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WSOP November Nine Notebook: Slow play and snappy dressers

9 November 2015

LAS VEGAS -- Pace of play was a problem on Sunday night at the World Series of Poker Main Event final table, to the point that some of the biggest stars in the game were pining for a remedy as the action slowly unfolded at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

Yes, the delayed ESPN coverage was part of the problem, as there were many “mini-breaks” throughout the action. But the biggest culprit was the “tanking” that was going on at the table, most notably by Ofer Zvi Stern, who played as if everyone in the Penn & Teller Theater was getting paid by the hour.

Cards went in the air just after 5 p.m. local time. After three eliminations, play was stopped around 10:50 p.m. During those nearly six hours, just 72 hands were played, and that’s without a dinner break.

When it was pointed out on Twitter that only 32 hands were completed during Level 36, Daniel Negreanu posted, “Wow. I hope we can make some adjustments in the future to speed up play. That is bad for everyone.” He went on to add in a separate post, “I think we should use a chess clock just for the final table where each player is given an equal amount of time.”

Just before play ended for the evening, Phil Hellmuth, who was on the ESPN analyst panel for the broadcast along with Negreanu, tweeted, “We need to change rules of poker, slow play should be warned, then penalized.”

Federico Butteroni prepares for his bust out interview with ESPN's Kara Scott after bowing out in 8th place of the WSOP Main Event on Sunday night.

Federico Butteroni prepares for his bust out interview with ESPN's Kara Scott after bowing out in 8th place of the WSOP Main Event on Sunday night.

Most of the fans in attendance were certainly in agreement with the Poker Brat and Kid Poker. There were many times throughout the night when the crowd was verbally angered by the slow play, particularly by Stern.

Betting odds go haywire
It was a typical fall weekend in the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino sportsbook and its sister properties. On both Saturday and Sunday, the books were buzzing with long lines of bettors throughout most of the day.

And while it’s safe to say that the vast, vast majority of those people were wagering on a big board of college football and the Week 9 NFL games, there were some that were sending it on the WSOP Main Event final table — judging from the huge shift the betting odds experienced over the weekend, leading up to Sunday night.

After opening as a 7-to-1 shot to win the bracelet, Max Steinberg, a popular pick to make some noise at the Main Event, fell to just 2-to-1 entering the start of play. The monumental move made him the second favorite, just slightly behind dominant chip leader Joe McKeehen, who went off at +160, despite holding a 63.1 million to 20.2 million advantage over Steinberg.

The two long shots — Patrick Chan and Federico Butteroni — opened at 25-to-1, but fell to 13-to-1 and 11-to-1, respectively. The odds for Stern, who had the second-most chips entering play, actually improved from 4-to-1 to 6-to-1, while the odds on Josh Beckley (12-to-1 to 9.5-to-1), Tom Cannuli (12-to-1 to 6-to-1) and Neil Blumenfield (6-to-1 to 3-to-1) all saw big drops. Pierre Neuville’s odds were the only ones that remained static, at 6-to-1.

A sportsbook manager at the Rio who wished to remain unnamed confirmed with Casino City that the lines moves were not done on “air” and were shifted due to the amount of money wagered on each player.

Across town, the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino told us they received very, very little action on the WSOP and the lines didn’t budge much off the openers. The same goes for offshore, where Paddy Power Sportsbook had similar odds to what they opened at on Sunday afternoon.

Dressed to kill
We knew what to expect for a wardrobe from most of the November Niners, particularly Steinberg and Blumenfield. The former wore a suit during the majority of the Main Event over the summer and told Casino City about his plans to have two custom-made suits prepared for him for the final table. Blumenfield also let us know that he would wear his typical fedora hat and scarf, and he did not disappoint.

The two sharp-dressed men were upstaged, however, by Beckley and Butteroni. Beckley went with a scarf very similar to Blumenfield’s, while Butteroni donned a black suit with a white shirt and royal blue tie, much like Steinberg.

As for McKeehen, the chip leader played homage to his hometown Philadelphia Eagles by wearing a green No. 98 game jersey, but the name on the back wasn’t “Murray” or “Bradford.” Instead it was “Barwin,” as in Connor Barwin, a seventh-year linebacker playing his third season in Philly. Coincidentally, as the Eagles won their game at Dallas in a key NFC East battle on Sunday night in overtime with a long TD catch and run, McKeehen almost simultaneously scooped a decent-sized pot.

Tom Cannuli had the loudest fan base on Sunday night, but will enter Monday night as the short stack when play resumes.

Tom Cannuli had the loudest fan base on Sunday night, but will enter Monday night as the short stack when play resumes.

Dedicated fans
The general public wasn’t allowed into the Penn & Teller Theater until 4:30 p.m., but that didn’t stop Bill Maggi from Washington D.C. from arriving at 6:30 a.m. so he could be first in line to get in for what he says is the sixth straight year.

“The first year I did was when Jonathan Duhamel won it in 2010, and I’ve been hooked ever since,” said the 53-year-old. “Now, it’s my little treat to myself every year. I just love it.”

Not to be outdone by Maggi was 54-year-old Ron Gibson, who got in line at 10 a.m. and proudly stated he was second in line for a third straight year.

“It’s the best; I wouldn’t miss it,” he said. “Those guys are so good. I like being close to the action. You can learn a lot.”

Checks and raises
Neuville was not only the oldest player at the table at 72 years old, but he was also the lone member of this year’s November Nine who is married. He was as gracious as ever during his bust-out interview, thanking not only his supporters, but his fellow players, the dealers and, yes, even the media. He also continued to insist that poker makes him feel younger every year and insisted his experience at the final table this year will further accentuate that thought process. “The second I saw the (card that knocked me out), the first thing I thought to myself was, ‘When is the next tournament,’” he said. “I promise you something. One year from now I will feel much stronger, much younger and in better shape. And I’ll probably make another start (in the WSOP Main Event).”

Butteroni was also quite classy when he was interviewed following his exit in 8th place. He was especially thankful to his supporters, saying “they flew all the way over here even though I had a small stack and could have busted after just a couple hands.” The personable Italian added, “It was a really nice journey. I’m so happy for this experience and this beautiful dream this game of poker has given me. It was a beautiful four months and a dream come true.” When he walked off the podium, Butteroni was nearly in tears, but his friends immediately picked him up with multiple bear hugs, which quickly escalated into a raging dance, singing an Italian song.

There were very few big names from the poker world, if any, in the crowd on Sunday night, other than Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu and Antonio Esfandiari, who were all there for the ESPN broadcast. And a few veteran attendees of the November Nine agreed that this was one of the more tame crowds, and the deliberate pace of play did not help matters.

According to the WSOP, 80 nations were represented among the 6,420 unique players in the Main Event. The U.S. led the way with 4,778 players, with all 50 states having three players or more. California (885), Nevada (517), New York (387), Florida (377) and Texas (302) were the top five states. Trailing the U.S. for countries represented were Canada (323) and the U.K. (279).
WSOP November Nine Notebook: Slow play and snappy dressers is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT