Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day 5 - Players to watch


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LAS VEGAS -- It takes multiple casino personnel to fold up a poker table. The apparatus weighs a ton and needs to be flipped on its side, with some of its handlers offering balance while others dismantle. it's not a subtle practice.
Tables in the Amazon Room, home to the WSOP main event, started being subjected to the dismantling process on Day 4. As masses of players exited the event in the wake of the money bubble, the need for so many tables filling so much space lessened. One by one, as every nine players were eliminated, a table would fall, its inhabitants filling emptied seats at other tables, with the surviving apparatuses given more and more room to breathe.
That's where we're at in the main event now. With every elimination a player survives, they get more elbow room. While the tables were at one time no more than 9-10 feet apart, now that total has doubled. Fewer than 50 tables remain in a space that at one point held a capacity of 128. We'll see a further reduction today.
As the players fight to increase their space, their number will fall and their stacks will grow. Day 5 will see the field approaching double digits by its end. It will be the turning point one way or another for Daniel Negreanu. It will begin to give us some idea of what a few of our November Nine profiles might look like and it will see chipleader stacks grow sizable enough to eclipse the smallest stacks at that eventual table.
You can see it all unfold on ESPN2. Welcome to Day 5 of the World Series of Poker main event.
Players to watch:
If you look not-too-hard on ESPN.com/poker today, you'll find a feature on David Bach. Yesterday, it was Ben Lamb. Having already spent a thousand words each telling you about them in the last 24 hours, I didn't want to use up my slots on Day 5's "Players to Watch" on either, so consider this their honorable mention. Same goes for Daniel Negreanu, who we'll look at much more closely if he manages to build his stack. Enough of the guys who aren't on this list though, let's get to those who are:
Sam Barnhart (1.8 million in chips) - I tend to treat the WSOP circuit and other smaller buy-in events as minor league. Sure, it takes a great effort to win, but you're doing it in a field that hasn't attracted a lot of the world's best players, which is why I barely noticed Sam Barnhart's victory at the Circuit championship this past May. Well, Barnhart will be ignored no longer.
Sitting second in chips, Barnhart has a chance to put not only himself on the map, but also the circuit that's made him famous. With his two WSOPC victories, he's obviously for real, so his big stack is one that's definitely worth watching as he tries to make sure that no one will ever ignore him again.
Joe Cheong (1.3 million) - OK, it's still really early to even be thinking about this, but where would Cheong's achievement rank amongst the greatest feats in poker history if he made two straight WSOP main event final tables? Dan Harrington's similar feat against far smaller fields is considered to be amongst the greatest feats ever, while Greg Raymer and Dennis Phillips have gotten similar treatments for efforts that came up short.
Cheong is scary. He tripled his stack yesterday despite spending the majority of his day sitting right in front of sometimes-chipleader Daryl Jace. When Cheong's on his game, he seems pretty much unstoppable, which is why right now, he might be the number one guy I wouldn't want at my table.
Jean-Robert Bellande (1.1 million) - Look, JRB has his character flaws. He mugs for the camera, gets in people's ears and name drops with the best of them. He also has one of Twitter's most amusing accounts, keeps his tables lively and fun to watch and deftly inspires the love to hate. A year ago, one mild-mannered tablemate called him a [expletive deleted] idiot in an ESPN interview. He's inspirational.
Even if you ignore the drama, Bellande's played a remarkable tournament. He has been close to the felt for most of the first four days, his stack dipping into the five-digit stratosphere on Day 4, but now he sits with more than a million in chips. Will Bellande be stuck in short stack mode, or will be able to shift gears and start using his stack to dominate? Regardless of the answer, it'll be fun to watch from afar where ears will be immune to bleeding.
Sorel Mizzi (564,000) - Day 4 and the money bubble have passed and one of online poker's most controversial names is still around and has an above-average stack. Sorel Mizzi is equally known for his phenomenal tournament results and his violations of online site policies regarding ownership and usage of multiple accounts as well as the purchase of accounts midway through tournaments those accounts are entered in. The one thing though that no one can question is that the man can play.
Mizzi's 2010 is one of the greatest live tournament years ever played. He scored 26 live cashes, five tournament victories and four six-digit prize hauls. He won Bluff's Player of the year award, more or less putting it away before the start of that year's WSOP. The kid is a monster and while his isn't the largest stack, he's certainly one of the poker world's greatest talents. A win for him would be the most controversial in WSOP history. Did I mention he's controversial?
Erick Lindgren (440,000) - Another interesting name that will wag tongues, Lindgren's reputation within poker is pristine, but for the moment, his affiliations aren't. One of the poster boys of FTP, he and his comrades in arms have taken some flack this year for the former online giant's inability process player payments in a speedy manner.
Business aside, Lindgren's survival in this event is a triumph. A highly decorated player, Lindgren has rather amazingly never cashed in the main event until this year. His surviving the bubble threshold is already a victory, but now comes the fun part, as he seeks to make up for lost time.

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