EPT9 London Day 3: Ashton the fall guy as hour long bubble finally bursts
We've been spoiled by bubbles this season. We didn't realise it until today, but we have. In Deauville the bubble was brief, as it was in Prague. In fact no bubble has really stretched to inconvenient lengths this season. That is until today. The bubble at EPT London has burst, and good riddance to it.
It started in the first level of the day. The pace of play was quick, and the main event was down to just 100 players with more than half an hour remaining. It looked to most like we would be bubble-wrapped before the break.
On the bubble
With six minutes until the end of the level the clock was stopped. With 97 players remaining there would be time for two hand-for-hands. On more than one occasion this season players have returned from this same break only to find that they'd made the money. A good break by anyone's reckoning. Was London about to be another?
No. No it wasn't.
Looking back through my bubble notes so much becomes irrelevant, written down to be used in the event of a swift departure. So there's no point in harking back to Wahid Bou-Habibs weird hand, or Jason Mercier's iPad Chinese, or the reaction of even experienced players when finding themselves in a hand against Viktor Blom. It was all so long ago I can't remember.
But here are the basics.
Mercier "bubbled-up", as did others hidden behind great walls of players and press. It was made all the more congested for the three cash tables running alongside the tournament which kept space to a minimum. All you could do is stand where nobody else was and wait it out.
The hopes of everyone seemed to rest on Matthew Ashton, the short stack by some way. He was holding onto a mere handful of chips. Bubbles mean nothing if you don't survive them and Ashton knew this. That was why he refused to do anything with his eight chips - his 8,000.
But this could only last for so long, or so said the players who, out of their seats looking for the short stacks, took peculiar comfort in Ashton's plight. But still they would have to wait.
Soon Ashton was even shorter, as Ian Simpson reported back to his table: "There's a guy over there with 7,000," he said. "Seven chips! He's banging them up and down."
By now an hour had passed. On the table alongside the featured one Carlo Citrone shoved with ace-king but chopped it when his opponent called with the same.
Jeff Sarwer was on his rounds and had also spotted Ashton. But how was his campaign going?
"Terrible," he said, laughing, admitting that playing the short stack on TV and relentlessly folding was a new experience for him. "I can learn from it!" he said. There walks the most optimistic poker player in the game.
Minutes later it was finally over, with 19 minutes left on the clock in what was a 90 minute level. Ashton had finally cracked, the pot so small it didn't even get announced. Maybe it hadn't been spotted. Ashton just got up and left, stopping short of apologising for keeping everyone waiting.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter