APPT Cebu: A level with the leader

Poker being what it is, the well-known professionals are not always the players with the big stacks in the late stages of a poker tournament. In fact, poker being what it is, they're not even often the big stacks.

The rub is that unheralded players get some exposure and a chance to shine when they run deep with the big stack. Today that player is Amit Varma, and as an experiment in exposure I decided to spend a level watching him play. His 7-handed table squeezed out 24 hands during the hour.

Amit arrived this morning in a black zip-up hoodie and carrying a double styrofoam cup of coffee. He spent the first five hands of the day, from the big blind position through to the hijack, alternating sipping his coffee and folding his cards. He watched the action with the intense gaze of a very interested observer but didn't say a word.


Finally, on Hand 6, he opened from middle position to 7,000. He re-checked his cards one time after tossing the raise in, but it didn't matter what he had. Everyone else passed. The next hand he set his now empty coffee cup down on a side table and went back to folding. He folded three more hands until the button came back to him.

Everyone folded to his button on Hand 10. He opened to 8,500 (the level had just gone up) and was rewarded with two folds from the blinds.

Hand 12 provided more action and showed that perhaps Amit was ready to start wielding his stack after some early nerves and hesitancy. He opened the hijack to 8,500 and was faced with a minor decision when big blind and tournament short stack Kitty Kuo three-bet shoved for 40,500. Amit decided to gamble with pocket deuces but lost a flip when Kitty's A♥9♠ paired nines on the turn.

"You can afford it," said Nicholas Wong. Finally, Amit cracked a smile. He offered a few friendly words to Kitty. Tournament Director Danny McDonagh came by the table and announced that Kitty had doubled, "...courtesy of the leader. He's a very nice person. Are you going to be nice to others?" Danny asked Amit. Amit smiled again and shook his head no.

Four more folds brought the table to Hand 17, in which the active Jacky Wang opened the cutoff to 8,500. Amit called from the button, then called bets of 9,000, 13,500, and 19,000 on a Q♥6♦9♥[10h]K♣ board. Jacky called a pair of 10s at showdown; Amit opened A♥J♠ for a Broadway straight and his first significant pot of the day. He began to bounce his knee, ever so slightly, beneath the table.

The bouncing stopped just two hands later when his open to 8,500 was called in two spots and Kitty Kuo then check-raise shoved on his continuation bet. Amit didn't even ask for a count before he folded.

Cue up five more folds to complete the 24 hands.

It's hard to get much of a sense of Amit's play from such a limited sample size. One thing we can probably divine, however, is that he's not going to be the type of chip leader to put massive amounts of pressure on his opponents. That could open things up for Jacky Wang to do some damage at their table before it breaks.

Dave Behr
@PokerStars in Day 3