One of the peculiarities of the WSOP Main Event is that despite all the poker going on across hundreds of tables among thousands of players, sometimes you don’t see very much poker.
This is a “can’t see the woods for the trees” phenomenon. With so much action happening all over the room, it’s often just to skirt past it all, not watching any hand play out in its entirety.
As we progress now through Level 12, where stacks are becoming larger and the money bubble approaches, it seems only right to stop and take a closer look. With that in mind, I stood with Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier for an orbit to watch exactly what he saw. Here we have nine hands start to finish.
ElkY’s table was as follows (stacks are approximate):
Seat 1: Antonio Payne – 205,000
Seat 2: Ky MacPherson – 210,000
Seat 3: Erasmus Morfe – 227,000
Seat 4: Ze Chan – 320,000
Seat 5: Thiago Macedo – 180,000
Seat 6: Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier – 155,000
Seat 7: Edward Hislop – 22,000
Seat 8: Juan Ramirez – 100,000
Seat 9: Liina Vark – 35,000
This was Level 12, with blinds at 1,200-2,400 (400 ante).
Hand 1 – Button with Juan Ramirez
It was silent at Table ElkY. And this is a theme that would dominate for the coming 20 minutes as almost nothing was said, even though some pretty big pots played out. Spoiler alert: ElkY played only one of them, and this is it. Further spoiler: he didn’t win.
It started with Thiago Macedo opening from mid-position, making it 5,000 to play. That’s the “all but” min-raise and conveniently represented by a single orange chip. ElkY, one seat to Macedo’s left, made the call and all others folded.
They went to a flop of 8♥4♥8♦ and Macedo checked. ElkY bet 5,500 and Macedo called, which meant they saw a turn of A♣. Macedo checked. ElkY now bet 11,000 and Macedo called for a second time. They saw the river 10♦ and Macedo checked again.
ElkY kept up his aggressive line and bet 25,500, committing about a quarter of his stack to this pot. Macedo now went into the tank, but seemed to be pondering a raise rather than a fold. And raise he did, making it 66,000.
Macedo may not be particularly well known in the poker world, but he has recorded the best two results of his career here in Vegas in the past 12 months. He cashed the Main Event last year, finishing in 180th, and made the final table of the 30-minute levels bracelet event this year, finishing in fourth.
ElkY clearly respected his play and took a long, long time over his decision. ElkY is one of the quickest players on the circuit under usual circumstances, so this was obviously a tough decision. He span chips in his left hand. He wasn’t distracted by Edward Hislop, one seat to his left, watching a video on his cellphone that appeared to show a sinking ship.
Eventually ElkY decided that he wanted to sail on. He toppled his Mau5 card protector from the top of his cards and folded. Macedo took a nice chunk of chips with the check-raise on the river.
Hand 2 – Button with Liina Vark
Liina Vark, the player with the button, had only 35,000 chips and didn’t seem keen to commit them. She did not play a hand in the orbit I watched, but is clearly happy to play a waiting game. She is a chess master and content to play a waiting game.
The same did not appear to be the case on a neighbouring table. As the hand between ElkY and Macedo played out, there was an interesting discussion accompanying a player with pocket deuces doubling up against another with A-J.
“Sets have been killing me all week!” complained the player with the ace-high.
“He doesn’t have a set, though,” a table-mate observed as the board ran dry.
“He might have done,” said another. (That’s poker, folks.)
Back on ELkY’s table, the Team PokerStars Pro exhaled loudly and turned to his phone for comfort. He tapped out a note, before going back to fold his cards after Ze Chan raised to 6,000. Juan Ramirez called from the cutoff and those two saw a flop of A♦3♠2♠. Chan bet 7,000 and that took it down.
Hand 3 – Button with Antonio Payne
Action folded to Ky MacPherson in the small blind and he raised to 7,200. He may have hoped this was going to be an easy steal, but he was wrong. Chan, in the big blind, raised to 17,000.
Both players checked the 4♠6♠Q♥ flop and then MacPherson also checked the A♥ turn. But Chan now bet 23,000 and MacPherson called.
The 9♥ came on the river and MacPherson checked for a third time. Keen still to build a pot, Chan pushed out a chunky 72,000. After a short pause for thought, MacPherson called but was shown A♦A♠ for a turned set.
Nice to wake up in the big blind with aces when your opponent tries to pinch your blind.
Hand 4 – Button with Erasmus Morfe
Erasmus Morfe, now with the button, was among last year’s Cinderella stories at the WSOP Main Event. He satellited in at the last minute to last year’s tournament and won $262,574 for 19th place.
