After a very entertaining first week of coverage with the inaugural team-format Caesar’s Cup competition between Europe and the America’s, ESPN turned to its first of three weeks of telecasts on the 2009 Main Event, with the three hours featuring both Day 1s, as well as Day 2. With only 334 players entering the field, almost every table was stacked with top professionals. Let’s see how the show played out.
The featured table on Day 1A had Doyle Brunson, and an empty seat where Phil Hellmuth was supposed to be playing. Hellmuth duplicated his Las Vegas Main Event late entrance as Caesar, causing Brunson to just shake his head in disappointment. Later on, Brunson even went out of his way to chastise Hellmuth for his antics, saying that it was wrong to turn a poker game into a circus, that if people wanted to go to the theater they would just do that, and also saying he wanted to apply for the role of Brutus to Hellmuth’s Caesar (Brutus being one of those who plotted Caesar’s assassination).
Meanwhile, at the table, Hellmuth was on the ropes early with some very loose play, and wound up all-in way behind in a hand where he raised to 750 with in early position, only to get calls from Gilbert Diaz with 10-9, Bruno Fitoussi with K-J and two others with 5-3 and K-3. The flop of 6-9-10 brought a bet of 1,500 from Hellmuth and a raise to 3,000 from Diaz. Hellmuth then went all-in, completely misreading the situation. Diaz called, but Hellmuth survived when 8s fell on both the turn and river, giving him a straight.
Patrik Antonius made an early exit when he raised to 1,050 with A-Q. After a call from a player with pocket fours, Peter Gould also called with A-6 in the big blind. When the flop of 3-9-A hit the board, Antonius bet out 2,300 and Gould called. Gould then hit the jackpot when a 6 came on the turn, and he checked again. Antonius bet 5,125, and Gould pushed all-in. Antonius called, and the river 4 was of no help, and he was eliminated.
Meanwhile, Brunson, who had been in bad shape early, doubled through Bruno Fitoussi, when both caught top pair on a flop of J-3-4, with Brunson holding Q-J and Fitoussi J-10. Fitoussi pushed all-in on the flop and Brunson called, doubling up when a 3 and 2 filled out the board.
Jason Mercier, who has been one of the hottest players in the world in the past year, began to build a big stack right from the beginning of the tournament. In one hand, Ben Grundy raised to 1,500 with pocket jacks, and Chad Brown called with a pair of sixes. Mercier then reraised to 5,950 with , and Grundy pushed all-in. After Brown folded, Mercier called, and spiked a king on the flop to send Grundy to the rail and win an early pot of 64,450.
The last hand shown on Day 1A was one of the biggest. Christian Harder raised to 1,350 with 8-6, getting three callers, Andy Black with A-7, Alex Kravchenko with A-Q and Men “the master” Nguyen with . The flop was 3-8-4, with two spades. Kravchenko and Nguyen checked, and Harder bet 3,025. Black then RAISED to 8,050 with ace high and a weak kicker! Kravchenko quickly folded, and then Nguyen ALSO folded two pair! Harder called with his top pair, weak kicker. The turn of the brought a check from Harder, and a second bullet from Black, this time 15,500! Harder called once again, and the fell on the river, putting a flush draw out there. Harder checked one more time, and this time Black went all-in! Harder made the hero call, and took down the 127,450 chip pot, sending Black to the rail in another example of him blowing up his tournament on a bluff, something that has plagued Black throughout his career.
Day 1B featured a packed featured table, including the youngest bracelet winner in history, Annette Obrestad, as well as poker legends Daniel Negreanu and Barry Greenstein. Both Obrestad and Negreanu had difficulties early, Obrestad losing a pot to Greenstein’s top pair, and Negreanu running his pocket jacks into an all-in bet from a pair of kings. But Negreanu avoided elimination when Obrestad turned two pair against his top pair, when he folded to the aggressive Norwegian’s all-in bet.
Negreanu then woke up with pocket deuces, which he raised to 400, only to have Greenstein with , and Obrestad with K-8 offsuit, both call. The flop was 3-2-Q, with all three of the cards being spades!!!! Negreanu bet 700, which Greenstein just smooth-called with his flush. Obrestad folded and Negreanu turned his full house when another queen came on the board. He led out with a bet of 1,250, and Greenstein raised to 4,000. Negreanu pushed the rest of his chips into the middle, and Greenstein called, doubling Negreanu to 19,650, still well short of the opening stack of 30,000, but at least back in the game.
Viewers were treated to just how strong a player Obrestad is when she raised to 700 with A-7 and was called by Negreanu with pocket jacks on the button. The flop came A-J-4, and Obrestad checked-called Negreanu’s bet of 1,000. Another ace came on the turn, and Obrestad checked once again. Negreanu bet 3,000, and Obrestad didn’t even think too long about her decision before throwing her three-of-a-kind into the muck!
