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Best of Ryan McLane
After struggling to find the ESPN pay-per-view broadcast of the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event final table, me and the rest of the Casino City team (Aaron Todd and Vin Narayanan) settled in for a more than 15-hour epic poker battle that proved good guys sometimes come out on top.
This is a running diary of Tuesday night, beginning with a fight with the local cable provider, working through Jerry Yang's improbable Main Event victory and ending with me falling asleep at noon on Wednesday with several deadlines looming.
2:40 p.m. – Broadcast starts in 20 minutes. I signed up for ESPN's final table coverage after much channel surfing. The event was not even among the choices for "sports programming." Poker has a ways to go before we consider it mainstream. Seriously, wrestling is more of a sport?
2:44 p.m. – I am still waiting for the others to arrive so I decided to tidy up for the boys. Then I realize that I'm a man. The words cleaning and tidy should not apply.
3 p.m. – Staring at a Comcast (cable provider) error message.
3:18 p.m. – The Internet coverage tells me the event has started with Jamie Gold telling the final nine players to shuffle up and deal. My television screen tells me I need to find a new cable company.
3:38 p.m. – Comcast tells me there is a technical problem with the broadcast. "Don't worry sir, we'll fix the problem." Don't worry! The screen is blue and this guy Jerry Yang has been all-in twice. I need to see poker baby! To settle my nerves, I play in a small PokerStars tourney. Several donkeys make the "nerves" thing worse.
3:54 p.m. – The Comcast engineering department is "working on it."
4:21 p.m. – Comcast begrudgingly admits that they took my $19.95 with no plans of actually showing the pay-per-view event. I can finally see the final table after ordering it off ESPN.com (another $19.95).
4:29 p.m. – Yang has now been all-in three times and the ESPN broadcasters, Phil Gordon and Ali Nejad are freaking out about this guy's hyper-aggressive play. Yang calls a Phillip Hilm re-raise and the two chip leaders prepare for battle. On an action turn, all the money gets in (over $40 million in chips). Yang has top pair and Hilm has third pair and a flush draw. Hilm blanks on the river and this Yang guy won't stop screaming. He has won eight of the first 15 hands and eliminated the other chip leader.
First elimination: Phillip Hilm.
Note: Hevad "Rain" Khan, the 22-year old hero of Internet poker dorks everywhere for his legendary multi-tabling prowess (PokerStars once shut him down because they thought he was a bot) was dancing for the entire elimination. I don't mind table antics, but this guy is weird and will hereafter be known as George of the Jungle.
4:59 p.m. - Yang the deathbringer/table monk, calls an all-in bet from professional's professional Lee Watkinson after a five minute deliberation. Watkinson has A-7 and Yang had A-9! Oh my lord how do you call $10 million with A-9…and be right! Seriously, how do you make that call. Yang prayed the whole time to God, saying he would glorify the lord with the money he wins and that the lord brought him here for a reason. He says he's here to help the poor, then says he will donate 10 percent to charity. Ten percent! If you're an ordained poker player, shouldn't you at least donate the right pot odds. Weird to see someone praying at the poker table (but also surprisingly refreshing). We'll see how this one plays out.
Second elimination: Lee Watkinson
5:03 p.m. – Johnny Chan goes down to the table to give words of advice to Yang…seems he can't stay away from being associated with big chip leaders at the ME final table. Oh yeah, and he won't stop pimping his new energy drink, which interestinly enough, is being pimped on both of Yang's shoulders.
5:31 p.m. – Childs raises the pot from the small blind into the deathbringer. He makes it 720,000 to play the hand. Yang meticulously re-raises all-in with a style seemingly ripped off from Chris "Jesus" Ferguson (God connection?). Childs finally calls and has Yang crushed with K-J versus a measly J-8. Nothing on the flop, but an Eight on the turn answers some prayers. Three players are now gone and all of them have been slain by the deathbringer, very reminiscent of Jamie Gold in 2006 (minus the praying).
Third Elimination: Lee Childs
5:35 p.m. – Canadian Tuan Lam has not played many pots, like zero. Perhaps he's just going to sit back and make money while Yang destroys everyone else.
