Sunday, November 8, 2009

Phil Ivey

As I type this post, the final table of the World Series Of Poker Main Event is underway. You've probably seen commercials on ESPN, you're probably familiar with the poker boom, how to play No Limit Texas Hold 'Em, and you have probably at least seen the gentlemen to the right's face a few times. The final table of the Main Event will air on ESPN on Tuesday night, and Phil Ivey will be one of 9 players who beat a field of over 6,000 entrants and made the final table. Beating a field of 6,000 is an incredible accomplishment for all players at the final table, but it caps off a pretty remarkable 15 year run for one Phil Ivey.

For those of you who don't know who Phil Ivey is, at the age of 18 he introduced himself to a table of 7-Card Stud regulars at a casino in Atlantic City as Jerome. On his 21st birthday he came in and reintroduced himself as Phil. Fast-forward 12 years, and he's widely considered the best poker player in the world. He plays (and wins) in the highest stakes you (he) can find, both online and live. Aside from making millions of dollars a year in poker, Ivey is also a part-owner of FullTiltPoker. (Cha-ching).

Money, talent and compulsion to gamble makes for a pretty insane life... one that I can't help but gawk at from time to time. Ivey has been asked by Tiger Woods how he handles the pressure of making million-dollar decisions. He's teased Michael Jordan, asking him why he's "nitting" it up, when Jordan "only" bets $10 grand a hand when they play BlackJack. You remember the last play of the first half of last year's Super Bowl? Ivey had the Cardinals in the first half. That play cost him $800,000 (he said he was watching the game with his mom, too, so he couldn't exactly express his true feelings at the time).

Before the beginning of the 2008 WSOP, a confident Phil Ivey laid a lot of people pretty favorable odds that he would win a bracelet in one of the tournament's 50+ events. He found many takers. Time passed, and no bracelets. More bets made. No bracelets. Big bets on NBA playoff games. No bracelets. The picture to the right sums up Phil Ivey's 2008 WSOP (Phil wasn't upset because he's a big Jazz fan).

Before the beginning of the 2009 WSOP, a confident Phil Ivey laid a lot of people even odds that he would win a bracelet in one of the tournament's 50+ events. Again, he found takers. It didn't take long before Phil won one (his 6th overall), and minutes later he was offering anyone who wanted double-or-nothing. He found takers, and won another bracelet soon after. He offered more action, but by that point no one was bold enough to bet against him.

The WSOP ends each year at the end of July with the Main Event. Ivey showed up for the Day 1 of the event coming straight from a 36-hour session at Bobby's Room. (Barry Greenstein, half-jokingly, said that unless Phil wins the $8.5 million first place prize, playing the tournament might have actually cost Ivey money. The games in Bobby's Room were pretty juicy, with pots over $1 million a few times a day.) Eight days later, play broke when Jordan Smith was eliminated in 10th place. Immediately thereafter, just like many of the seven days prior, Ivey was overheard on his mic whispering to a member of his crew, "Lock me up a seat at Bobby's."

Tournament promoters and sponsors finally got what they'd been wishing for: one of the most well-known and respected pros at the Final Table with a complete amateur like Darvin Moon, the lumberjack from Maryland. The perfect balance of a champ to pull for and a "hey, if this guy can do it..." Joe Average. Ivey only has about 30 big blinds going into the Final Table, good for 7th in chips. He'll need a little luck in the beginning to keep from being chased down by the blinds and antes, but if he does manage to chip up, look out (Las Vegas odds makers aren't too worried, laying the man 7th in chips 7:2 odds to win the whole thing).

Anyone else out there completely bedazzled by all this? Anyone else tuning in on Tuesday night to hopefully watch Ivey pull down his 8th bracelet?


Coovo said...

Roller, do they broadcast the WSOP live now?

Roller said...

Up until last year, the Main Event was played from start to finish on consecutive days at the end of July, and then the entire tourney was aired in pieces in October and November. Some felt that the footage was a little anti-climactic because everyone already knew who won.