Although he is clearly a long way from repeating that performance, he is still well stacked here, and could be going back to back in terms of World Series cashes.
On this hand, Juan Ramirez got things started with a limp from early position. That persuaded Morfe also to call from the button, which then tempted a raise from Macedo in the big blind.
No sooner was the raise out there than Ramirez moved all in, thumping his stack of orange chips, a total of 107,600, over the line. Morfe folded quickly and Macedo wanted a count, but wasn’t far behind.
Hand 5 – Button with Ze Chan
Ramirez, whose limp from early position on the previous hand got the raise he seemed to be hoping for, tried the tactic again. He limped from under the gun. In unrelated news, ElkY sneezed loudly and the “Bless you” offered by Ramirez was, I think, the first words uttered from the entire table in the previous five hands. It is quiet out there.
Perhaps encouraged by the two-word ice-breaker, Antonio Payne now started chatting to his end of the table, although the conversation did not seem to flourish. They returned quickly to icy silence, perhaps hopeful of another sneeze.
Morfe called from the cutoff, Chan called from the button and Macedo then raised to 12,200 from the small blind. He didn’t seem concerned that Ramirez may shove again. As it happens, he didn’t shove. He called, which also encouraged Chan and Morfe to a flop of 6♣4♠3♦.
Macedo bet 18,500 now, which both Morfe and Chan called. (Ramirez folded.) All three checked the turn of 5♥.
After both Macedo and Morfe checked the 10♠ river, Chan bet a tower of orange chips and picked it up.
Hand 6 – Button with Thiago Macedo
Action folded to Antonio Payne, whose raise of 6,000 got everyone else to fold.
Hand 7 – Button with ElkY
ElkY hadn’t been involved in any pots this orbit after the first one cost him a quarter of his stack. He had the button for this one, but still didn’t fancy it. As it turned out, he made a wise decision.
Chan opened the pot, making it 6,000 to play. Action folded through ElkY to Edward Hislop, who had only 17,200 in his stack and decided that it was now or never.
He moved all-in, the action folded back to Chan and he called.
The dominated ace stayed that way and Hislop picked up his bag, swung it over his shoulder and headed home.
Hand 8 – dead button
With Hislop having departed, Ramirez and Vark posted the blinds, but ElkY still had the best position. However, he saw nothing to encourage him to call Macedo’s open to 6,000 from the cut-off, and only Ramirez paid the price from the small blind.
At almost the exact time he pushed his cards forward, Ramirez also winced. Was it a tell? “Your nails,” he said. “You need a nail clip.” He was talking to the massage therapist who was busy working on his back, but who had apparently gone in nail first on one particularly harsh kneading manoeuvre.
The massage therapist apologised and the two players saw a flop of A♥2♣5♠. Ramirez checked, Macedo bet 11,000 and that was enough.
Hand 9 – Button with Juan Ramirez
As the dealer prepared the deck, a very familiar figure appeared at the door to the Amazon Room and began to make his way towards the table. Greg Raymer, for it was he, zeroed in on the empty seat beside ElkY and greeted his former team-mate with a tap on the shoulder and a “How you doing?”
ElkY welcomed Raymer, although he still seemed a little disconsolate about the rough patch he was going through at the table. It fell to Antonio Payne to start the chit-chat with Raymer, who placed a bottle of apple juice on the table, deposited a backpack on the floor and then began opening his stuffed bag of multicoloured chips.
“What you got in the bag?” Payne said.
“Guess,” Raymer said, inviting the players to join a kind of fairground “guess the number of candy pieces in a jar” game. No one offered their estimates, though, leaving Raymer first to hoik out a fossil, which he put on the table beside ElkY, and then begin stacking about 200,000 chips.
While this was happening, Macedo opened the pot to 5,000 and Ramirez called from the button. Those two saw a flop of 5♣3♣4♦.
Macedo check-called Ramirez’s bet of 9,000 and then both players checked the 6♣ turn.
The 10♥ came on the river and Macedo bet 16,000. Ramirez didn’t take long to move all in, about 77,600 more, and that gave Macedo a decision.
He anguished almost all the time it took for Raymer to arrive, sit down, and begin stacking his chips. But eventually Macedo folded, imploring Ramirez to show him one card.
Ramirez went one better than that and turned over A♠9♥ for ace-high. Macedo tapped the table.
That, then, is the end of the round with ElkY. It wasn’t great for our hero, and Edward Hislop will have enjoyed better rounds too. But Ze Chan is on his way to the top 20 in the tournament, with more than 650,000 chips.
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.