EPT11 Malta: No delay as Sergio Aido flies up the leader board
Once again in recent weeks, the issue of tanking in poker has been much discussed and Dan Smith, the American pro, managed to summarise one reasonable line in the argument in an efficient tweet: "It's not that hard. If you play quickly during the trivial decisions, people won't mind if you tank during a big/tricky spot."
I'm willing to bet that nobody has ever called the clock on Sergio Aido. The Spanish player, who now lives in London and can claim a UKIPT title on his resume, is one of the quickest I've ever seen.
He clearly takes at face value what many of the anti-tanking lobby insists is the only way to do it: whenever he makes a play, he seems to know exactly what he's intending to do in response to an opponent's subsequent move. It means that often Aido puts out a bet and then folds and/or calls or re-raises immediately when faced with a raise.
It also means that on the rare occasions that Aido goes into the tank, his opponents wouldn't dare call time on him. He has earned the right to take a long as he likes in some crucial spots, having saved everybody bags of time on all the other occasions.
Aido did recently go into the tank. It was during an orbit shortly after Sam Chartier was moved to his immediate left, which meant that two of the three tournament chip leaders were sitting next to one another. Chartier brought about 730,000 to the table; Aido was sitting with 700,000. "A blind-on-blind battle between you two could be interesting," Steven Watts, sitting one seat further along, said.
It seemed worthwhile hanging around to see how the two big stacks would go about sizing one another up, particularly since Manuel Zapf was the other side of the Chartier/Aido axis, with close to 500,000 himself.
The full table looked like this:
Seat 1 - Steven Watts, 140,000
Seat 2 - Ivan Gabrieli, 152,000
Seat 3 - Noah Vaillancourt, 430,000
Seat 4 - empty (filled later by Julien Duveau, 345,000)
Seat 5 - Dmitry Kataev, 300,000
Seat 6 - Manuel Zapf, 480,000
Seat 7 - Sergio Aido, 700,000
Seat 8 - Sam Chartier, 730,000
Although my notebook has details of all of the next eight hands, we'll cut to the chase and focus on the big moments, or those that maybe had a bearing on what was to come. On one of the first hands after Chartier sat down, Aido was in the big blind and it was folded around to Zapf in the small. He limped, Aido checked, and this cheap flop came T♦T♠8♦. The both checked, Zapf by patting his arm, Aido by tapping his index finger on the table.
The Q♦ came on the turn and the very second Zapf put a couple of chips over the betting line, Aido mucked his cards. Not a nanosecond was wasted.
A few hands later, Chartier was on the button and Aido had the temerity to open to 12,000 from the cut off. Chartier called, but then Watts, in the small blind, announced that he was all in. Aido instantly mucked again, but Chartier wanted a count. "One twenty?" Watts said, peering round the dealer, and she quickly confirmed it was more or less accurate.
Chartier called, but his 7♥7♣ didn't beat Watts's Q♠Q♣ and Aido was now the table chip leader.
With the button in front of Watts on the next hand, Aido tried again from the hijack, raising to 12,800. Noah Vaillancourt called from from the big blind and those two saw a flop of 2♠3♠9♣. Vaillancourt checked, Aido bet 18,000 and Vaillancourt called.
They both checked the J♠ turn, and when Vaillancourt bet 35,000 at the 8♥ river, Aido again instantly folded.
Chartier took the next pot from Ivan Gabrieli, hitting an ace to match his A♦4♦ and getting two streets of value. (They checked the river after Gabrieli had called bets on flop and turn.) But then finally came a hand between the two table bosses, which resulted in a huge swing to Aido.
Aido opened to 12,500 from middle position. It was the third time he had opened a pot, but had not won one yet this orbit. Chartier, relishing having position on Aido, made it 31,000 to play. Everyone else folded, but Aido called and they went to a flop of 2♠6♠J♣. Aido checked and Chartier bet 36,000. But here's where the established pattern changed.
Aido didn't instantly fold. He pondered for what for him was an eternity. He dwelled and dwelled, but then reached forward and slid out a complete tower of blue chips, worth 100,000, and representing a pretty hefty check-raise.
Chartier took his own time too, but called, and they saw a A♣ on the turn. Aido now had a game plan and took less than 30 seconds to bet 135,000. Chartier, chastened, folded.
Aido moved his stack beyond 800,000 as Chartier was pegged back to about 450,000. The table dynamic there is fascinating, and they will be seeing more hands per hour than anyone else in the room.
There is also likely to be a real surge in interest in this event from the Iberian peninsula as the Spanish are beginning to take command. In addition to Aido, Javier Gomez Zapatero has become the first player in the room to break through the million chip mark, leaving it a Spanish one-two at the top of the charts. Javier Rodriguez has close to 600,000 too. Could we finally be crowning a first Spanish champion on the EPT?
Follow all the action from EPT Malta on the main EPT Malta page. There's action from the Main Event on the Main Event page, and information from the Italian Poker Tour event on the IPT page. It's also about time you downloaded the EPT App, available on both Android or IOS.