This year’s World Series of Poker Main Event final table was just great poker television. I haven’t been interested in watching televised tournaments for a long time, just because it’s usually so boring. I hate watching tournaments that have been edited, because you don’t get the game flow and they usually choose the most boring all-in situations to show. I also hate seeing the hole cards in real-time, because it takes any mental challenge out of watching it.
But this year, they televised the final table live (albeit with a 15-minute delay) and they didn’t show the players’ hole cards until the hand was over. This was such an awesome format for poker-lovers. Maybe not for your average Joe, who enjoys seeing the drama of “can this guy bluff the other guy out?” or “will this guy call this other guy’s bet with the nuts?”, but for anyone who likes thinking about strategy, hand ranges, tells, etc., it was fucking genius. Not to mention the players were all good players who were obviously thinking a lot about the consequences of every action.
And the commentary was so much more interesting than normal, because instead of just talking about “this hand is 60% to win” and that kind of bullshit, it was more about reads, and playing tendencies, and what it was likely people had. Phil Hellmuth and Antonio Esfandiari did some decent commentating; even when it was far off from what was happening, it was still very interesting to listen to. (If anything, it might have been too educational, which means boring for most casual watchers.)
There was a lot more talk about physical reads and poker tells in this than I’ve ever heard in any televised poker show before. The commentators just didn’t have much else to talk about, not being able to see the hole cards. This obviously added to the fun for me.
I’m going to spend the next few posts talking about specific things I noticed, mostly in the time from when they went from 4 players (Giannetti, Heinz, Staszko, and Lamb) down to heads-up between Heinz and Staszko. Honestly, these guys were all really hard to read, as you’d expect from smart players, but I think I’ve got a few things that will interest people. Stay tuned.