Shaun Deeb and Chris Ferguson were added to the already loaded featured table, with Deeb holding one of the biggest stacks in the room when he sat down. He raised under the gun to 1,025 with and Ferguson called with pocket jacks. Obrestad also called on the button with A-8, and the flop came 3-5-3! Deeb bet out 1,800, Ferguson called and Obrestad folded. When an 8 came on the turn, Deeb bet 3,125, making a pot of 10,850 and Ferguson pushed all-in, which Deeb naturally called. However, Ferguson hit the miracle jack on the river, and doubled up to 27,175. This was the beginning of a bad run for Deeb, which continued in a confrontation with Negreanu.
With blinds at 250-500, Negreanu raised to 1,200 with , only to have Deeb make it 3,725 with ! Negreanu called, and the two saw a flop of 3-K-8. Negreanu check-called Deeb’s bet of 5,350. The turn of the gave Negreanu a flush draw, and that allowed him to call Deeb’s turn bet of 9,525 as well. When the came on the river, Negreanu checked for a third time, and this time Deeb gave up.
Day 1B ended with Deeb losing some more chips in a blind vs. blind hand against Negreanu, where Negreanu just called with pocket sevens, only to have Deeb raise to 1,600 with K-9 offsuit. Negreanu then said “I’m going to pound back on you,” and put in his calling chips with one hand, and then his raising chips with the other. Deeb accused him of making a string bet, and called the floor, who ruled that the raise would stand, based on Negreanu’s words prior to the bet. Deeb angrily folded, saying that he hates live poker (he has long been one of the top online tournament players in the world).
Day 2 saw 178 left in the tournament, and the featured table included both Doyle Brunson and Antonio Esfandiari. Brunson got off to a fast start when he raised under the gun to 1,800 with pocket kings. Thad McNulty then went all-in for his last 12,025 with a pair of queens. Esfandiari then called with , but Brunson was having none of it. He pushed all-in with his kings, forcing Esfandiari to fold his hand. This turned out to be very fortunate for Brunson, since the flop came with both the jack and 10 of clubs, along with a 3. Esfandiari would have hit his nut flush on the turned , but as it was, Brunson’s kings held up, and he continued to build his stack.
Phil Hellmuth was now also moved to the featured table, and he and Esfandiari got into a hand soon after. Esfandiari raised to 2,000 with Q-J, and Hellmuth called in the big blind with . The flop of 8-10-Q hit both players, and also gave each the same gutshot straight draw. Hellmuth had checked in the dark, and then called Esfandiari’s bet of 3,700. When another 10 fell on the turn, both players checked. Yet one more 10 came on the river, and this time, after Hellmuth’s check, Esfandiari pushed all-in. Hellmuth agonized, but finally called, and was eliminated. This led to a huge spitting match between the two, with Hellmuth saying how lucky Esfandiari always is against him, and Esfandiari challenging him to play for $100,000 heads-up. Esfandiari then said to the camera, “There’s nothing better than torturing Phil Hellmuth.” As commentators Chad and McEachern pointed out, Hellmuth’s act is brilliant in one regard, because it keeps us talking about him even AFTER he is knocked out of a tournament.
The biggest hand of Day 2 took place between Viktor Blom and Ian Munns. Blom, a very aggressive Swede, raised to 3,000 with , and Munns re-raised to 9,000 with A-7 on the button. The flop of A-A-3 saw Blom check, and Munns bet 9,000 once again. Blom then RAISED to 58,000! Munns three-bet to 116,000, but Blom then pushed all-in! Munns called, and was stunned to see Blom’s hand. Blom was knocked out, and Munns took over the chip lead with more than half a million chips, more than double what the nearest competitor had.
As play ended for the day, with 100 players left, the final hand shown featured one more big pot. Antoine Saout, late of the November Nine, raised to 3,400 with Q-8, which 22 year-old David Docherty, from Scotland, called in the big blind with . The flop was 9-7-A, with two diamonds. Docherty checked, and Saout bet 6,100, which Docherty called. Saout then hit his queen on the turn when the fell. This time, he bet 15,000, and Docherty called once more. When the came on the river, it gave Docherty two pair, but also put a flush draw on the board. Docherty bet 14,000, and Saout raised to 52,000. After long thought, Docherty made the call and won a pot of 155,400.
As you can tell from this recap, there was a lot of aggressive play featured in this coverage, as the vast number of European players shifted the overall style of play in the direction of maximum aggression. With this type of play the norm, the last two weeks of coverage should be even more exciting.
See you then!
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