5:55 p.m. – During the first break, Joe Sebok takes me around the WSOP Gaming Life Expo with the All-in Access ESPN crew. He showed me card protectors and poker pro table, but I was at that expo and there was at least three booths sponsored by gentlemen's club that had a bunch of strippers just sitting around, waiting for their turn on the pole (yes they had stripper poles at the expo). What the hell Joe. You interview Greg Raymer and not the Sapphire girls?
6:01 p.m. – Yang looks at his cards…
6:04 p.m. – Yang announces raise.
6:05 p.m. - The world learns Yang is betting 1.5 million.
6:05:07 p.m. - Lam mucks his cards. This is never going to end.
Hilm on ESPN: "Europeans are risk takes and risk seekers, pushing more with flush draws. Americans are more likely to call and hope to hit top pair."
McLane on Hilm: "How did that work out for you Mr. Chip Leader? Go U.S.A!"
6:09 p.m. – George of the Jungle takes down his first big pot then beats his chest and lets out a yell making my nicknaming skills look wicked awesome.
6:13 p.m. – George of Jungle does his "rain dance." This guy is weird.
Note: Play has finally slowed down now that Yang isn't going all-in every other hand. Awesome, now we can definetly hit the 6 a.m. EST predicted finish time.
6:20 p.m. – George of the Jungle gets props from Tournament Director Jack Effel for once playing 40+ online sit-n-gos at the same time. Phil Hellmuth walks in and George of the Jungle tells him that the Poker Brat could probably crash 43 cars at once. People sort of get it, but nobody laughs.
Watkinson on ESPN: "No way I could live with myself if I just got blinded down. I felt like I had to play to win. He felt like he was on a mission and blessed and I thought there was a good chance he would call me with a worse hand if I raised him."
Note: Lee Watkinson won his way into the Main Event via a Full Tilt Poker satellite, thus, he was playing for an extra Full Tilt winner's bounty of $10 million. If you're bad at math, that's $18.25 million for first. A-7 for $18 million Lee? Say it ain't so.
6:40 p.m. – ESPN announced their first text message question poll: Who would make the best champion/ poker ambassador of the guys remaining. Gordon says Watkinson would have been, but Alex Kravchenko (The Russian) is his second pick. Nejad said George of the Jungle would be interesting. I pick Tuan Lam, because I'm a lazy reporter and his name is seven letters long.
Lee Childs on ESPN: "I'm just really happy to just have survived the field, tough to call off my money my money with KJ, but I really though it was good."
McLane on Childs: It was Lee, you couldn't have prayed for a better spot.
7:02 p.m. - The ESPN guys announce Phil Hellmuth is coming to the booth and they make a $100 wager on whether or not he will mention his 11th bracelet in less than 45 seconds. Gordon takes the under and I'm with him. We both win handily.
7:16 p.m. – George of the Jungle re-raises the deathbringer and "surprisingly" Yang calls. Yang thought he was calling an all-in bet because "Rain" put most of his chips into the middle. He is advised to keep his cards face down and "Rain" just tosses the rest of his chips in blind. The flop comes King-high and Yang calls with pocket Jacks. "Rain" has A-Q and the Phils on ESPN freak out about the bad play. George of the Jungle misses all of his outs. I imagine the twoplustwo.com message board posters started weeping uncontrollably here, before writing about how they would have played much better against 6,000+ Main Event if only poker hadn't make them broke.
Fourth Elimination: George of the Jungle
Note: Five players remain and everyone of them is now a millionaire.
7:26 p.m. – ESPN shows the video clip of Hellmuth hitting the concrete barrier with his Ultimate Bet racing car. Two million people have now watched this video and almost died laughing. To make my laughing fit worse, Hellmuth said he was going like 20.
7:50 p.m. – They bring the cash into the room. There are no shot guns. What the hell.
7:51 p.m. – South African Raymond Rahme, known hereafter as Old Guy or OG, takes a picture of the cash with his digital camera. Hellmuth says, "Every country understands cash."
