World Series 2008: The professionals

Earlier today a media release came around to all World Series reporters describing the tournament in numbers: 124 countries represented at the Main Event, 39 years the World Series has existed, 7,000 hours of footage taped by the television crews, that kind of thing.

The final statistic read "6 - The number of years in a row an amateur has won the Main Event", referring, of course, to Jerry Yang, Jamie Gold, Joe Hachem, Greg Raymer, Chris Moneymaker and Robert Varkonyi, all of whom took down the Big Dance while moonlighting around the poker tables from another registered occupation--chiropractor, patent attorney and accountant for the three Team PokerStars Pros, for example.

It'll be interesting, though, to see how the media categorises either Peter Eastgate or Ivan Demidov, whichever of them takes away the first prize tonight. The term "poker professional" has grown to mean something different than just someone who makes their main income from the game. When the mainstream refers to a "poker professional" they're usually implying someone they see regularly on their television screens; some sources refer more accurately to so-called "named pros" meaning those prominent faces on the poker circuit.

This is worth considering in tonight's context because Demidov and Eastgate are, without question, poker professionals in the strictest sense of the word. Both carve out a very nice income playing online at PokerStars, occasionally supplementing this with their successful forays onto the live tournament circuit. And yet before the Main Event here, neither of them would have been recognised in any poker room across the world--indeed even today, I spotted Eastgate strolling untroubled through the Rio not six hours before he would be taking his seat on this hugest of stages.


These two are therefore obvious representatives of the new breed of poker professional, characterised by their intense application to the game, willingness to put in the hours, to study strategy and tactics and now to reap the rewards. It's also notable how professional each of these guys has been in their table etiquette and their exceptional manners in both victory and defeat. A wince is about the most dismay either has shown, a small fist pump, and a grateful gaze to the heavens about the limits of their celebrations.

Whenever this ends -- and it may be a good few hours yet -- one of them will instantly become a "named pro" as well as just an "online pro" or a "pro's pro" or however else they will be categorised in tomorrow's papers. But don't expect any bouncing around the room, whooping and hollering. My bets is on a gentleman's handshake, probably an emotional hug and, finally, a huge smile.

Anything else just wouldn't be professional.

We didn't get much closer to deciding who would be the winner in the past hour.

In the most entertaining hand of the hour, Eastgate came in for a raise to 2 million total and Demidov called. The flop came 8h-8c-5c. Both players checked. The As came on the turn. Demidov checked again and Eastgate bet out 2.25 million. Demidov called. The river brought rhe 4d. Both players checked.

Demidov shook his head and didn't want to turn over his hand. He finally announced, "Jack-high" Eastgate cocked his head for a second and turned over a queen, good enough to out-pip Demidov by one and take the chips.

"That's a big pot for no pair," TD Jack Effel said.


That showdown was one of few we've seen.

In other action, Demidov raised to 1,625,000 more than the 800,000 big blind and Eastgate called. The flop fell 4h-J-s-2h. Demidov confidently bet 3,125,000. Eastgate counted out his checks and called the bet. The turn was the Jc. This time, Demodov didn't seem nearly as confident and checked. When Eastgate pushed out 5,675,000, Demidov wasted little time before mucking.

That is the kind of action we're watching at this hour. While turns and rivers present themselves on a regular basis, it's rare to see the players' hole cards. For instance, in a recent hand, Demidov raised to 2 million and Eastgate called. The flop came Jc-7h-3h. Both players checked. On the 8h turn, Eastgate led for 2.5 million. Demidov thought for a moment and made it 7.5 million. Eastgate mucked.

While everyone knows it will only take one cooler to end this thing, these players are playing a long-haul game and show no signs of careless play. it took this hand to inspire the biggest pot of the hour.

The players saw a cheap flop of 5d-7h-4d. Demidov checked to Eastgate. The Dane bet out 1,150,000 only to be cheack-raised to 2,125,000. Looking mildly frustrated, Eastgate grabbed his chips and called. The turn came the 8h. Once against Demidov checked and let Eastgate bet 4,250,000. What's that? Yes, another check-raise from Demidov, now to 14 million total. Now it was Eastgate's time to think. He bit his lower lip and let his eyes settle on the Russian. Finally, he swallowed once and made the call. The river was the 3d. Surprisingly, both players checked. Demidov showed 6c-8c for the flopped straight. Eastgate showed 6h-4c for the turned straight. The monster pot got chopped up and on we played.

While you're waiting for the next update, check out this video blog shot tonight as Demidov talked about his chances tonight.

Watch WSOP Final Table: Ivan Pre HU Interview on

Howard Swains
@howardswains in World Series of Poker