EPT10 Barcelona: Feeling exposed
With 17 players left, all three remaining tables are short-handed, two with six players and the other with five. The five-handed table is situated out in front of the main stage, and with other tables cleared out there's lots of space for reporters and cameramen to fill as they closely follow each successive hand.
Happenstance has provided that the three empty seats at the five-handed table are all on one side, with the players -- Anaras Alekberovas, Madis Müür, Alejandro Perez, Kimmo Kurko, and Stefan Kolossow -- all sitting side-by-side in seats one through five.
They seem somehow closer together than they should be, as though protecting themselves from the gathering herd around them. We know better, of course, as each fights alone, his tourney survival threatened directly by the other four.
Most hands pass by innocuously, a preflop raise or perhaps a three-bet usually enough to claim a handful of chips. Everyone is fully engaged, however, with all five generally involved in multiple hands per orbit.
Such is the nature of short-handed play. Everyone is conspicuous, even more so now as the tournament as a whole is hurtling toward the endgame.
That sense of exposure is heightened by the large gap on one side, particularly when a hand proceeds beyond the flop and the circling media quickly move to fill that space, led by the lead camera with its unflinching gaze.
We were among those filling that gap just now, watching in particular the table's short stack, Jiminez, for whom the feeling of vulnerability was most intense.
His big blind arriving, he was awarded with a walk when his neighbor, Müür, after being folded to flashed his J♠3♥ and tossed the cards away with a shrug. The Spaniard exhaled, bided his time for another orbit, then when back in the small blind watched as Alekberovas opened with a min-raise to 100,000 from under the gun.
Jiminez checked his hand and sat with his head bowed for a moment. Then he pushed his stack of just over 700,000 all in.
It folded back to Alekberovas. Now it was the Lithuanian who appeared exposed. Vulnerable, even, despite having twice Jiminez's chips behind.
At last Alekberovas called, tabling K♠J♦, and when Jiminez showed his [10s]8♠ he seemed to shrink in the chair as if to indicate gesturally the relative strength of his hand.
He sat up, however, when the flop came eight-high, swinging the lead his way and causing Alekberovas to blink slowly a wordless message of disappointment. By fifth street Jiminez was still best, and now Alekberovas was the table's short stack, the one in peril, the vulnerable one.
This was the hand Stephen Bartley just mentioned as a possible "unravel" for Alekberovas. Whether it is or is not remains to be seen.
And whatever happens, it will be seen.
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Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.