WSOP 2017: Back from a break, Ben Lamb returns to the spotlight
It's good to take a break sometimes. To recharge. To refocus.
Players are now back from the first break of the day, the first two-hour level seeing 17 eliminated to leave just 68 still in the hunt for the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event bracelet.
2011 WSOP Player of the Year Ben Lamb was the last to leave the main feature table for his break, having taken a moment first to survey the stacks on his table before he left. His own stack of almost 7.5 million keeps him above average and just inside the top 20 overall.
We walked and talked, and I noted to him that while I well remembered his deep WSOP Main Event runs in 2009 (when he made it to 14th) and 2011 (when he got all of the way to third place), I'd been away a couple of summers before returning this year.
"Ah... just in time," Lamb grinned. "We both took breaks."
Lamb's 2011 run culminated a wondrous summer at the Rio in which he cashed five times, won a bracelet and made four final tables (finishing first, second, third, and eighth). After that, the Las Vegas resident originally from Oklahoma has scaled back his tournament play considerably.
"Primarily cash games," he says when asked about his current schedule. "I don't play nearly as many tournaments as I used to... maybe 10 a year."
When Lamb does choose to play an event, it's generally worked out well for him lately. In April he won a $25,000 Mixed Game High Roller for more than $280K, and this summer he had one deep WSOP run in the $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha High Roller, adding to what is now over $7.2 million in career winnings.
"Cash has been good... it's been a good summer so far, but obviously this is biggest part of the summer now," says Lamb.
For a third time Lamb has gotten back to Day 6 of the Main with as good a chance as anyone to make it to the final two tables again and then some. How does it compare to years past?
"The players are tougher obviously," Lamb nods. "But you know, especially in this tournament, it kind of plays more like a cash game. You play so deep-stacked and you're not just looking at shove charts and saying 'okay... I have ace-nine and 17 bigs, let's go.'"
"Hopefully you're not," he adds. "Hopefully you have chips and don't have to do that."
Indeed, that almost 7.5 million-chip stack Lamb returns to represents almost 75 big blinds to begin the new level, which does lend itself well to preflop three- and four-bets, various postflop machinations, and other cash game-like maneuvering.
It's a rhythm Lamb likes, and one he would like to continue all of the way through to Sunday.
Speaking of, like Antoine Saout, Kenny Hallaert, and Michael Ruane, Lamb is one of the remaining "November Niner" alums left in the field, having experienced in 2011 the months-long delay between reaching the final nine and paying out the string. How does he feel about the delay being jettisoned this year?
"I'm happy there's no break, honestly," says Lamb. "I feel like that kind of hampered me back then. It's not like I'm going to get better or anything during that period, but I think a lot of the guys did. They got coaching and became better players."
"And also, if you're in a tournament you kind of just want to finish it out and see what happens, and not have this big weight on your shoulders for three months."
The further Lamb goes, the more likely it will be he'll have an edge in Main Event experience over others. That said, Lamb downplays the importance of having put in those many hours on the main stage under the lights with cameras trained on you and your hole cards.
"Some players get affected by it, but I think most people settle in pretty quickly and just kind of play their game, more or less. I think after 20-30 minutes, [they realize] it's really just poker."
We parted then, Lamb taking advantage of the rest of the break to ready himself for more poker to come.
After all, he well knows it's good to step away and recharge.
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.