ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 World Series of Poker continued tonight with the Tournament of Champions. In a sense, this was the perfect event for the network to shoot, as it was a collection of 27 of the best-known players in the world, largely chosen in an online popularity contest conducted on the WSOP web site. With only the most familiar faces seated at the tables, ESPN figured to have a much easier time setting the scene. Here’s how the telecast played out:
Commentators Lon McEachern and Norman Chad framed the event as poker’s all-star game, but just as with The Poker Players’ Championship last week, we only got to see the combatants at the final table, which began with 10 players, who, in order of chip stack size, were Daniel Negreanu, Johnny Chan, Joe Hachem, Huck Seed, Howard Lederer, Barry Greenstein, Jen Harman, TJ Cloutier, Erik Seidel, and Annie Duke. The commentators focused on some alleged bad blood at the table, between Harman and Duke, Negreanu and Duke, and Negreanu and Lederer, as well as the “sibling rivalry” between brother and sister Lederer and Duke, since Duke has eliminated her big brother in four separate WSOP tourneys while Lederer has never returned the favor.
In an early hand that could have changed the outcome dramatically, Chan, with the blinds at 1,000-2,000-300, raised to 5,000 with pocket eights. Harman called with a pair of jacks, but Hachem woke up with pocket aces in the big blind, and decided to three-bet to 20,000. Chan elected to call, which caused Harman to fold. This decision turned out to be crucial, as the flop fell J-9-5! Hachem’s post-flop bet took the pot down, and Harman was left wondering “What if?”
The first player eliminated was Erik Seidel, who pushed his short stack all-in with Q-8, only to run into Harman’s pocket aces. Harman hit a full house on a flop of K-A-K, but both the ace and one of the kings were clubs, and when the jack of clubs came on the turn, Seidel surprisingly still had one out to a royal flush to survive. But the on the river sealed his fate, and he was eliminated as the one player at the final table not to cash.
Cloutier went out in 9th place. Negreanu raised to 4,800 with K-10, which Cloutier called on the button with , as did Duke in the big blind with . Each of them hit a piece of the K-5-J flop, and Duke and Negreanu checked to Cloutier, who bet 12,000. Duke folded, but Negreanu called. The turn was the , and Negreanu put Cloutier all-in. Cloutier called, but the river was a harmless 7, and Cloutier was eliminated.
Negreanu was the chip leader, but not for long, as he ran into three heads-up encounters with Chan. In the first, Chan was on the button with the mystery wild card hand, and raised to 6,000. Daniel made it 20,000 in the small blind with A-Q and Chan called. The flop brought K-8-7, with two clubs, and both checked. Negreanu also checked the on the turn, but Chan bet out 30,000, which Negreanu called. The river was the , and Negreanu checked once again. Chan bet 60,000, and Negreanu reluctantly folded. Chan showed the cameras pocket aces.
The second hand also had Chan on the button, and he raised to 6,000 with J-9, which Negreanu called in the small blind with . Both checked the flop of 5-8-6, and Negreanu also checked the turn, which was a queen. Chan tried a stab at the pot with a bet of 12,000, which Negreanu just called. When an ace came on the river, Negreanu checked once more, but when Chan bet 25,000, Negreanu lamented that Chan had probably caught him on the river, and folded the best hand.
The third confrontation saw Chan raise to 8,000 in the cutoff with pocket threes, which Negreanu called on the button with K-Q. Chan made what looked like a continuation bet of 15,000 on a flop of 5-4-3, and Negreanu, clearly getting a bit frustrated, decided to raise to 35,000 with two over cards to the board. But Chan’s all-in push ended things quickly, and continued Negreanu’s freefall.
Annie Duke went out in 8th place in an ugly hand against Greenstein. She pushed all-in with , and Greenstein went over the top with . The flop was 3-2-8 rainbow and the turn of the put a second diamond on the board, leaving Greenstein just two outs, which made the river of the that much more painful, as Duke, who as commentator Chad noted, had a sour look on her face all night long and looked “like a court order had forced her to play,” made her exit.
Harman was the next to leave, as she pushed all-in after seeing her first card, an ace. Greenstein called in the big blind with pocket kings, and Harman saw that her second card was a lowly four. She got some help from the J-4-6 flop, but didn’t improve anymore, as the turn and river brought another jack and a 5, and Harman was out in 7th place.
