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Day Two

$10,000 No-Limit Hold'em World Championship, Day Two: "Follow the Money"

When the Discovery Channel people asked me who I liked to survive the day and perhaps make the final table, when we were down to about 100 players on Day Two of the World Series, I told them, “Deep Throat had it right in All The President’s Men: ‘Follow the money.’”

At that point, “the money” was Kathy Liebert, Captain Tom Franklin, Hasan Habib, and Annie Duke, all of whom were floating around the $200,000 mark, and indeed they are all “in the money,” in the final 45 players who are guaranteed at least $15,000 cash and who are now on a freeroll towards the 1.5 million first prize. But in a dramatic, late evening turn that evoked memories of the Kevin McBride story in 1998, “the money” now is suddenly Jim McManus, a poet and novelist who is here writing a story for Harpers.

McManus had about $60,000 in chips (quite a story in itself, as he’d been down to only $2,000 at one point on the first day, and had turned it into $35,000 by the time the day ended) and was in survival mode late in the day. He’s a soft-spoken, friendly, intellectual, easy-to-like guy (Want proof? Here’s a guy who’s a writer first and a poker player second, a description that could also be applied to yours truly, and if he were anything other than extremely likable, I could see myself being extremely jealous of the position he’s in. I’m not. I’m envious, and in a way Jim’s success proves that my fantasies weren’t completely irrational, but I’m happy for the guy, and I promise you, if there were one trace of “unlikable” in him, my emotions would be quite different.), and we had become friends as soon as he arrived here, as we traded poker and writing tales over lunch and I introduced him around.

He’d made it into the Big One by winning a one-table satellite, although a smart hedge at the end cost him $3,400. With that outlay, and the $1,000 he spent on the satellite to start with, Jim was pretty short on cash as he entered the tournament. The 15 grand for making the money wasn’t insignificant to him, and neither was the hoped for ability to say “I made the money at the World Series of Poker.”

All of this made survival mode a very sensible plan, but playing with $1,500-3,000 blinds and $500 antes, it was costing $9,000 a round to sit on the sidelines, and McManus didn’t want to go meekly into the night. We were down to 47 players when McManus mixed it up twice in a relatively short span.

First, he got involved in a hand with TJ Cloutier, and called Cloutier’s all-in bet on the A-9-6 flop holding A-J. TJ checked the flop, McManus bet $20,000, and TJ moved all-in. McManus stared for while and called. TJ, it turned out, had A-10 and escaped with a chopped pot when another nine hit the turn and an ace hit the river. A poet had very nearly toppled the last of the Texas road gamblers in the tournament.

“I’ve been reading his book all week!” McManus shouted to the crowd. Jim didn’t mind the attention. At one point, as the cameras and press moved in a bit close to him on a hand, Mike Paulle announced over the public address system, “Jim, we can move the press back, if you want.”

“I want more press!” he said with a smile, clearly enjoying the chance to step out from his reporter role and to become the story.

Then, only moments later, staring an extremely short-stacked Mickey Appleman in the face, he flopped two pair and doubled up against Hasan Habib’s flush draw.

“I don’t want to keep mixing it up here,” he whispered to me, “but I find my hands moving forward with the chips anyway.”

Jim had about $140,000, and could now easily achieve his goal of making the money, by watching Appleman get blinded off. We were hand for hand with 46 players left, and with $500 antes eroding his $5,000 stack rapidly, Appleman was desperately hoping two other hands would mix it up and give him a $15,000 payday.

Appleman almost caught a break when another short stack, Roman Abinsay, moved all-in at the same table with the only hand he could possibly have, A-A, and the monster stack at the table, Kathy Liebert, played sheriff, calling the $10,500 with K-Q offsuit. The flop came Q-7-3, giving Kathy outs, but another seven hit the turn, leaving Kathy dead to a queen. The crowd didn't realize this, and briefly started yelling we were done when a king hit on the river, but cooler heads eventually pointed out that aces and sevens beat kings and queens. We kept playing.

 

Appleman’s stack continued to dwindle, and eventually he found himself all-in for only $1,500 of the $3,000 big blind, holding 7-3 offsuit, about as miserable a position as you could want, with two opponents prepared to check the hand down to the river.

The flop came 7-7-Q, and Appleman survived. No one knew at that point that Mickey’s $15,000 escape would turn the room upside down.

In the 15 minutes between the time we failed to lose Appleman and eventually did lose player 46, McManus gouged off big chunks out of everyone who played with him. He caught pocket aces and made it $12,000 to go from the early position, and got called by pocket jacks. The flop came J-4-2, and Jim bet $10,000. His opponent smooth called, setting the trap. A five hit the turn, Jim bet $15,000 more, and again, the smooth call. The trap was nearly ready. But a three on the river gave anyone with an ace or a six a straight, and the trapped became the trapper when McManus checked, hoping to lure his opponent in. But he merely flipped up the set of jacks, and watched helplessly as McManus turned over his pocket rockets.

