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Best of Dan Podheiser

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ESPN WSOP Main Event Recap: Episodes XI, XII

19 October 2015

We’re now just three weeks away from the final table of the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event, and ESPN’s coverage of the days leading up to the November Nine is getting intense.

This week’s episodes picked up on Day 6 of the Main Event with 45 players remaining. By the end of episode 12, the field had whittled down to 27. ESPN will spend the next four episodes over two weeks covering Day 7 play leading up to the final table.

SETTING THE SCENE: With just a handful of tables remaining in the Main Event and Daniel Negreanu still alive, the poker world is buzzing about the possibility of “Kid Poker” making the November Nine. Negreanu, who remains at the featured table for the fourth week in a row, continues to be the major story throughout the broadcast.

Meanwhile, Kelly Minkin, the last woman standing in the Main Event, is still alive when episode 11 begins, but ends up busting near the end of episode 12 in 29th place.

Controversial pro Justin “stealthmunk” Schwartz also remains a fixture at the featured table alongside Negreanu, and ESPN provides more insight into the ongoing Twitter shenanigans between the two players. It’s pretty clear who Lon McEachern and Norman Chad prefer between the two pros, however.

NOTABLE BUSTOUTS: Minkin is sent to the rails in 29th place when her trip tens with a four were outkicked by Federico Butteroni queen-ten. Prior to Minkin’s exit, Upeshka De Silva, who made one of the sickest calls I’ve ever seen in episode 7, was sent packing in 36th.

The only other “noteworthy” player to bust on Sunday night was Mark Kroon, the brash and loud-mouthed pupil of Phil Hellmuth.

NOVEMBER NINE APPEARANCES: Main Event final table chip leader Joe McKeehen wins two monstrous pots in episodes 11 and 12, including his come-from-behind four-outter against fellow November Niner Joshua Beckley.

Butteroni, who won a nice pot when he busted Minkin, narrowly survived earlier in the tournament when he flopped quad sixes against Chris Brand’s pocket tens. Upon seeing the two sixes on the flop, Butteroni immediately shrieked, “Yaaaaa! Yaaaaaaa!” Brand, a Maryland-based pro, just smiled and laughed. (Read more about how Butteroni went from working on a watermelon farm to playing in the WSOP Main Event final table, in our November Nine profile.)

Each member of the November Nine received at least a small amount of coverage Sunday night, with Max Steinberg, Cannulli and Blumenfield seated at the featured table. ESPN is already starting to build up the personalities of these players with subtle lines about their backgrounds and playing styles.

MOST ENTERTAINING HAND: The craziest hand of the night came at the end of episode 11, when three players got all-in and two others folded hands that would have been monsters (and those players had either voluntarily put chips into the pot already or were seriously considering doing so).

The action started when, with the blinds at 50,000-100,000, Hans Joaquim Hein opened to 225,000 from middle position with ace-king of diamonds. David Peters called in the cutoff with seven-eight of clubs before Thomas Kearney 3-bet to 615,000 from the button with pocket aces. In the small blind, November Niner Zvi Stern wakes up with pocket nines, but decides to fold after thinking it over.

Then things get really fun. Amateur Randy Clinger, the short stack at the table, looks down at his hand to see pocket queens and announces he’s all-in for 1.45 million. The action is back on Hein, who tanks before shoving his stack of 3.45 million into the middle. Peters makes an easy fold, allowing Kearney to make the call with a hand that dominates both of his opponents.

Kearney ends up holding on to win the biggest pot of the tournament thus far, a pot worth more than 8 million chips. But here’s the crazy part: The board ran out 6d-5c-6c-9c-2d, meaning the turn would have given Stern a full house and Peters a straight flush! Of course, there is just about no realistic way that all five players in the hand could have seen a turn card with those hands. But it’s fun to think about that possibility.

NORMAN CHAD LINE OF THE NIGHT: “The Main Event is an exhausting long grind, and if Daniel seems well-rested, he is. He has a trailor parked here at the Rio and on long breaks, he’ll take a nap out there for an hour or so. That’s a big advantage! Sometimes I want to catch a few winks up here in the booth, and they won’t let me!”

I love this bit, because Norman Chad is actually providing useful and insightful information about the poker world that most viewers would not have otherwise known about. Negreanu, as well as Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey and a select few other big-name pros, actually do receive special treatment from the Rio and pretty much every other casino they visit to play poker. This is definitely an advantage, and especially in long, grueling tournaments like the Main Event.

Some folks might find reason to complain about this, and I wouldn’t blame them. But at the end of the day, casinos are in the service industry, and guys like Negreanu and Hellmuth are top-tier clients. When NBA star Paul Pierce played in the Main Event in 2014, the Rio allowed him and his buddies to stay in the Amazon Room during breaks, so Pierce could relax on the couches in the lounge and avoid the massive crowds in the hallways. It’s an advantage, sure, but it’s pretty standard in the poker/casino industry.

A STRANGE CAT: ESPN did a piece on Blumenfield, in which they traveled to his home in San Francisco and visited with him and his wife. And let me tell you – Blumenfield is one slick dude, as we chronicled in our November Nine profile.

A self-described “hipster uncle,” Blumenfield spends his time inventing craft beers and riding his bike around the San Francisco hills. His girlfriend, a French woman who runs a designer clothes shop downtown, says the couple is always the “oldest couple at a party,” presumably because they like to do things that young people like to do.

Blumenfield, who enters the WSOP final table in third place with 22 million chips, is certainly not one of the better players in the November Nine. But he’s definitely the quirkiest, and that’s saying something.

EPISODES 11 AND 12 MVP: I’m giving the nod to Negreanu here, as the top pro was involved in more hands during the broadcast than any other player and did not make one mistake. Of course, ESPN decides which hands to show in their coverage, and they could have very well glossed over a few where Negreanu made some questionable plays. But I’m guessing that if he had made a disastrous decision at one point – even if it didn’t cost him any chips – it would have been shown.

But Negreanu has been around for so long, that he probably almost never makes a bad decision at the poker table anymore. And that’s impressive.
ESPN WSOP Main Event Recap: Episodes XI, XII is republished from CasinoVendors.com.
Dan Podheiser

Dan Podheiser has covered the gambling industry since 2013, but he has been an avid poker player for more than a decade, starting when he was just 14 years old. When he turned 18, he played online poker regularly on U.S.-friendly sites until Black Friday in April 2011.

Since graduating from Emerson College with a degree in journalism in 2010, Dan has worked as the sports editor for a chain of newspapers in Northwest Connecticut and served a year as an Americorps*VISTA, writing and researching grant proposals for a Boston-based charity.

Originally from South Jersey, where he still visits occasionally to see his family (and play on the state's regulated online poker sites), Dan lives in Brighton, Mass. with his wife and dog.
Dan Podheiser
Dan Podheiser has covered the gambling industry since 2013, but he has been an avid poker player for more than a decade, starting when he was just 14 years old. When he turned 18, he played online poker regularly on U.S.-friendly sites until Black Friday in April 2011.

Since graduating from Emerson College with a degree in journalism in 2010, Dan has worked as the sports editor for a chain of newspapers in Northwest Connecticut and served a year as an Americorps*VISTA, writing and researching grant proposals for a Boston-based charity.

Originally from South Jersey, where he still visits occasionally to see his family (and play on the state's regulated online poker sites), Dan lives in Brighton, Mass. with his wife and dog.