Tuesday, July 8, 2014

One Drop 2014 Companion in the Works

For what it's worth, I have taken a break from the WSOP blog for an undisclosed amount of time and am feverishly working on the book to support this first-class cover design. While I'm sure there are a number of compelling stories to cover in the early stages of the Main Event, I just don't have time. Gotta make my writing earn bucks, or go home.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Bruce Yamron Speaks Up About Second Place Finish Against Phil Ivey in WSOP $1,500 Eight Game Mix

I was one of a handful of media members who covered Phil Ivey’s final table march toward a 10th WSOP Bracelet in the $1,500 Eight Game Mix game a week ago. The crowds were surprisingly sparse (not so surprising really, considering the complexities of mixed-game poker), until it became apparent that Ivey was a front-runner for the victory. Naturally, spectator interest centered on the widely publicized prop bet that either he or Daniel Negreanu would take home a bracelet during the 2014 WSOP. 

The mixed-game format is ideal for scooping a bracelet. Difficult to master, these relatively small field events have yielded the best results for seasoned pros like Ivey. Five of Ivey’s 10 bracelets come in mixed-game formats and none has come in a straight NLHE tournament. Incidentally, this matchup was held in the side-event stands of the Amazon room, as the main ESPN stage was being retrofitted for the upcoming One Drop TV coverage. This made the action intimate and frenzied, with crowds swelling at the rails, and exciting as hell to watch.

Chairman of the Board - Phil Ivey commands respect from Chidwick, Steury, Heimiller, Yamron

Covering the early stages of the final table, I notice that Bruce Yamron (seated directly to his right) has been chatting away with Ivey. This is certainly not the silent, focused image I have of Ivey in high pressure situations and during the dinner break I ask Yamron about this. An engaging conversationalist, Yamron tells me that he has known Ivey since 2000: “I used to put Ivey into 75-150 games in back in his Taj Mahal days in Atlantic City. Funny story... my daughter is a PokerStars reporter in London and knowing how Ivey loves wine I invited him to The Ivy, a famous West End place known for its wine. When the sommelier comes around, Ivey cuts to the chase––’I’d like to see your reserve list.” Yabron raises his eyebrows with a chuckle, “These vintages start at around £8,000 per bottle.” 

Cracks in the cool demeanor - Ivey clearly enjoying the game

As it turns out, Ivey methodically picks off his opponents over the next two hours, with local favorite and 2014 WSOP Seniors Event winner Dan Heimiller felted in third. Going into heads up play––with virtually the same stack as Ivey––is none other than Bruce Yamron. 

Yamron––staying out of the way as Heimiller felted in third

Ivey stomps off after felting Heimiller

and plots victory..

While they set up for heads-up, I catch a conversation between Jimmy Fricke and a couple Bluff magazine reporters, cynically discussing the odds that Ivey made a deal with Yamron to throw the match. After all, Ivey has much more than the $167,332 first prize and WSOP glory riding on a successful finish in the Eight Game Mix. He and Negreanu took all comers on a bracelet prop bet that had maximum single bet amount set at $1 million. Estimates place the prop bet totals at anywhere from the $200,000 Negreanu tweeted to a few million.

All thoughts of prop bet angles on the back burner, I get back to the serious business of covering the heads-up battle. With Ivey and Yamron starting with nearly identical stacks, the end is surprisingly quick. A swelling rail that includes the likes of Chino Rheem, Joe Hachem, Mike Matusow, and Erik Lindgren watches as Ivey makes short work of the overly cautious Yamron. On the first hand, Yamron calls down to the river in seven-card stud for 215,000 chips, before mucking to a river bet. I notice that Ivey gives a slight smile and does a boxer-like head bob thing when he has what he considers a strong hand––a sign to his opponent to steer clear, perhaps. 

got a few chips

The truncated match ends in Omaha 8, with Yamron’s two pair losing to Ivey’s higher two pair and the crowd going wild. Despite the sense of jubilation among the fans on the rail, there must be a good few onlookers with crushed dreams, as they lose significant propositions that Ivey will not take home a bracelet this WSOP series. Speaking with reporters after the historic win, Ivey notes that he tempered his aggression on the final table, choosing to chip his opponents down rather than “spew off chips and give up the lead.” 

Ivey heads up against Yamron

After the inevitable hoopla of Ivey’s historic win dies down, I do my research. There is speculation on the 2+2 forums that Ivey could have shipped his good friend Yamron the first prize money (or more) to lose, as prop bets well exceeded the first-second place prize differential. There are many posts on the subject, but the basic speculative gist is evident in these two examples:

“No way Phil did that”

“No way anyone in poker would ever cheat anybody. I mean, almost every single poker name has been tangled up in some type of deceit. I have no idea if he did or not, but if ever there was someone who would do it, it would be a poker player who had huge side bets as to whether he would win or not.”

Here is a direct quote from my blog article in the aftermath of Ivey’s win: 

“Beyond the logistical difficulties in trying to arrange such a deal during a break when many eyes are on you, I find (throwing the tournament) improbable simply because––as people who know mixed-game poker far better than me have noted––Yamron was playing less-than-optimal poker throughout the final table. He failed to raise pots and capitalize on premium hands, and limp folded to late street bets with some frequency. His performance heads up was a continuation of that style and he did not hit the right cards. With the pride of beating Ivey heads up for a bracelet also on the line, I say let’s give Ivey full props, as he ties Doyle Brunson with his 10th bracelet win and moves just three shy of Phil Helmuth’s record 13 WSOP victories.”