Last year Harrah's and ESPN decided to play up to the final 9 in July, then break for 3 months. During the 3-month span, the footage of the tournament was shown, leading up to the final table in November. The final table starts on Saturday, is usually finished sometime on Sunday, and the producers and commentators (Lon McEahern and Norman Chad) basically work without sleep until Tuesday night when the condensed, 2-hour footage of the final table is aired.

The ratings last year were an improvement over years past, so they continued the format this year. There are pros and cons for the players. On the plus side, players get three months to market themselves, and they get much better endorsement deals for their TV appearance in November. Some amateur players have even hired coaches. On the downside, they lose their momentum. Players will talk about being in a zone during the 7-8 days of the tournament, and when play stops for 3 months the zone disappears. There are also factors such as player reads... a player might have a really good read on another, but when play stops for 3 months players have had a chance to mix up their game, incorporate new moves, fix leaks, etc.

There were many a skeptic last year when the format was announced, but most thought it was a success.

Coovo said...

Reminds me of college football where you play every week until Thanksgiving, then you get 6 weeks to prepare for your bowl game.

Ryan said...

Oddly, saw a bit of the tourney last night, watched Phil Ivey get knocked out (maybe it was 2 nights ago).

Wouldn't say I'm *bedazzled* by this (funny) for some reason. I like to play but i don't like to watch.

Also, did you imply that Phil Ivey lives with his mom still? He's always struck me as an odd dude. Though most professional poker players are I guess.

Roller said...

Yeah, Phil needed to catch some good cards early on and he couldn't. He finally got it in AK vs AQ, and the big lumberjack caught a Q. Tough luck.

The heads up match was funny... Darvin Moon played pretty poorly the whole final table, but got incredibly lucky. Joe Cada just plain got incredibly lucky... 2, maybe 3 times, he was all in and way behind only to hit a 2-outer...

Joe Cada, 21 years old, took down the title for $8.5 million. He was actually staked in the tournament, so will only get about half of that prize. But, it's estimated he could earn another $10 mill in the next couple years in sponsorship deals alone. 21 years old...

Oh, and no, Ivey doesn't live with his mom.

kevin said...

great post roller.

i used to watch poker much more around 5 years ago, and ivey was big back then - but not the biggest. it seemed that his resume was just as good, but he was a bit too boring to be the leading man in the poker scene. glad to see that he's still kickin ace.

question: how has the ratio of buy-in vs total 1st place prize changed over time for the WSOP?

isn't ivey involved with that online phenom? durrrr or something? whatever happened with that challenge?

who here has lost the biggest buy in/pot? who here has won the biggest prize/pot? not me. never ventured close to 3 digits...

Bernsey said...

This year there were 6,494 entrants at $10,000 per entry. The sponsoring casino (Harrah's - Rio)takes an entry fee (a percentage between 6% and 10%, depending on the buy-in) and distributes the rest. This year the first palce prize was $8.5 million. In 2008 the total prize pool generated by the 6,844 entrants was $64,333,600 with first taking $9.2 million. The most entrants ever was in 2006 with 8,773 with a 1st place prize of $12 million. It has gone down in numbers since 2006 due to the online gambling restictions.

Roller said...

I love it when someone comes out of the woodwork to give a way better answer than I could have. Nice job, Bernsey.

Yeah, Kev, you're right regarding Ivey's love of the spotlight / use of the media to boost his image. I think when most of the stars decided to write books, create training videos, etc., Ivey decided he'd make more money by just sticking to poker. Seems to have worked out well for him. He rarely gives interviews, although he didn't have much choice once he made the Final Table this year.

Regarding the durrrr challenge (between Tom Dwan and Patrick Antonius), it's still going on, and believe it or not they're only a little more than halfway through. Apparently they have issues with their schedules, as durrrr lives in Vegas and Antonius lives in Monaco. You can follow it here.

Lastly, I'm not proud to admit that I lost a pot of around $135, as detailed in this post. I can't remember my biggest pot. I know I've earned more than $100 in a few tourneys, but I don't think I've ever won a pot over $100 in a cash game.

Why isn't online poker legal in the U.S? I suppose that's another post entirely, but 3-4 years ago a Congressman from TN snuck a ban of online poker in an anti-terrorism bill, or something (Bernsey?). It should be legalized and regulated!