8 p.m. – The Russian doubles through Yang after pushing from the button and having the deathbringer dominated with A-10 versus J-10. Yang is no longer praying aloud.
8:14 p.m. - OG calls an all-in re-raise from the redcoat John Kalmer. Kalmer's A-K falls to improve against OG's J-J.
Fifth elimination: John Kalmer
8:16 p.m. – Aaron shows up, just in time for four-handed play.
8:59 p.m. – Vin's in the house.
9:03 p.m. – Jamie Gold joins the ESPN broadcast and says there were some very suspect calls at this final table. Much like anyone who agreed to split their winnings with Gold.
9:14 p.m. - Gordon says for the 100th time, "you can't go all-in against Yang because he will call you."
9:15 p.m. - Kravchenko moves all-in with 3-3 against Yang and is called by KQ. Alex spikes a three on the flop. Apparently Gordon doesn't speak Russian.
9:18 p.m. – Gordon says Yang "will call anything" again. Count now equals 101.
9:25 p.m. - Gold is chomping blueberries on live television. I say he's trying hard for the blueberry endorsement deal. Aaron says he didn't know the blueberry farmers had so much money…got blueberries?
9:26 p.m. - Homeland security hacks Vin's computer. Whole thing goes grey.
9:34 p.m. - Vin admits to watching the David Beckham/Posh Spice reality show, then defends it vehemently with examples of how it's funny,
George of the Jungle on ESPN: "Yang has balls. He has six kids. You need a hand to beat that."
9:51 p.m. – Phil tells "Rain" the WSOP satellites were so weak, his new wife won one. Aaron says "now Phil can't go home."
Dinner break – Five-cent-per-point Chinese poker. High stakes at the McLane condo.
Me + 85 cents
The WPT's Bad Boys of Poker II is now playing via the DVR
Play starts again at 11:40 p.m.
11:53 p.m. – Lam finally plays a hand past the flop and goes all-in with a draw. Shockingly, Yang calls him with second pair. Lam catches up on the river when his straight-card hits. We didn't' see the hand because we were watching Tong G. berate Hellmuth for a bad call on the WPT broadcast.
12:04 a.m. – The Russian takes down a big pot, but more importantly, Effel gets his fans a celebratory, albeit kind of racist, round of vodka.
12:21 a.m. – I randomly say I wish I was blind so he could go all-in blind. Aaron says this is the worst joke in poker history.
12:47 a.m. – Kravchenko beats Yang again, this time with KK versus A-10. The Russian has gone from 2.7 million in chips to now more than 30 million.
1:03 a.m. - Aaron sucks out in turbo H.O.R.S.E. sit-n-go on PokerStars.
1:05 a.m. - Matusow appears on the ESPN broadcast. he is all playing poker on our WPT DVR recording. He is definetly mouthy.
1:12 a.m. - Matusow says "Kravchinkoff" will win and that everyone has to give credit to Gordon's cancer.
1:18 a.m. - Matusow says he owes Gordon 10k for taking the under on 6,200 participants in ME. Gordon said he would not take a check from Mikey. The Mouth also announces he made a prop bet with Ted Forrest to lose 56 pounds (now 66 after the WSOP) to win 100k.
2:23 a.m. - OG loses a big pot to Lam then puts his head on the table. For the next 20 minutes or so, he is only raising it to make "I want to go to bed" all-ins bets. Gordon says this is making him want to puke.
2:37 a.m. - Gordon keeps berating OG and asks Nejad if he looks tired. Nejad responds "he's 62 Phil."
2:50 a.m. - Aaron is now heads-up in second H.O.R.S.E. tourney (he won the first one after another suck out).
2:53 a.m. - Aaron takes down second H.O.R.S.E. tourney. Aaron's night = $20+. ME winner's night = $8 million+.
3:15 a.m. - OG tries hard to go home by re-raising a re-raise with A-Q, only to find Q-Q in the hands of the Deathbringer. OG spikes an Ace on the flop doubles through the chip leader.
3:41 a.m. - Vin gets mad at the five minutes of OG hating.
