|A Very Dark Game||
I recently had the privilege of doing a longform interview with Marissa Sayno. The piece touches on poker, writing, and life as a (sic) digital nomad. I appreciate the fact that none of my replies were edited or abbreviated, and that I was fully able to explain my unique perspective as an "endurance writer." Take home: rejection is inevitable, poker teaches us a hell of a lot about reading situations and bluffing through adversity. Life is not such a very dark game, but it is draining. Hopefully the interview will inspire others caught in the "content production trap" to set their goals high and triumph against our current "race to the crowdsourcing bottom."
The 2014 WSOP November Nine constitutes one of the most diverse “graduating classes” since the format was instituted, with players hailing from Norway, Spain, Sweden, Holland, Brazil and the United States. The field includes notables such as November Nine repeat Mark Newhouse (26m), Swedish powerhouse Martin Jacobson (14.9m), and five-time U.S. foosball champion Billy Pappaconstantinou (17.5m).
At the top of the heap is the Dutch Jorryt van Hoof, who has amassed 38.3 million chips and is several million ahead of his nearest contender Felix Stephensen (32.7m). On November 8th, PokerNewsDaily reported that van Hoof was the odds-on favorite to take home the World Champion title. Bovada gave van Hoof 2.85/1 odds, with Stephenson (4/1) and Newhouse (5/1) trailing behind him. The unassuming Jacobson is clearly a competitor to watch for, outperforming his chip count and garnering 8/1 odds. Having seen him methodically pick apart less steely eyed contenders, I thing Jacobson is a solid bet––one double up would make him (along with Newhouse) a favorite in my eyes.
Not to take anything away from Jorryt “TheCleaner11” van Hoof’s overall play, but I have mixed feelings about his reads in a couple of Day 7 situations. I was covering Dan Smith’s table with 20 players left when this unforgettable clash took place. Holding 6.8 million (42 big blinds), van Hoof reraised Smith’s late position 350,000 preflop raise to 900,000. When Smith (6.5m) bumped it up to 1.8 million with A-K, van Hoof pondered for several minutes before finally declaring all-in. With nearly one-third of his stack invested, Smith had no choice but to put in a quick call for his tournament life and see if the right cards came out.
This is one of those situations where I would probably lay pocket fours down to Smith’s pressure––essentially a declaration that he is committed for all his chips. There are simply too many situations where Smith will have a larger pair here. At best, van Hoof will be flipping. (To be fair, given Smith’s active table presence, there are times when van Hoof might expect Smith to bite the 1.8 million and fold). Whatever the case, van Hoof had the correct read that he was flipping or better and the cards played out in his favor.
The other story of the night was Newhouse, who surprised everyone (including himself) by repeating as a Main Event final table contender. I was interested to listen to his interview with Bernard Lee, in which he described the pain he felt when people congratulated him at the table on his ninth-place 2013 Main Event finish. This considerable accomplishment was diminished by the fact that all players are paid ninth place money in July and thus falling first in November makes the months of preparation and anticipation meaningless.
Going into the 2014 Main Event, Newhouse had had a dispiriting 0-17 run in WSOP events, although cash table games brought him close to even for the series. He spoke of feeling much less anxiety this go round––whereas he had essentially folded his way to the final table in 2013, Newhouse opened up his game after taking chip leader status on Day Five. His calculated bossing took advantage of poker’s biggest bubble and ensured that he would have a viable stack heading toward the home stretch.
Newhouse was involved in the critical Day 7 hand that popped the final table bubble, eliminating Mexican contender Luis Velador in 10th place. With 12 million behind, Bruno Politano woke up with pocket tens and raised to 900,000. Newhouse (18m) smooth-called from the button holding pocket fives and the short-stacked Velador decided to go all-in for his last 6 million with pocket fours. Newhouse’s call was not easy, even after Politano conservatively elected not to risk half his stack and folded his superior holding. In the end, the prospect of bringing a mentally draining week of poker to an end (and adding significantly to his stack) took precedence and he made the call. The call was pretty standard in this situation, considering what Newhouse had already invested in the pot and Politano’s dead money. If he lost the hand, Newhouse would still have a marginally healthy stack of more than 20 big blinds. He might well have folded in 2013, but the 2014 edition Newhouse was willing to take a calculated risk and it paid off.