WSOP Diary Day 32: Bracelets only: Door policy tightens for ToC

wsop2010_thn.jpgThere's enough deception inherent in poker to ensure tournament organisers play it pretty straight when issuing official information. A six-max event has six players per table, nothing sinister about that, and the "eight game" event has eight games in it. Do keep up.

Yesterday at the Rio, all the chatter was about the Tournament of Champions (ToC), which got under way at noon. Even the slowest among us can probably discern the door policy for this event: champions only please. Runners-up and also rans are not on the list.

The Las Vegas Sun described the Tournament of Champions as "poker's version of an All-Star Game" and that's pretty much on the money. This is not an official World Series event and no bracelet will be issued to the winner. Furthermore, it's a freeroll, meaning all it will cost is the players' time. That said the first prize is $500,000, with the final nine all being paid, and there is a massive amount of pride riding on the outcome.


Joe Hachem and Doyle Brunson at Tournament of Champions

This exclusive VIP area could seat only 27 players, and with a couple of notable exceptions, it was the poker-watching public who got to determine who they wanted to see. The World Series organised a ballot of the 512 living World Series bracelet holders and invited anyone who cared to register their vote. Tens of thousands had their say.

Team PokerStars Pro is packed with champions, so it surprised no one that four players wearing the familiar livery were voted into the tournament. Daniel Negreanu earned more than 10,000 votes in the ballot, and he was joined by Barry Greenstein, Greg Raymer and Joe Hachem. But it didn't end there. Joe Cada received an exemption as the reigning Main Event champion, and Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier snaffled the last spot in a satellite play-off last week.


Joe Cada: Reigning champion in the Tournament of Champions

Not coincidentally, the tournament began on a Sunday, when most casual poker observers were in town and looking for a glimpse of the heroes they had cast their vote to see. The three starting tables were arranged on the featured table stages in three corners of the Amazon Room, allowing media and spectators a perfect view of any of them as they drifted this way and that.

On the main television stage, the action was also being filmed for broadcast on ESPN, and action was going out live on the internet - a policy for poker coverage pioneered by EPT Live on the European Poker Tour. That meant that online observers could watch alongside the punters at the Rio, who packed the bleachers and stood three-deep at the raised "lounge" above the stage.


ElkY at Tournament of Champions

After Greg Raymer, Barry Schulman and Sam Farha all busted in quick succession from one table, Scotty Nguyen was chosen at random to move from the television table to fill one of their empty seats. That meant a two-minute walk from one side of the Amazon Room to the other - 98 paces, three barriers and two autograph hunters to navigate along the way. "Bye baby!" Nguyen signed off as he exited one stage. "Yeah baby!" he greeted the other.

Play lasted four one-hour levels, allowing those players also involved in the other tournaments the chance to resume the bracelet hunt there. At the end of the four hours, five players had departed, leaving 22 to resume today. Greenstein is third overall (with 56,775), Hachem is fourth (55,650), ElkY seventh (51,575) and Negreanu 11th (36,125).


Barry Greenstein

Joe Cada has some work to do, sitting in 21st, while there's no way back for Raymer. His flush draw didn't get there against Mike Matusow's flopped two pair and Fossilman's wretched World Series continued.

The Tournament of Champions resumes at noon today, and the final is scheduled for July 4.



In the first two hours of play, I only saw Thomas Bichon's cards twice. First up, he showed down top pair tens to oust Stephen Chidwick, who had shoved his short stack in behind a pair of eights. And then he extracted the maximum out of Sam Trickett when he turned a set of fives. (Bichon bet 110,000 on the river, with the board showing 3♦Q♥2♦5♠8♦. Trickett call/mucked when Bichon tabled 5♦5♥.)

But the vast majority of Bichon's chips came from his bullying tactics, steaming up the leaderboard from an overnight 265,000 to more than a million in a couple of hours.


Thomas Bichon

Shortly after they went down to two tables, Bichon got involved in a pot with Michael Goldfarb, where the French Team PokerStars Pro flexed his muscles in characteristic fashion. Bichon raised to 62,000 from early position (blinds at 12,000-24,000) and Goldfarb called in the big blind. The flop came A♦A♠6♥.

Goldfarb checked, Bichon bet 62,000 and Goldfarb made it 100,000 more. Bichon asked for a count, found out that his opponent had about 300,000 more, and duly announced that he was all in. Goldfarb anguished but folded. Bichon added another 200,000+ to his stack.

As can so often be the case, however, living by the sword can mean dying by it too. With 11 players remaining, and everyone angling for the final table, Bichon got involved in a pre-flop raising war with the then-chip-leader Kevin Odell. Once the smoke had cleared on a hand that went raise (from Ray Coburn), call (from Bichon), raise (from Odell), call (from Coburn), shove (from Bichon), call (from Odell), fold (from Coburn), the two remaining players were racing.

