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ESPN WSOP Main Event coverage: Episodes XV and XVI

2 November 2015

After seven days of play and 16 episodes, the World Series of Poker Main Event played down to the final table on Sunday night's coverage on ESPN.

The remaining nine players will reconvene this Sunday night in the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. Play is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. PT, with the ESPN "live" broadcast of the final table starting on a 30-minute delay at 8 p.m. ET.

There were a number of huge hands and quite a few memorable moments, so let's get right to the action!

SETTING THE SCENE: As the final two episodes begin, there are only 14 players remaining in the Main Event, and just five eliminations to go before the November Nine is determined. The stakes are higher than they've ever been for just about everyone left in the tournament, with the possible exception of Daniel Negreanu. Negreanu's second-place finish in the 2014 $1 million Big One for One Drop was worth more in dollars and cents than a win in this year's Main Event ($8.3 million vs. $7.7 million) — although the prestige and everlasting fame of a Main Event win would likely cement Negreanu as the most famous poker player of all time.

LINE OF THE NIGHT — SCHWARTZ "IN A UNIQUE ORBIT": Lon McEachern easily earns line of the night honors, as ESPN showcases the unique ramblings of Justin "stealthmunk" Schwartz. A montage of earlier moments in the tournament shows Schwartz ask a tournament announcer at the featured table not to do his job and announce the community cards; ask the table if they'd like him to shut up when there's a big pot and he's not in the hand (the table consensus is yes, please do); inappropriately comment on a hand during play; and call the clock on Federico Butteroni way too early, according to most of the other players at the table.

"Justin definitely journeys through life in a unique orbit," says McEachern.

HAND OF THE NIGHT: This all leads directly to the hand of the night. Schwartz raises holding K-10 suited, and Butteroni calls with 8-5 suited out of the big blind. After a flop of A-2-5 with neither player flopping a draw, Butteroni check-raises Schwartz's flop bet of 700,000 to 1.5 million.

Daniel Negreanu was a prominent figure in the ESPN WSOP Main Event coverage, but his bid to make the final table came to a dramatic end on Sunday night.

Daniel Negreanu was a prominent figure in the ESPN WSOP Main Event coverage, but his bid to make the final table came to a dramatic end on Sunday night.

"You're just mad at me, aren't you?" says Schwartz, referring to the hand from earlier in the day (showcased in an episode last week) when he'd called the clock on Butteroni. He thinks for a while, cuts his chips out, then pounds them on the table.

"I fold, I don't have the heart," says Schwartz. "Nothing though. He probably has nothing.

"I was just Hollywooding," he continues. "I had king-high. It didn't matter, if I shoved he either has nothing or something."

Butteroni says Negreanu promised he was going to call the clock on Schwartz if he took a long time to make a decision in a hand with Butteroni.

"I wish you did (call the clock), I might have had the balls to shove there. I'm dead serious, I wish you'd called the clock. Call the clock on me next time, I'm serious."

"I don't do that. I've never called the clock in my life," Butteroni replies.

SCHWARTZ LOSES SET OVER SET: One hand later, Schwartz, Alex Turyansky and Joe McKeehen see a flop with all three holding pairs — Schwartz with threes, Turyansky with queens and McKeehen with sixes. Both Schwartz and McKeehen hit a set and get it all in, and Schwartz is down to a one-outer for his tournament life.

"You are the most disgusting human being in the world," says Schwartz, seeing McKeehen's hand.

"Do you have two threes?" asks McKeehen, who likely thought he was up against a draw.

"Of course."


"You've got to be f***ing kidding me. What a f***ing joke. You better win this f***ing tournament. Oh my God."

After wandering around for a while waiting for the board to run out, Schwartz wraps it all up with this gem: "Oh, what an awesome life I live. I don't do handshakes, people."

My wife, who has been roped into watching poker because I have to write about it, can't take it anymore.

"That's ridiculous. Why does he have to blame that other guy?" she says. "He had better cards! There's no reason for him to act like that. I could understand if he had a better hand and got really unlucky, or if the guy was playing garbage."

Meanwhile, she's not pleased when I reveal that the coverage will be showing Negreanu bust later in the night. He's pretty much the only human being on the planet who she might be interested in watching play poker.

McKEEHEN RUNNING SUPER HOT: "I would say I'm running OK on this table," says McKeehen after the hand. And then, on the very next hand, he gets dealt kings, tangles with Negreanu holding Q-J, and gets Negreanu to commit another 3.35 million after Negreanu flops top pair.

STERN'S GAME OF HIDE-AND-SEEK: At one point in the broadcast, Ofer Zvi Stern, who almost didn't play in the Main Event, is in a hand with Tom Cannuli and is shown hiding everything on his face other than his sunglasses with his hoodie, leading to the . . .

NORMAN CHAD LINE OF THE NIGHT: "Stern suffering from halitosis, so he's really being quite polite over there."

He later adds, "This picture of Stern is exactly what's wrong with poker today. You should not be able to cover yourself up. This isn't football. You don't need protection. What, you're worried you can't hide your tells? Play shuffleboard then!"

Once again, my wife chimes in.

"I kind of agree with that statement too. It's pretty ridiculous."

So there you have it, poker television executives. If you'd like to get my wife to watch poker, get players who don't complain about bad beats, make them show their faces during a hand, and include Daniel Negreanu.

DRAWING INSPIRATION FROM ROCKY: Negreanu has stated on multiple occasions that he watches Rocky IV before the WSOP to get himself pumped up. I would imagine that he's almost as excited as I am for the Thanksgiving release of Creed.