Negreanu’s nightmare ride continued as the blinds went up to 2,000-4,000-500. Hachem min-raised to 8,000 with Q-9, which brought three other players with him, Chan with pocket eights, Negreanu with Q-J and Seed with . The flop of 7-4-J rainbow gave Negreanu top pair, and Seed and Hachem checked to Chan, who bet 12,000. Negreanu called, as did Seed, with just a gutshot straight draw. The on the turn made things much more interesting for Seed, who now had a double belly-buster AND a flush draw. Both he and Chan checked, and this time Negreanu led out for 20,000 into the 73,000 chip pot. Seed called, as Chan got out of the way. When the hit the river, Seed immediately went all-in for his last 41,500 chips with his made straight. Negreanu couldn’t imagine that Seed was bluffing, and folded, giving Seed the huge pot, and making Negreanu the short stack at the table.
Negreanu went out shortly after, as he min-raised to 8,000 with pocket aces. Hachem called in the small blind with a pair of fives, which quickly became a set on the 2-6-5 flop. Hachem checked, Negreanu bet 10,000, Hachem raised to 25,000, Negreanu pushed, and Hachem called. The 3 and 10 on the turn and river were no help to Negreanu, and he left in 6th place.
Greenstein was the next player to depart. With the blinds at 3,000-6,000-500, he raised to 15,000 with . Lederer called with , and the two saw a flop of 8-A
-2, with two hearts. Greenstein, with flush and straight chances, bet 20,000, only to have Lederer put him all-in. Greenstein called, but couldn’t catch any of his hands when the 10 and 7 of diamonds finished the board. Greenstein went out in 5th place, leaving Lederer an autographed copy of Ace on the River, as is his custom.
Hachem had been severely crippled when Lederer rivered a flush against him, and saw his stack dwindling while the blinds continued to accelerate. When Lederer raised to 17,000 with pocket eights, Hachem put in a three-bet to 49,000 with A-8. But Lederer then raised enough to put Hachem all-in, and the board ran out a harmless 9-5-5-J-J to eliminate Hachem in 4th place.
With play three-handed, Chan led the way with 360,000 chips, with Lederer close behind with 337,000 and Seed trailing with 113,000. Seed pushed all-in with A-9 in the small blind, and Lederer called with pocket fives. Seed was on the ropes as the flop came out 3-7-4 and the turn brought a king, but he found the ace he needed on the river to double up to 227,000.
In a critical hand, with the blinds at 6,000-12,000-1,000, Chan limped on the button with K-Q, and Seed made it 46,000 with pocket sevens, which Chan called. The flop of 9-7-K put Chan in a world of trouble, and after Seed led with a bet of 47,000, Chan pushed all-in. Naturally, Seed called, and his hand held up to win a 419,000 pot and put a big dent in Chan’s stack.
Most of the rest of Chan’s chips went to Lederer in another huge pot, that began with Chan raising to 30,000 with , with Lederer calling with . The flop brought 10-6-4, with one of each player’s suit, and both checked. The on the turn gave Lederer the lead, but Chan was left with a royal flush draw and a huge number of outs. Lederer checked, and Chan bet 45,000. Lederer then pushed all-in and Chan decided he had to gamble. The river was the and Lederer took down a 415,000 chip pot, and then put Chan all-in when Chan was down to less than 50,000 chips. Lederer had and Chan had to call with 7-5 off suit. The flop of J-6-8 made things interesting, but the ace on the turn and the deuce on the river eliminated Chan in 3rd place, leaving Lederer with about a 4:3 chip lead going into heads-up play.
The hand that basically decided the tournament began with a raise to 40,000 from Lederer with pocket tens that elicited a call from Seed with . Seed checked the 6-5-3 rainbow flop, and Lederer bet 60,000. Seed went all-in and Lederer called with his over pair. The 8 on the turn gave Seed some more outs, and the 7 on the river gave him a straight as a 4:1 underdog, snatching the victory away from Lederer, and giving Seed a lead of 670,000 to 140,000.
It ended soon after, as Lederer put all his chips in the middle with and Seed called with . The board ran out 6-6-7-9-A, and Seed, previously the WSOP Main Event champion, and the National Heads-Up Champion, added the Tournament of Champions title to his resume, along with the $500,000 first prize. See you next week!