On another “post-Appleman” hand he raised from the button, and Liebert re-raised him $24,000 out of the small blind. McManus called. The flop came queen-rag-rag, Liebert checked, and McManus bet $20,000. Kathy stared him down a long time before finally mucking her hand.

McManus allowed his neighbor, Hasan Habib, to look at his hand on the way to the dealer, and another player said “show one show all,” so the hand was turned over. McManus had called with A-Q off and hit the flop perfectly.

This was getting officially spooky, something Cloutier recognized when he threw his pocket queens away when McManus bet out at the ace-rag-rag flop a few moments later.

“What’s going on here?” I asked my fellow reporters, sportcut.com’s Katie Lederer and Card Player’s Linda Johnson. “A few minutes ago, Jim was a writer trying to hang on, and suddenly he’s messing with Kathy Liebert and TJ Cloutier!”

In the 15 minutes between Appleman’s escape and the elimination of player 46, McManus moved from a slightly above par $140,000 to third chip position, just barely behind Liebert’s $283,500 and England’s Barney Boatman’s $282,000, with $276,000. Liebert had had almost the entire table under her total control for a couple of hours, as she maneuvered her big stack perfectly, picking up pot after pot with bets her shorter-stacked opponents were justifiably afraid to call, and she’s still leading the tournament, but McManus’s rush left her and everyone else a bit breathless.

“I’m dazed,” McManus told me afterwards, as we sat with Linda Johnson.

“I love this,” Linda said. “You started off your trip here at my office, interviewing me, and now here I am, interviewing you. Tell me, how does it feel?”

McManus paused for a moment to reflect, and then gave the answer that most of us would in this situation. “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” he said.

We asked him for a little more about the trail that brought him here. “I stared off playing poker for a couple of years in the caddyshack when I was a thirteen year old golf caddy. I didn’t play for a long time after that, I just didn’t have the money, but when I remarried, my wife’s job and mine were both good enough that I had enough extra cash to play in a private poker game with some lawyers.

“Last year,” McManus continued, “when I started reading about the World Series, I started getting interested in doing a story on it, and when my editor at Harpers, Lewis Lapham, asked me what I wanted to do next, I told him this. He gave me the ok, I bought the Masque and Wilson software, and started practicing like crazy.”

McManus, Johnson and I talked a lot more, about his family, about the odd way that the Bellagio has played a role in both his family life and his poker life, and if we still have Jim McManus with us come final table time, I’ll go into more of that, but Jim wasn’t the only story here today, and I want to touch on some of the other action.

Day One of the World Series of Poker is about survival. As Stan Goldstein told me, “You can’t win the tournament on Day One, but you sure can lose it.” Day Two is when longshot hopes and dreams start turning into visions of cold, hard cash. 214 players survived Day One, and in a fascinating ebb and flow, we lost a LOT of players in the first couple of hours.

Lots of people go into survival mode at the end of Day One, in part because they want time to regroup from the exhausting day, in part because they want to develop a game plan for their re-drawn table, in part because some want to be able to say, either to themselves or their friends, that they made Day Two.

Once you survive to Day Two, though, the money is so far away at the start that there isn’t a lot of sense in trying to hang on if you’re short stacked. You either make a move or go home, and so a lot of players exit quickly.

A middle phase follows where a lot of players have a lot of chips, and so the exiting slows for a while, only to speed up again after the dinner break, when (this year) we had 72 players left.

“It’ll go fast for a while now,” Mike Sexton said, “with eight tables left. But once we have six tables and people can smell the money, and the hand-for-hand starts up, we’ll slow to a crawl.” Mike was dead-on: it took more than two hours to eliminate the last seven players.

Day Two is also when players are constantly comparing their stacks to par, because par changes very rapidly as you move from 200 players (average stack, $25,000), to 45 players (average stack, $110,000).

Some of the more interesting dust-ups and incidents along the way included:

1) A $200,000 pot between Tom Jacobs and Don Barton. Barton made a hefty raise from the button, and Jacobs, sensing a steal attempt, moved all-in from the big blind. Barton stared his man down for a long time before finally calling. The flop came down K-10-5, and Barton looked happy. Another five hit on the turn, and Jacobs immediately raised his hand off the table and showed the five in it; he’d played back with A-5 offsuit. The river was a blank, and Barton stared a long, long, long time before finally letting the dealer muck his hand.

Everyone at the table, and everyone watching, was sure Barton had held A-K, and he told me as he exited a while later that indeed it had been the A-K of spades.

