What looks exciting to watch must feel painful to play. Olivier Busquet had a difficult job when he turned up to work this afternoon, but few players looked as prepared. It may have been coincidence, but Busquet arrived with only seconds to go before the start, saving himself the distractions of a busy tournament room, and when it came time for a break he disappeared outside for the full 20 minutes, returning on the dot.
For any remaining diversions, he had on a pair of headphones, the plug types, with an extra plastic bit to block out the atmosphere around his head. It worked. Busquet had never looked more focused.
But what followed was a level and a bit of seemingly torturous play, during which Busquet would perhaps have looked at his table mates and figured he could win this. His only short coming was the amount of chips he had before him – half the average at the start – and, put simply, that would prove fatal.
But he came to fight, shoving early for 474,000 from middle position, announcing his intention by looking the dealer in the eye and telling her specifically that he was all-in.
This is not an uncommon practice, suggesting a degree of certainty in the player who knows that once the dealer knows there can be no debate, no mis-clicks.
In the event Busquet’s pocket sevens held up against Yasar Guden’s ace-ten suited.
Guden was the villain at the table. Hooded, with dark eyes peering out from beneath a baseball cap, there was something The Kurgan about him, a Highlander intent on destroying everything in his path, in this case tangling at every possibility.
He would strike at Busquet again soon enough, this time on a board of 9♣6♦5♥. The Kurgan bet, which Busquet called for a 3♣ turn card. Busquet checked to The Kurgan who lumped in 375,000. What had the three of clubs done? Busquet tried to work it out. His solution was to call, turning over king-five clubs for a flush draw. The Kurgan had flopped two pairs, nines and sixes, and faded a club on the river.
Something of The Kurgan: Yasar Guden
This delighted on player. Philippe Barouk, had walked off midway through this hand, but returned to applaud The Kurgan, who was explaining that he was from Hannover, and the football club there is Hannover 96, which presumably he quite likes. Guden, playing at this level for the first time, forgot the simple rule that you should never explain a back story to a hand. Hands shouldn’t have back stories, at least not among top draw players. It suggests amateurishness, the stuff that keeps the nearby high rollers in club sandwiches all year round.
All this had great effect on Busquet, who didn’t hear Gudon’s confession. He rubbed his brow and shook his head slightly, stripped bare of all but 200,000.
Moments later Barouk was up again, delighted by events on the neighbouring table where Kevin Stani had been eliminated in 17th place. Barouk, who was at least enjoying every second of his day, pointed this out to the shattered Busquet who did his best to show mirth. “I still have chips…” he said.
Like ship wrecked pirates, the final 16 were united in two eight-seater lifeboats, congratulating each other on having survived so long. There were the chatty ones, the worried ones, the quiet ones and the insane ones. Busquet, watching them all, was keeping himself to himself, preferring quiet solitude than conversations with brutes who play 9-6.
Waiting for a hand
Barouk’s adventure would end next, his chips in with aces, against pocket sevens. He jokingly threatened to dive over the table and strangle the dealer if he dealt a seven, which he did on the river. Barouk mimed the lunge but seemed delighted, departing with a smile on his face.
Soon Busquet had doubled up again, this time through Lasse Frost, racing with pocket fours against ace-king. His act of moving all-in, always with a strict instruction to the dealer, created a kind of back-draft each time, which sucked in waiting reporters by a step or two as their pens clicked into action.
When it happened for the last time it was hard to think Busquet’s luck could hold out much longer.
The Kurgan raised in middle position with king-queen of hearts while Busquet shoved with ace-then of hearts. The flop brought a ten but also a king, and Busquet never recovered from there. “Good game,” he managed, but he wasted little time in extricating himself from his seat.
Normally at this point you approach for a few comments. But just as Busquet had not seemed keen on talking while playing, he seemed even less so after departing. He walked up to the pay-out desk and then, the formalities complete, he found the nearest chair away from people that he could find and collapsed into it, holding his head in his hands.
Players in the main event will be divided today between those delighted to have cashed so big, and those devastated to have cashed so small. That latter group is certainly in the minority as we lurch towards a final table of relative strangers. Busquet was in the latter group, and sadly the tournament is now a different place without him.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.