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Sarah Bilney

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Sarah Bilney

0 for 7

By Sarah Bilney (18/07/2006)

I’ve played seven tournaments in the last seven days, and haven’t gotten anywhere in any of them ~ not even to the dinner break! I’ve played well three times, badly twice, and so-so twice, but the outcome has been the same: an early exit, and plenty of time to dwell on my mistakes and the frustrations of tournament play.

Two-time final tablist Mike GuttmanFirst up was the Ladies Event, a $1,000 buy in No Limit Holdem tournament. I’d been looking forward to playing this event, having played in the 2004 WSOP women’s tournament and enjoyed the rare opportunity of sitting down at a poker table that wasn’t full of guys. Not that I mind who I play with, it’s just nice sometimes to have a break from the extra attention that being the only woman at the table tends to get you… It’s for this reason that I support the idea of women-only poker tournaments, despite being sympathetic to many of the arguments against them. Yes it’s true that there is no reason why women can’t compete on an equal footing with men in open events, and of course many women do, and achieve considerable success. But the fact that women are such a small minority in the (live) poker world can make poker-playing an intimidating prospect for women. All-women events are one way of overcoming this, and encouraging more women to take their game to the big tournaments which are the bread and butter of many serious players.

This year more women than ever before chose to do just that, with a record field of 1,128 players turning up to participate in the WSOP Ladies Event. The sight of so many women sitting down to play poker was enough to make the always-busy Rio poker room even more crowded than usual, and throngs of curious spectators and proud husbands jammed the aisles. I was running late for the tournament having overslept after a late night, and I struggled through the crowd to my seat to find I’d already missed a few hands, including my blinds. Not that it made any difference, as I proceeded to quickly throw away the rest of my chips in a couple of early hands ~ first after missing everything on a huge draw, and then when I was called all the way to the river by a woman with ace high, who finally managed to hit her ace. A disappointingly brief effort, but given that the event
ended up going for nearly 17 hours that day it was probably a blessing ~ I’d never have made the distance.

The next day was the $1,000 No Limit Holdem event, which along with the Ladies and Seniors Events was the smallest buy in event of the WSOP. As such it was even more massively oversubscribed than the first open event of the Series (traditionally the largest tournament other than the main event) at nearly 2,900 entries, including 845 alternates. This too was pretty much a non-event for me, although this time I lasted four levels and managed to get my chips in with very much the best of it. With one limper pre-flop, I made a healthy raise with pocket jacks and was called by the limper, a cowboy-hatted tourist who was enjoying his third beer of the day. The guy checked the ragged flop to me, but then to my surprise happily called my all-in bet for almost all his chips with his A-Q…and hit an ace on the river. I did get the chance to see a bit of Isabelle Mercier’s play while I lasted though, including her own untimely exit. She’d been raised by the big stack at the table, a young guy who (along with the rest of the table) was clearly somewhat in awe of her, so when he called her all-in re-raise from the small blind for around half his stack I expected to see him turn over a big hand. Instead he showed pocket sixes, but as it turned out he’d caught Isabelle on a complete bluff with only Q-J offsuit! After collecting her chips he added insult to injury by asking her to pose for a photo with him ~ being famous in the poker world clearly has its price.

I didn’t fare any better in the five events which followed, some of which I played quite well in but got unlucky, and others where I made mistakes that cost me dearly. The closest I came to cashing was in yesterday’s shootout event, where I made it to heads-up, gained the chip lead, and then lost after making a bad call with a big pair against what turned out to be top two. In fact the shootout event turned out to be the quickest and easiest route to a WSOP cash so far, generating considerable controversy due to its unexpected short-handed format. With far fewer entrants than had been anticipated, a decision was made to simply run the tournament with six to a table rather than amalgamate tables. As well as significantly changing the game, this meant that 1 in 6 players in the event would end up cashing, as the tournament was structured to advance the winner of each table into the money stage ~ effectively spreading the prize pool much more thinly than usual.

UK pro player Harry Demetriou was the most vocal of those unhappy with this state of affairs, storming out in protest at the change, and Daniel Negreanu was also heard complaining loudly about the unexpected format for the tournament. Both players were apparently refunded their entry fees by staff anxious to limit the fallout from the latest in a series of problems that have plagued this year’s World Series. Unfortunately Harrah’s only managed to add to the chorus of player disapproval later that day when they announced a late change to today's Pot Limit Ohama event ~ apparently at the request of some players ~ to make it a rebuy tournament instead of a freezeout. Following widespread complaints from those players unwilling to outlay the higher amounts required for a rebuy event, Harrah’s then changed it back at the last minute, adding an entirely new (rebuy) tournament to the day’s schedule. Let’s hope they’ve learned some lessons from these events ~ the rumblings of discontent grow louder every day.

In happier news, it’s been great to see yet another Australian make not one but two final tables this WSOP. Mike Guttman overcame one of the toughest fields of the Series to take 2nd place in the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha, and got a bit unlucky to only make 3rd in the $2,500 Short-Handed No Limit Holdem event having gone to the final table as chip leader. No bracelet, but the combined prize of more than half a million dollars would put a smile on anyone’s face.


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