PCA 2014: Super High Rollers back on track after day two crawl and stall

Long days are an occupational hazard for anyone involved with poker. But there are long days and then there are long days--and then there are long days on which you write a 1,500 word post in which you confidently predict a short day and then have to sit in the middle of a row of PokerStars Blog reporters silently (and then not-so-silently) aiming daggers in your direction.

Those kinds of days are the longest.

So it was yesterday when the race to get down to a final table of the $100,000 Super High Roller event slowed from being a sprint to a saunter to a crawl to a stall. With some confidence, Mike Ward, the tournament director, had predicted the final eight would be reached in level 17. But with nine players still left, we moved into level 18. Then the same nine were there when we went to level 19 and, like the kind of amplifier Spinal Tap could only dream of, it nearly went all the way to 20.


The final two tables of the Super High Roller. It would take hours to get down to the final eight players

Several hours earlier, Ward and I had chatted for a long time as he explained his formula for determining the length of days at poker tournaments. I was utterly persuaded. The problem was that when I wrote up the piece I did not mention a few of the digressions the conversation took, during which we discussed the exceptions to the rules.

The bubble, for instance, can often skew an otherwise precise calculation, as can the presence of a number of determined short stacks. Ward had said, in fact, that perhaps the single most disruptive factor in calculating the length of a poker tournament is a short-stack resurgence, particularly in a no limit game.

When you add to this a couple of big stacks willing and able to prolong the bubble period as long as they can, in order to punish a reluctance of the medium-size stacks to jeopardise their tournament, then things can really drag on. Inexperienced players, for whom a min-cash represents a triumph, can also slow things down.

During the late stages last night, we therefore witnessed something of the perfect storm. Only eight places paid in the tournament, but they were playing nine-handed for the only time in the event. Vanessa Selbst and Antonio Esfandiari had big stacks and were always willing to put the medium stacks to the test, as any chip-leaders should.


The eventual line-up of the final table: (l-r) Tony Gregg, Dan Shak, Antonio Esfandiari, Vanessa Selbst, Ole Schemion, Matt Glantz, Fabian Quoss

However the medium stacks, marshalled by the experienced likes of Fabian Quoss, Dan Shak, Matt Glantz and Mike McDonald, were going nowhere. Each player knew that to go broke with a speculative hand would have been ICM suicide, particularly when they looked at the desperate state of short stacks.

Tony Gregg and Ole Schemion, who were nursing only a few big blinds between them, had absolutely no inclination to get their money in, mainly because they had marginally more chips than the table's only truly recreational player, Paul Newey.


Tony Gregg: No fun clinging on with a short stack

Newey's presence was the real wildcard. The financier from the United Kingdom is a regular in the biggest games, opting to invest vast chunks of his estimated £230m personal fortune at the poker felt as he learns the game from the best. In common with a few other fiercely successful and competitive businessmen (Guy Laliberte, Talal Shakerchi, etc.), Newey wants to play for stakes that mean something to him, and is willing to speculate to accumulate the knowledge.

As yet, Newey hasn't had his breakthrough at the poker tables despite playing Super High Roller tournaments across the globe. He has only one recorded tournament score, here at the PCA last year, when he came seventh in a $2,000 turbo bounty event.

Last night, he could surely scent some kind of vindication.

Having seen off all but eight of the best players in the world, Newey seemed set for the first meaningful cash of his career. He was content to fold pretty much every single hand and pray that someone else took the fall. Stasis ensued.


Paul Newey: finished one spot short of vindication

As you can see on the live reporting page (click on the drop-down that says "Latest updates" and select "All Day 2"), the tournament reached the absurd point last night where there were two players -- Newey and McDonald -- with less than one big blind each. Eventually they were forced all in and both were knocked out, losing to Quoss.

This not only ended the long slowdown but also proved one of Ward's other truisms, that the blinds will always catch up in the end. Ward had been adamant that every time a poker tournament either runs ahead or lags behind schedule, that a period of equalisation will swiftly follow.

If you revert back to today's live action coverage, you'll see how it took precisely two hands today to lose another two players. Gregg and Schemion went out to Quoss, taking his tally to four scalps in a total of three hands. It cannot have happened before.


Tony Gregg and Ole Schemion eliminated on the same hand

With Matt Glantz and Antonio Esfandiari following shortly thereafter, the tournament went into level 21 three handed. And if we look at Ward's formula -- Total Chips In Play / (Big Blind * 35) -- we had totally caught up again.

Our coverage of the 2014 PCA is comprehensive on PokerStars Blog, and it is simple to follow. The PCA 2014 Main Event page has a box at the top in which you'll find hand-by-hand coverage and chip counts after the action commences at noon. Below that are feature pieces, interviews and analysis updated throughout the day.

You can keep tabs in a similar fashion on the $100,000 Super High Roller page, which today plays to a winner. That tournament, headlined by Vanessa Selbst, will also be the focus of PCA Live.


Ole Schemion's skateboard. It's really the only way to get to work