Bichon: A♣K♥
Odell: Q♠Q♦

The board tripped up Odell when it fell 8♦J♣Q♥ and although Bichon now had outs to the straight, they missed and Bichon's comeback charge was halted. He took $41,725 for 11th place.



The $2,500 mixed game played through another eight confusing levels. This discipline tests players in 2-7 triple draw, limit hold 'em, Omaha eight, razz, stud, stud eight, no limit hold 'em and pot limit Omaha and is, as such, a complete real strain on players, dealers and reporters alike.

Although Michael Keiner and Luca Pagano couldn't survive the buffeting, Team PokerStars Pro is still well represented in the late stages. Jose "Nacho" Barbero, Alex Kravchenko, Dario Minieri and Bill Chen are all nestle among the 21 players returning to play through day three today.


Jose "Nacho" Barbero

Dario Minieri

They're scheduled to play to a winner - and that's going to be a long, long night.

The latest $1,000 no limit hold 'em event attracted another 3,128 players to the Rio, spread over two days. They contributed to another monstrous prize pool, where the winner will earn $485,791.

The Hungarian Team PokerStars Pro Richard Toth prospered on day 1B, finishing with 42,875, which is comfortably in the top 20. And there was also another big name making a rare appearance in this year's World Series: Chris Moneymaker came out to play.


Chris Moneymaker

Moneymaker can look around these monstrous World Series fields and justly claim that he is largely responsible for them. The poker boom ignited shortly after Moneymaker's sensational victory in the 2003 Main Event after qualifying on PokerStars, and every recreational player still dreams of being the man from Tennessee.

Moneymaker has taken it easy in this World Series so far, making only fleeting appearances. But he had on his game face for event 47, and finished with 41,125, which is in the top spots too.



Michael Binger spent the early levels of day 1B of the $1,000 NLHE tournament reading a book entitled: "Crisis Economics". Make of that what you will.



In a new series, we (gently) quiz a Team Pro on their World Series. It's really just an excuse to use the headline Team PokerStars Probe. First up, Gavin Griffin.

Name: Gavin Griffin
Age: 28
Hometown: Orange County, CA


Gavin Griffin

Poker experience: Been playing since I was 20; for a living since I was 21
Main game: Live: Limit hold 'em. Online: Tournaments
Proudest achievement: I'm getting married in a month. That'll be my proudest achievement. I never thought I'd get married.
Describe your style in one sentence: Oh boy. Unique. Efficient. In this Series, I've been very efficient.
Describe your World Series so far: An absolute disaster. I've made one day two and one other dinner break, from 17 tournaments. That's what I mean by "efficient".
Ambition for the rest of the Series: For it not to be a disaster. I'll take it if I end the series even. I'd be ecstatic.

I wish a poker journalist would ask me this question: Hmm. I gotta be a smartass for this one. Pause. (At this point, Griffin's friend Jerrod Ankenman interjected: "How about 'How do you feel now that you've won this tournament and salvaged your Series?'") Yeah, that's it.
I would answer: Pretty happy.

Away from poker, I...: Spend a lot of time with my fiancee and my myriad animals. I have three cats, one dog and two turtles.



@RealKidPoker (Daniel Negreanu) stays active in the Tournament of Champions:

Tweet one: "38,350 so far feel like I'm in complete control despite folding two winners so far. This is like time machine old school poker."
Tweet two: "Ended with 36,125. Felt like a 4 handed game. Me Antonio Hachem and Elky playing pots while the others watched."
Tweet three: "Thought Hachem played better than I've ever seen and Elky made some great plays as well. I thought I played well too despite folding winners."


Previous WSOP Diary entries

WSOP Diary: Day 31: Soccer sickness infects the Rio as WSOP pauses for World Cup
WSOP Diary: Day 30: Climbing the cash ladder with Humberto Brenes
WSOP Diary: Day 29: Mandy "roxy24" Thomas mixes it with the big boys
WSOP Diary: Day 28: Barry Greenstein eyes final as shark attacks the Rio
WSOP Diary: Day 27: PokerStars party goes Dogg style
WSOP Diary Day 26: Bill Chen: Poker player, wedding planner, bridesmaid
WSOP Diary Day 25: Cutting through the throngs
WSOP Diary Day 24: Last chance to join us in Las Vegas
WSOP Diary Day 23: Anh Van Nguyen, remember the name
WSOP Diary Day 22: Love to hate Phil Hellmuth? You gotta see this

Read all WSOP diary entries here.