3:50 a.m. – Aaron falls asleep. At least OG outlasted someone.
3:59 a.m. – The Russian is gone after insta-calling an all-in re-raise from Yang. Yang had 8-8, Alex A-K, and Yang flopped a set. Alex, the only person who was continually beating Yang, is now gone, leaving nothing in Yang's way but a tired old man and a Canadian who's played like 10 hands total.
Sixth elimination: The Russian
4:06 a.m. – Player break. ESPN is showing the 1997 WSOP ME with Gabe Kaplan commentating Stu Ungar's win. Aaron wakes up to the sweet sounds of Kaplan and recalls Gabe was kind of an ass at the WSOP, telling one fan if he signed one autograph, he'd draw too a big crowd.
4:08 a.m. – The money for the 1997 ME was carried to the table by one guy in a small cardboard box.
4:20 a.m. – David "Devilfish" Ulliot shows up on the broadcast. Vin remembers seeing the "fish" hitting on a Milwaukee's Best Light girl at the WSOP and not letting her go, even though she didn't want any of his action. Eventually he got a short courtesy hug.
4:32 a.m. - I beat Gordon to the "action flop" commentary when it come A-J-8 with two hearts after two big raises. OG and Yang are battling in a 13 million pot, three hands into three-handed play. OG goes over the top all-in with an Ace on the board.
4:41 a.m. - Yang finally makes the 17-million chip call with A-5!!!!!!!! OG has K-K, Yang's hand holds up and he flips out and does a stage dive into the crowd. How do you call two re-raises with A-5?
Seventh elimination: OG
5:17 a.m. - Heads-up play begins. Yang's massive stack has two pink horns on either end of it that make the stack look like the devil. Or I'm tired?
5:20 a.m. – Vin has a flight to catch and couldn't care less about who wins.
Reporter elimination: Vin
5:28 a.m. - I might be cynical at this point, but the little tiny ME bracelet looks pretty ridiculous on top of a mound of money that takes two tables to hold.
5:29 a.m. - Gordon gets a little cynical. Forty-four percent of ESPN voters picked Gus Hansen as the best player to never win a bracelet. Six percent picked Shannon Elizabeth. Gordon called those few sick.
5:32 a.m. - I'm definetly not in a good mood. Good for Yang and Lam for making it this far, but if I had to pick two people I wanted to see play heads up the least, I'm now watching them.
5:35 a.m. – Yang has won 8 of the first 10 heads up hands. Gordon approves.
5:39 a.m. - Gordon says this could take another 100 hands. I want my shoot myself until Nejad thanks me for watching until this early in the morning. Now it's ok.
5:42 a.m. – Yang goes all in after Lam bets $3 million on the turn. Is this it?
5:44 a.m. – No.
Note: A bunch of insignificant hands occurred here and a 20-minute playing break.
6:14 a.m. - All-in and call! Yes! This thing is over! Lam has the 3-4 of diamonds. Yang has A-9 offsuit. The deathbringer begins to pray. So do I - for an end. Tuan flops a pair of fours and my heart breaks. Six of hearts on the turn and I say c'mon ace. King of spades on the river. F**k.
6:17 a.m. – I just want to note that Tuan waited all this time to double up…with four high.
6:33 a.m. – Tuan switches gears. If he doubles up again, we could be in for the longest night/morning…ever.
6:46 a.m. - All-in and call - 8-8 versus A-Q. Tuan waves the Canadian flag just to spite me. Boo queen on the flop. Boo. Seven on the turn - we're getting more outs. It's a six! Yang hits a runner-runner straight. Blame Canada everyone we have an American champion!
6:50 a.m. - Yang wins the WSOP.
6:52 a.m. – Hugs for everyone, except Yang's fat-family member/friend who gives him a bunch of fake punches to the gut…for no reason.
6:56 a.m. – Gordon calls Yang the most humble champion in history. He proved it, whispering to his wife "Don't cry, it's just a poker tournament. It doesn't mean that much." Yang promised to donate 10 percent of his winnings to charity, a total of $825,000.
7:15 a.m. – Time to go to work.