WSOP 2017: Mickey Craft is must-see poker
We'd been hearing about this one player in the field, Mickey Craft.
Had a lot of chips. Some great table talk, too. "See him hit that gutterball on the river for a two-million pot?" someone asked.
They ought to put him on the feature table, was the word.
Okay, okay, we said. We don't have to be told five times. Let's check it out.
Hailing from West Virginia, Craft came into the day with a top 10 stack of 1.345 million, and through most of the first two levels was challenging for the chip lead. His tournament stats are on the modest side, although a final table and third-place finish in the $3,000 limit hold'em event this WSOP won by Max Silver already had Craft on some folks' radar before.
We arrived at Craft's table to see the tournament staff working on coloring up some of his yellow 1,000 chips, with one full rack sitting beside his stacks. As the staff walked away to retrieve chips for the exchange, Craft looked around with a sardonic look.
"I'll probably lose it before they get back," he said, earning light chuckles at his end of the table.
When our photographer Jayne Furman visited his table in the Amazon a little earlier, the shot she'd gotten showed his chips in a bit of disarray then as well. A consequence of playing lots of pots, including big ones.
The blinds were 5,000/10,000 with a 1,000, and the next hand saw action fold to Jason Fitzpatrick of Houston, Texas in middle position who raised to 24,000. It folded around to Craft sitting to the dealer's right in the big blind. He looked across the table with a vaguely puzzled expression.
"Have you been here the whole time I have?" Craft asked. Again, light chuckles.
Fitzpatrick kept mum.
"You've been awful quiet," said Craft, explaining to himself aloud why he might not have noticed his opponent before.
Craft carved out a reraise to 91,000, Fitzpatrick called, and the flop fell 9♦3♦4♠. Craft looked down at his chips, then slid the rack full of yellows out in front -- a bet of 100,000. There was some murmuring from others about such an unorthodox method of betting, but the dealer deftly slid the chips out in stacks, making the rack disappear as Fitzpatrick called the bet.
The turn was the 6♦, and Craft bombed again, this time more conventionally using green 25K chips for a bet of 350,000. Fitzpatrick thought a short while and called once more.
The river was the 2♦, putting a fourth diamond on the board. Craft carefully cupped his hands around all of his orange and yellow chips, about seven columns' worth, while keeping all his greens.
"They're gonna fall," he said before sliding them ahead.
They made it to the middle without toppling over, and Craft pulled back his hands with a look of satisfaction at having managed the feat without making a mess of things.
Fitzpatrick tanked, brooding over the fact that Craft's bet was for around 520,000, and he had something close to 400,000 behind.
The ESPN cameras were trained on the table. Finally Fitzpatrick tossed a chip forward to call, and Craft tabled his hand -- A♦J♥.
He'd gotten there. Perhaps like that "gutterball on the river." The unbeatable nuts.
Fitzpatrick winced a little before standing up to go, and eventually his hand was shown, too -- T♥T♠. Another player left behind spoke of having experience playing with Fitzpatrick before.
"He had a read," he surmised. "I've played with that guy 15 years. I think he had a read and thought tens were good."
Now more racks were needed, the columns of different colored chips dotting the felt all belonging to the bespectacled man in white. He's up around 2.6 million after that pot, now the clear chip leader heading into the day's second break with the clock showing 571 players.
If Mickey Craft asked us if we'd been there the whole time to witness his swingy, up-and-down day so far, we'd have to confess we have not.
But he strikes us as someone worth watching. They ought to put him on the feature table.
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.