with A-Q offsuit in the big blind, and Wu, sensing Ivey might be bullying the table so close to the bubble, popped it once more to 125,000! The other three players all folded, showing that Ivey was human after all.
The bubble finally arrived, and we saw two separate players fold pocket kings pre-flop, as well as Bobby Baldwin surviving when he rivered a flush, and a player at the featured table folding A-K of spades to Ivey’s pre-flop raise (Ivey had pocket nines). The bubble finally burst when Kia Hamadani was all-in with just 1,000 in chips, and three other players wound up seeing the flop. Although one of his opponents bet everyone else off the hand on a flop of Q-6-Q with just 9-2, Hamadani was stuck with 4-3, and when the turn brought a 9, he was out and the bubble had burst.
As much as the focus had been on Phil Ivey during the first hour, it remained squarely on the seven-time bracelet winner for the second half of the telecast as well. Ivey showed his consummate skill at extracting maximum value out of his winning hands, knowing just when to value bet and just how much his opponents would call. A good example of this was his rematch with Ben Wu, who had pushed him off the pre-bubble hand in the first hour. Ivey raised to 16,000 with pocket aces, and Wu called with . The flop came 7-2-Q with one spade, putting Wu in jeopardy. Ivey bet out 23,000 and Wu called. When an 8 showed on the turn, Ivey bet another 55,000 and Wu called once again. After a 4 fell on the river, Ivey inquired how much Wu had left, and promptly put him all-in. Wu called, and was eliminated.
With all the attention on Ivey, table two, for all its star power, got almost no focus during the telecast. One hand that was shown saw Nick Brancato raise to 18,000 in the small blind with Q-J offsuit, which Joe Hachem called with . The flop of 10-9-5 gave Brancato the open-ended straight draw, and Hachem bottom pair. Brancato fired 20,000, and Hachem made the call. A 3 on the turn brought a second bullet from Brancato, this time 35,000, and Hachem called again. When another 3 came on the river, Brancato led out a third time with 60,000, only to see Hachem make the great call.
The final hand of the telecast featured the elimination of Phil Hellmuth, whose pocket aces were beaten by TWO different players, one of whom flopped top two pair with J-10, and the other of whom turned a straight with 9-8. As expected, Hellmuth unleashed a parting tirade, calling his opponents some of the worst poker players in the entire world. Of course, he neglected to mention the number of times in the Main Event he had seen flops with ragged hands, only to hit the nuts against better hands. But, that’s what makes Hellmuth Hellmuth.
It seemed clear from tonight’s telecast that ESPN has decided that the focus of this tournament is going to be Phil Ivey. While none of the other November Nine have yet to make an appearance, about 2/3 of tonight’s hands featured Ivey. We will see if that trend continues as we move into Day Five next week.
See you then!
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