Oh, how times have changed! There was a day when a “best of” compilation on television would have shown the highlights from a years-long run of a series, or at the very least the top moments of an entire year’s worth of shows. But in the age of hyperbole, short attention spans and hundreds of channels vying for viewers, PokerStars. Net The Big Game released an entire week of shows based just on its first THREE WEEKS! Apparently, the show’s first season format is going to repeat this pattern three more times, meaning that, of the sixteen weeks of programming, there will be twelve original weeks, and four “best of” collections.
There is a basic dilemma in trying to decide how to organize a set of shows like this. Obviously, there will be viewers who didn’t see the original programs, and for them, it is essential to pull together a narrative of what happened during the three weeks that they missed. However, for those who watched the first broadcasts, it is more important to bring in new material, particularly more in-depth analysis from the players themselves as to what they were thinking during the most crucial and/or interesting hands. The producers achieved these aims with varying degrees of success.
The week was divided into five themed shows: The first day was devoted to Big Pots, with each having at least $100,000 contested. The second episode was Behind The Poker Face, where the combatants analyzed a handful of the best deals of the show thus far. The third was devoted exclusively to the most entertaining side-show of the series, the all-out war between Tony G. and Phil Hellmuth. Fourth was an entire hour on the three Loose Cannons. Finally, there was Rivalry Night, where they looked at repeated instances of the same players going up against one another.
Interestingly, the biggest pot of the series thus far didn’t make the cut the first time around. It was contested between Daniel Negreanu and Tony G. during the first week, when Tony G. was dealt pocket queens and Negreanu saw . They got a total of $322,200 in on a flop of J-Q-K, but when they decided to run it twice, Tony G. hit his full house the first time and Negreanu dodged the outs the second, so the huge pot was chopped. It is strange that the hand wasn’t shown on the original broadcasts, since it really set the stage for another huge hand between the two, when Negreanu rivered a full house against Tony G.’s made Broadway straight, taking down a huge pot.
By far the most interesting evening of the week was Behind the Poker Face, where we were treated to analyses of a number of hands in which we previously hadn’t heard the thoughts of the players. One of the most interesting of theses was a hand between Barry Greenstein and Joe Cada. Greenstein had raised pre-flop on the button with , and Cada had re-raised in the small blind with pocket kings, which Greenstein called. When the flop brought Q-9-8 and Cada led out, Greenstein put in a nice-sized raise. Greenstein’s thought process was that Cada probably had a wider range of hands than normal for his pre-flop re-raise, since Greenstein is known to be very aggressive on the button. When Cada just called Greenstein’s post-flop raise, Greenstein felt that indicated that Cada DIDN’T have an overpair to the board, since he himself would have pushed all-in with that hand. When the turn brought a second diamond, the six, Greenstein decided to make a large bet, hoping to take the pot right there, but knowing he had lots of outs to draw out with on the river if Cada stayed in the hand. Greenstein was surprised to learn that Cada had the kings, and was obviously very happy that he folded to the turn bet.
Justin Bonomo provided commentary on the hand where Jason Mercier bluffed off his entire stack to him. Bonomo, who had been extremely aggressive all week, raised with and Mercier came along with . Bonomo flopped a flush, and described his thought process for the viewers. His desire was to bet big on every street, trying to build a pot and perhaps get Mercier’s stack. He made close to pot-sized bets on both the flop and turn trying to do just that. Then, when Mercier check-raised all-in on the river, he had to analyze how the hand had played out. He felt strongly that, if Mercier had the ace-high flush, he wouldn’t have just check-called both earlier bets, since there would be a good chance that Bonomo, lacking a strong hand, would have just checked behind him. As a result, he couldn’t put Mercier on the nuts, and made the big call, felting Mercier.
The biggest disappointment of the week was the evening that featured the rivalry between Tony G. and Hellmuth. Their very volatile relationship was the highlight of the first three weeks, and certainly deserved its own show. However, it would have been a much better idea to feature more extra commentary from the two giving some background of why they go at each other with such relish, and perhaps giving some history of their confrontations. The show didn’t give us any of that, but just rehashed the hands and table talk previously viewed. As a result, although it would have been good entertainment for someone who hadn’t previously seen it, it was a letdown for anyone who has followed the series from the beginning.
The last highlight of the week was Daniel Negreanu describing some of his strategy attacking the first week’s Loose Cannon, Ernest Wiggins. The commentary mainly focused on a hand where Wiggins limped in with J-9, only to have Negreanu raise (he had done so previously with a very wide range of hands) with pocket kings. Phil Laak called with small suited diamonds, as did Wiggins. When the J-9-7, with two diamonds, came on the flop, Wiggins immediately bet out, which concerned Negreanu, since Wiggins had mostly played very passively. However, he didn’t feel he could fold just yet, so he called. Then, Laak also called, and Negreanu felt that his kings were probably no good any more. However, a 10 on the turn followed by checks from his opponents shifted things for Negreanu, who realized that he could turn his hand into a bluff, since the threat of a straight was so clear. As a result, he decided to bet out, but when Wiggins called right away, he knew that Wiggins must have at least two pair.
Although Negreanu felt that a huge bet might very well push Wiggins off his hand on the river, he made it clear that he doesn’t like to bluff against amateurs with big hands, because they are much more likely to call, not thinking about what might be beating them. As a result, he just checked, allowing Wiggins to take the pot. However, Negreanu put this idea into action later on when he pushed Wiggins off a less-than premium winning hand with a huge river bluff.
As a whole, there wasn’t really enough in-depth additional material to justify an entire week of recaps of just three weeks of programming. One can only hope that the “best of” formula will be tweaked in the upcoming weeks, so that both newcomers and regular viewers can be well served by these shows. See you next time for a week of brand-new p