If that was the end of the story, I would not be writing this. However, I just got an email from Bruce Yamron (who along with Dan Colman turns out to be an avid reader of my blog). He wanted to set the record straight with someone he felt had reported on the tournament fairly. Yamron says “you can quote me on this” and I do quote:

1.   Phil would NEVER have considered a deal if offered

2.   Bruce would NEVER have approached Phil for a secret deal. Just not my style to want to live with that kind of secret for money! If I were to win a first WSOP bracelet, it was going to be 100% clean with whomever I were to get heads up with. His side prop bets were his not mine.

Yamron proceeds to give a succinct, blow-by-blow account of his end game strategy:

My play was exactly as you described at the final table.  Remember, the best player in the world had position on me for four hours. My goal was to get heads up with him and then go for it from there.  I stayed out of Phil's way and my plan worked perfectly EXCEPT for the ending.

Heads-up did go fast as we each had some premium hands, especially when I had spilt Qs in stud high and made open 6s on 5th or 6th, forget which.  He had pocket 2s and hit a 2 outer on 6th. That was quite a big swing pot.  Many bets.  

Both big Omaha 8 hands were rough for me.  First I had a set of Js and river makes a 4 card straight and a flush with the Ah hitting river. It was a very tough fold on river, but felt I could not beat anything. I believe it was not worth 80k of my remaining 300k to see that I was correct.   

Final hand, I did flop Aces up when money went in and Phil did get there with a K on the turn.  No complaining here. Obviously best player won. I needed to get lucky HU and just the opposite happened!    

It was a perfect spot to win a bracelet against the best.  Blinds and antes were very high, which left less room for Phil to grind me out.  A lot of joy and good feelings from our entire camp, most who were watching on live stream.  It did feel like an away game there, but I could handle that.  I don't have any regrets finishing 2nd to Phil, might have other thoughts if it were someone else.

PS. I did miss one bet in Omaha8 hand earlier against Aaron Steury. I didn't realize I had a 2-way hand. Missed that I had 2 baby spades for flush along with my low.

So there you have it, the straight gen. I personally take what Bruce Yamron says at face value––it was a complete accident that we got to talking and from what limited interaction we did have, he seems a complete gentleman. I believe that people who know him well will confirm that he has enough money of his own and (more importantly) integrity, that he would not stoop to throwing a bracelet event. 

the Champ

 Ivey back into the light

Chipped opponents down, rather than “spew off chips and give up the lead.” 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dan Colman $15 Million One Drop Victory over Daniel Negreanu (work in progress)

Ok, not a proper WSOP One Drop article, a work in progress––I have decided to write a book this month, entitled "A One Drop 2014 Companion: Inside Poker’s $1 Million Tournament and the Players Who Risk It All"

I'll post rough versions here for the next three weeks, when I will hopefully near completion. Then, I'll think about putting it up as an eBook on Amazon. Here is the tentative intro: 

July 1st, Rio, Las Vegas, Nevada

The acrobats have left the ESPN stage, the platitudes about bringing water to the needy are but a distant echo, and friends, family members, and the true elite of poker sit with bated breath, wondering just how this meeting of poker masterminds will end. Internet whiz kid Daniel Colman vs. perennially young (yet old guard) Daniel Negreanu––who will flinch first? 

Serious money is as stake here, though neither has ponied up the full $1 million buy-in himself. Having announced that he was selling pieces of himself on Twitter, Daniel Negreanu reportedly holds a 44 percent stake in whatever he wins (accounts vary, his agent says 87 percent), while Dan Colman is rumored to be somewhere in the 10-15 percent range. This may seem small, but it represents a cool $150,000 investment and is in the ballpark of what “the Magician” Antonio Esfandiari held of himself during his historic win in 2012. The amount is also similar to what many of the other pros in the tournament hold of themselves––with the exception of big dog Phil Ivey, who apparently ponied up the full $1 million. 

Naturally, the real targets of this escapade-cum-charity-tournament, the businessman “whales” most likely to donk off their stacks, have bought in for the full amount. They represent the dead money within the tournament, given the caliber of the players gathered, with charity being a convenient rationale for indulging in one of the most decadent undertakings imaginable. Poker in Vegas––for a million dollars––all together now, Dr. Evil style––

Back to the stage, two opponents face off who have trained themselves not to think about the money, under any circumstances. When the cards are dealt, that is all that matters––that and the lizard brain calculations about how they can get their opponent to bend to their will and do what they want––call, fold, commit more chips than they should to marginal holdings. There is no thought about money, not even an inkling, on the most intense of stages, under the cool blue television lights where every movement of chips, blinds, and antes represents life-altering amounts of money. 


Now 38, Negreanu looks his usual animated self, intense calculation hiding out under a friendly, incessantly bantering demeanor. Only now the time had come for steady, collected play and weighing of odds on every street of every hand––one mistimed bluff, one call with a slightly inferior holding, could cost him seven million dollars. Forget what I said about forgetting about money––that is the ideal, not the reality. The key is tuning out those dollar signs when the critical decisions come.

“Kid Poker” had followed a long, steady arc to an imminent payday that would far eclipse them all. The money is so big that either first or second place would vault him into first place on the all-time money leaders list. Cutting his teeth in the casinos of Toronto, Negreanu played crowded casino games that would sometimes see 10, 12 players jammed around a single table and where A-K under the gun was often worthy of a fold. He gradually carved out a little space at the table and gained a particular reputation for fearless play in the hijack position or, what he referred to as “the office.”

Daniel Colman eyes One Drop Founder and "semi-whale" Guy Laliberte