2) Another $200,000 pot went down when Hasan Habib called $1,000 in the small blind, only to have James Van Alstyne make it $8,000 more from the big blind, and Habib called. Habib checked the 10-J-3 flop, Van Alstyne bet $16,000, Habib raised back $24,000 more, and Van Alstyne moved all-in.

Habib thought a long while, and called with his 10-Q. Van Alstyne eventually showed K-Q, the nut straight draw and two overcards. When he’d moved in, he’d certainly hoped to win with his bet, but even if he didn’t, he had to figure that any nine, king, queen or ace would win for him; he couldn’t know that Habib held a queen. But the turn and river were blanks, and Habib had the chips.

“Nothing wrong with moving in there,” said Barry Shulman as we replayed the hand. “He has to figure he has a lot of outs if he gets called. I think I’d have checked along on the flop, though. What’s wrong with seeing the turn free with a draw? If an ace hits, maybe the guy has something like A-10 and you can bust him risk free.”

3) Stan Goldstein, who was hanging on by his fingernails for most of the day, finally picked up a few hands, and during the very late stages when almost everyone at his table was in survival mode, grabbed about $80,000 and is back in the hunt with $153,500. “I’m not here for the $15,000,” Goldstein said. “This was my chance to finally get some chips and try to win this thing, and I took it. Nice to end the day at my high water mark.”

4) Amarillo Slim Preston, who has often been misquoted as having said he’d cut his throat if a woman ever won the World Series (he actually make the comment in the context of a particular woman, not just any woman), added to the show by bring a big kitchen knife out in the middle of play and posing for photos with it held to his throat, first in a photo-op with Liebert, and then with Annie Duke, who also had a lot of chips.

With $5,200,000 in play, and 45 players, an average stack at this point is $115,555. The Fabulous 45 for tomorrow will be:

Table 47

1, Ramon Adams, $4,000

2, Roger Hellums, $72,500

3, Cary Long, $38,000

4, Roman Abinsay, $18,000

5, Steve Myerson, $78,500

6, Marvin Lang, $98,000

7, Samuel Arzoin, $34,000

8, Tom Jacobs, $229,000

9, Glynn Beebe, $129,000

Table note: as you can see, with an average stack at $115k, this table is very low on chips, and Jacobs is in a nice position to play bully.

Table 48

1, Barney Boatman, $282,000

2, Alan Boston, $51,500

3, Kathy Liebert, $283,500

4, Stan Goldstein, $153,500

5, Mark Edwards, $59,500

6, Jeff Shulman, $115,500

7, "Captain" Tom Franklin, $113,000

8, Bruce Yamron, $118,500

9, Humberto Brenes, $101,000

 

Table note: This table is way over par, lots of chips if you can win them, but they are owned by some terrific players. Goldstein manufactured some luck with his late move, and he gets some luck from the draw in landing position on the one player who could really muscle him in Kathy Liebert.

Table 54

1, Barry Greenstein, $141,500

2, Michael Davis, $20,000

3, Annie Duke, $187,000

4, Hasan Habib, $256,000

5, Lee Salem, $113,000

6, Buddy Pitcock, $216,500

7, Gregory Alston, $89,000

8, Ty Bayne, $114,000

9, Mike Sexton, $130,500

Table note: Another chip rich and talent rich table, I guess it’s not so surprising that those two factors should show a correlation. My hat is really off to Annie Duke. Two days of grueling play in the World Series is tough on anyone. Annie has played brilliantly and is about a month away from delivering a baby girl.

Table 55

1, Lazarou Tasos, $125,000

2, Ron Stanley, $74,000

3, Mickey Appleman, $6,000

4, Steve Kaufman, $42,500

5, Angelo Besnainou, $64,000

6, Jim McManus, $276,000

7, Larry Bellfuss, $121,000

8, Day Kim, $127,500

9, Hung La, $197,000

Table note: McManus catches a relative break by landing at a table full of short stacks that he has position on, somewhat counterbalanced by the players who do have chips having position on him.

Table 62

1, John Shipley, $17,500

2, TJ Cloutier, $146,000

3, Steve Baltimore, $49,500

4, Paul McKinney, $103,000

5, Mel Judah, $139,000

6, Mehul Chaudhari, $90,500

7, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, $183,500

8, Mark Rose, $107,500

9, Eric Schulz, $500

Table note: Cloutier has a second, third and fifth in the Big One, the most impressive resume of anyone left (Phil Hellmuth was the last prior winner to exit, in 64th place), and he’d love to leave 4th as a gutshot for a straight by getting an ace this time. Lurking behind him are Judah, who may well be the most consistently successful player at this World Series, and Ferguson, who has also had a terrific Series, although no-limit hold’em isn’t his best game. All will fear Schulz’s ability to shove his chip around. $15,000 isn’t a bad payday for one $500 chip. If Eric finishes any higher than 44th, we have a real story on our hands.