Friday, July 06, 2012

The One Drop

I’m generally against anything that constricts the democracy of poker, so I wasn’t initially excited about the million-dollar buy-in One Drop event that took place last weekend at the WSOP. The One Drop wasn’t an invitational, but its outrageous prize money would limit accessibility while forever skewing the earnings rankings which are becomingly increasingly weighty in the poker world. However, once I learned a little more about the One Drop mission, I grew increasingly excited about the event. One Drop’s impetus in conserving and regurgitating the world’s water supply rather than simply using more was particularly appealing for me personally. One Drop’s supply of water coolers at the Rio this summer was a wonderful idea, though they have been wretchedly underutilized by a community more focused on reshoving than recycling.

The agreement made between One Drop, Harrah’s, and the players – giving 11.11% of each player’s million to the charity while the WSOP took no cut – further glorified the tournament. Since One Drop reached its cap of 48 players, $5.3 million was raised for the org, leaving a staggering $42.7 million in spoils for the eclectic, entertaining gamblers who comprised the field. It was like James Bond or Maverick or something – 48 gamblers from all corners of the Earth summoned to Vegas to play the highest-stakes tournament in the history of the game. You had philanthropic hedge-fund managers, mysterious Russians, billionaires out of the Orient, a D-list celebrity, old-school desert denizens, and of course, many of the greatest poker players on the planet.

The pageantry enveloping the first day of the One Drop was overshadowed by The Hand, which spread like wildfire through the poker world immediately after it went down. Within minutes, everyone with a serious interest in poker had heard through some sort of social media that Russian businessman and semi-pro Mikhail Smirnov had folded four eights – quads – after Minnesotan businessman John Morgan pushed all-in on the river on a board of Js8c7s8sKs. The legend of the four-eights-fold grew throughout the day and night as the hand history circulated amongst the community:

Tom Dwan had opened and received a call from Smirnov and Morgan before the Js8c7s fell. Dwan checked and Smirnov bet. Morgan called and Dwan folded. The turn was the 8s and Smirnov bet 200,000. Overhearing a conversation from Smirnov, he said Morgan called within five seconds and looked extremely excited about the hand. The river completed the board with the Ks and Smirnov bet 700,000. Morgan raised all-in for 3.4 million total and Smirnov tank-folded 8h8d face up for all to see.

Not only did Smirnov fold the four eights, but he laid em down to a single raise on the river. Folding quads is the stuff of fairy tales; that it happened in a million-dollar buy-in might make the hand the most legendary in the history of tournament poker. If Smirnov had gone on to a big-money finish, it certainly would have been.

Morgan has stated that he will not be revealing if he indeed had the straight flush, but that didn’t stop me from placing a couple even-money bets against friends that he did have it. Folding quads is certainly an almost inhuman thing to do, but it’s easy to narrow Morgan’s range down to just a few hands. If we assume that Morgan would never be moving all-in for value on the river with less than a full house (a safe assumption considering Smirnov’s massive bets, including over-pot on the river), that leaves him with pocket sevens, jacks, kings, bluffs, and the straight flush.

The bluff seems pretty ludicrous considering the line, the board, the stakes, Smirnov’s river bet, and who John Morgan is and how he played in general. You can never completely rule out the bluff, but it’s easy to limit it to a tiny percent of his range here.

You can pretty much rule out pocket kings based on Morgan’s smoothcall preflop, as he wasn’t the type to get tricky with a huge hand and had been consistently three-betting his strong hands preflop. That also makes jacks unlikely, though not inconceivable. Just like that we’re basically down to sevens with some chance of jacks. Then the question becomes, would Morgan have smoothcalled the flop and turn with sevens, then shoved the river? Seems unlikely considering Smirnov’s overbet. Jacks too seem unlikely based on the preflop and especially flop action. It all adds up to a fold, though it certainly would have been quite a challenge in real time.

The final table went just as expected, with Antonio Esfandiari and Sam Trickett artfully wielding and extending their chipleads, Phil Hellmuth snaking his way to a fourth-place finish without holding many cards, and hedge-fund manager David Einhorn scoring an additional $4.35 million for charity. As always, it was a pleasure to watch Olivier Busquet’s analysis of the final table. I’ve said before that last year’s live WSOP coverage with Busquet and Esfandiari commentating was the single greatest learning tool in poker history; after watching Busquet dissect the Magician’s $18.3 million flogging of the final table, I instantly felt my own game was improved.


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