World Series Main Event: Slow start, except for one
As far as poker is concerned there's no flash start to grab your attention. Unlike motor sport or football or um, chess, there's no early moment that shapes the rest of the game. Instead poker has a more organic evolutionary period, rendering the first half hour uneventful as most players settle in, ready to bide their time.
That is unless you're on table 117 in seat 8. He's out of the game in a little less than ten minutes to a round of applause. "If that was your goal, to avoid going out first" said a tournament official, "then you can speed up a little." As of yet there are no signs that's happening.
The name of the player and the hand he played is pending, but the range of hands you get yourself into that position with was something up for discussion on John Duthie's table.
"What a cruel sport" he said, grinning. In an ad hoc post mortem he stated he'd only do the same with four aces or a royal flush. But some players live faster than others.
As a Team PokerStars Pro he's been active in the World Series this summer, scoring in a $1,500 event and $386,636 in the World Championship Heads-Up, where only Leo Wolpert stopped him from winning his first bracelet. Duthie knows a lot about time standing still in a poker tournament.
But in his other life, as creator of the European Poker Tour, his playing privileges were revoked, a self-inflicted wound from day one season one. He's normally the gaunt looking guy strolling the rail itching to play, like a coach pacing the touchline wishing he could pull the quarterback and get in there himself.
But in Las Vegas Duthie cuts a different jib. Wearing sporty trousers complete with rhinestone belt, comfortable shoes, a gold and silver watch contrasting nicely with his tan and windswept hair, he's a different man, one thriving in his natural environment, one of chips, cards and action.
His early dose involved Irishman John Magill, himself no stranger to the business end of a main event, having finished 12th for $1.1 million in 2006. He made it 300 from early position before, two to his left, Duthie re-raised to 1,300. Magill paid to see a flop and checked the 3♦4♥2♥. Duthie now fired out 2,100, putting a furrow in Magill's brow before he raised to 7,100. Now it was Duthie crunching up his face. The look of confusion grew deeper as he stared at the table, re-ordered his stack and rested his head in his hand.
Magill looked on. Duthie was in no hurry, something that irked the seat eight player who seemed eager to make the most of his 30k in the opening 50-100 level. He called the clock but not before Duthie folded. The main event may be a marathon not a sprint (code warning: cliché violation) and nothing is won or lost in the first level. Well, except for that guy on 117.
The greatest poker tournament in the world is working its way up to full speed. There's no leader worth noting, just a man in a Sasquatch outfit (a nod to the official sponsor), the stacks of beef jerky he brought with him, and a native American in full battle dress. Not to mention a room full of players living the dream. They're at least one player closer to that now.
QUOTE OF THE HOUR
"Let's go T-Bone!" -- Railbird to Jason Alexander
HAND OF THE HOUR - FORTIN FOLDS ACES
If you get knocked out first, there's a hullaballoo, as described above. If you get knocked out second, no one really notices -- except perhaps the Danish pro Jonas Klausen and the PokerStars qualifier Patrick Fortin, who were also in this three-way pot.
There was at least 7,000 in the middle when the dealer dealt a flop of 7♥4♥4♣ and some more went in before an unknown player, soon to become the "second man out" bet 7,500. Fortin at this point got out of the way, but Klausen moved all in for about 20,000 more. Our unknown victim thought a while before calling, but his 3♦4♦ was way behind Klausen's 7♣7♦. Klausen was obviously delighted, but it was mixed feelings for Fortin, who immediately announced that he had folded aces. It's great to get them at any stage in the tournament, but getting them cracked stinks. Making a very shrewd laydown must rate somewhere in the middle -- something Fortin will now know all about.
Fortin, from Canada, won his seat in a $650 satellite, where 25 packages were guaranteed. He's obviously lost a small chunk of his starting stack, but must be happy to know his radar is working well.