After doubling up with pocket fours vs. McKeehen's A-7, Negreanu channels his inner Burgess Meredith.

"I beat him. You see, he's a man! He bleeds! You see! He's not a machine. You cut him! You cut him! You can do this Rock!"

STEINBERG'S DFS FRUSTRATIONS: We get to know Max Steinberg a little better, thanks to a short feature about his daily fantasy sports career. It's nice to hear that guys like Steinberg, who says he makes more money playing DFS than he does playing poker, go through the same struggles as an average Joe in the games.

"I get frustrated and angry," says Steinberg. "Sometimes I'm so sure this player's going to do well and then he has a horrible game. Why did you have a horrible game? You have such a good matchup! You're going to hit a home run! What happened?"

GRACEFUL EXIT FROM McDONALD: If you want a contrast to Schwartz's exit early in the episode, all you need to see is the way George McDonald leaves the table after his pocket queens are cracked by Stern's 10-8 suited after all the chips get in preflop. And yes, you read that right.

Stern hit a flush on the turn, and McDonald shook everyone's hand before going to collect $526,778 for 12th place.

"I know exactly how lucky I've been to get this far," says McDonald. "There's thousands and thousands of capable players in the field. Even to get to the last two tables has been a good experience. I'll take a few days to settle down I think, and then I'll probably start thinking about how unlucky I got at this stage and what could have been, but I don't know, I'll just enjoy the money I guess, and that will lighten my spirits a little bit."

THE DEFINITION OF SMALL BALL: Negreanu has long talked about his strategy of "small ball," in which he aims to keep pots small, see lots of flops and try to get his chips in when he perceives his advantage to be greater.

After Negreanu picked up a small pot with K-10, getting McKeehen to fold A-J with a river bet with a 10 on the board, McKeehen says he would have called had Negreanu moved all-in preflop.

"Really? Then I should have done that. I would have doubled. But I still prefer this. I would feel bad if I got it in like that."

"Really? You'd actually double and you'd still feel bad?"

"Not bad, I'd be happy, but I don't always want to have to freakin' fade all-in after all-in."

EVERYONE LOVES DANIEL NEGREANU: After Negreanu pumps out 30 pushups, a short feature away from the table shows players talking about what a great ambassador Negreanu is for poker. But the best part is the end, where Phil Hellmuth takes the opportunity to say Negreanu has "white magic" and then spends the next 10 seconds talking about how awesome he (Hellmuth) is at poker.

BECKLEY CAN'T WIN WITH A-Q: Josh Beckley just can't catch a break with A-Q. He incorrectly folds holding the hand on the turn after check-calling McKeehen's bet when the flop came K-K-Q, and later correctly folds to McKeehen's river raise (he caught a straight) when he held top pair, top kicker.

"I knew that was coming," said Beckley after McKeehen's all-in river bet. "It's a good spot to put the pressure on. I'm a lot stronger than you think I am. I guess you have two pair or nothing. How good do you run, Joe?"

"I promise I had you," McKeehen says after Beckley releases his hand.

"I had an ace and a queen."

"Crazy laydown bro," says Negreanu. "You can only beat bluffs, but look at this guy, all this money, he didn't get all that because he always had it. Well, yes he did, actually."

ESPN IS SAD: Those of us who were following the live updates on July 14-15 already knew Daniel Negreanu would be eliminated, and sorry to my wife, who I told about this months ago but clearly forgot after I reminded her while watching.

Negreanu is eliminated by McKeehen's J-3 of diamonds when McKeehen catches a straight on the river. He falls to the ground, hands on his head, contemplating his second 11th-place Main Event finish.

Chad sums up how ESPN feels about the situation: "I'm numb. If he'd gone all-in preflop the hand would be over. I guess he made the right play. I just wish he wasn't so involved with the guy who busted him."

The outro to commercials features Negreanu's best moments throughout the tournament all set to some incredibly sad music. Clearly the ratings for a final table that included Negreanu would have been much better, but this seems a bit over the top.

GETTING TO THE FINAL NINE: There are six hands shown after Negreanu's elimination, and considering it only took 22 hands to get to the final table, I was pretty surprised they show as many as they do. Steinberg takes down a pot with a four-bet shove holding A-K; Beckley finally makes A-Q work, doubling through McKeehen's pocket nines; McKeehen and Turyansky chop a pot with Turyansky surviving when the board brings two pair; Pierre Neuville's pocket jacks beat McKeehen's 9-8 in a medium-sized pot; Neuville wins another medium-sized pot with pocket nines vs. Neil Blumenfield's pocket eights; and finally, Turyansky's A-K falls to McKeehen's pocket queens.

THE CELEBRATION: The November Nine players finally get a chance to celebrate and take a breath, as reality begins to set in. Each of the players has now won at least $1 million and gets the chance to return to play for $7.7 million.

It's bound to be a memorable event, with three nights of play, the largest chip leader in November Nine history, and two players over the age of 60 — a first in the November Nine era.

EPISODES 15 & 16 MVP: This may be a bit of a surprise, but I'm going with Butteroni as the MVP, based completely on the hand he has with Schwartz early in the show. He seems like such a friendly guy, and he's so excited about being in the November Nine, it's infectious. He also doesn't seem to mind when Negreanu unleashes his horrible, Mario-esque Italian accent on him multiple times.

ESPN WSOP Main Event coverage: Episodes XV and XVI is republished from
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.