The Good, The Bland, and The Ugly: WSOP Final Table in Review

Posted at 14:03 2010-11-27

The dust has settled following Jonathan Duhamel's historic win in the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event and Aussie Tim Napper takes a closer look at what went down on the final table.

The Good

Everyone loves a fairy tale and the Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi story would have to come pretty close. Two years ago “The Grinder” found himself broke through a series of bad investments and some lean years at the table. Even worse, he owed a big tax debt to the US Internal Revenue Service. He was becoming another “whatever happened to…” story; another morality tale about the perils of early success at poker.  Things were looking grim.

Then the 2010 WSOP comes around and Mizrachi fronts up at the prestigious opening event - the $50,000 Player’s Championship – and damn if he doesn’t go and win the bracelet. Then he goes on to make two more final tables, and cash at the Main Event (as do his three brothers). And, if $1.6 million in winnings in the space of a couple of weeks wasn’t enough for him, he goes on to from merely cashing to securing a spot at the Main Event final table. Now that’s what I call redemption. Word on the street is that Patrik Antonius backed him for the series. Nice bet Patrik.

But for mine, the highlight of the final table was Joseph Cheong. Damn this boy can play. While in the end he probably outplayed himself (and we’ll get to that later), there is no doubt he was a cut above the rest of the November 9. He quietly went about his business - an unassuming young man in Raybans methodically four and five-betting his opponents into submission. His weapons were his stack and his heart, and he relied heavily on both to bludgeon his gun-shy opponents out of the pot. While he may not have been the most loquacious or animated character, Cheong made up for it by giving the table, and the audience, a clinic on today’s uber-aggressive brand of poker.

Nearly all of the rest of the table seemed either outclassed or just trying to move up the pay ladder. The so-called ‘volatile’ Italian Filippo Candio was subdued, barely playing a pot an hour; John Racener was seeing whether he could fold his way to a bracelet; and Duhamel? Well, I don’t know exactly what he was doing, but I see a similar style of play to his in the $12 turbos on PokerStars (27 million re-raise from Mizrachi? I haz A9? CAAAAALLLLLLL).

Joseph Cheong, to his credit, was the only one (with perhaps the exception of the Grinder) who turned up to the final table ready to play some real poker.

The Bland

My kingdom, my kingdom for an interesting world champion and an enthralling final table. I’d give my bones for another amateur Moneymaker-type winner, or for an established pro like Ivey or Matusow or Tony G to win, or for a woman, or even – for that matter – for one of the interesting Internet kids to win (there could be one or two).

But no, what we get is another young, bland, slightly-above average Internet player / college drop-out.  We get the calling station from Quebec:  Jonathan Duhamel. Three years running now we’ve had a similar brand of champ: Joe Cada, Peter Eastgate, and now Jonathan Duhamel. All nice guys no doubt (and they are all nice guys) - all dull as dish water without question. Not one of them up for talking it up at the table (like Matusow); not a one with an interesting back story full of trial and tribulation (like Stu Ungar); not one of them expressing any real happiness on victory or frustration upon defeat (like Hellmuth). No, none of that – just three emotionless pushbot World Champions clogging up the airtime and making poker ever less appealing for the average punter.

Imagine a woman winning the Main Event – the boom for poker that would follow would be nearly big as Moneymaker (it would also make playing live poker more bearable). Or imagine Tony G at the final table “BRING ON THE CANADIANS” he’d yell as he dispatched a Duhamel to the rail; “stop chewing and play a hand you NIT” he’d yell, berating Racener. The G would bring entertainment. Or imagine just another ‘every day man’ winning – a Moon, or a Phillips or a Moneymaker - now that is something all the pub poker players and home game heroes want to see.

But no, none of that for us, what we had was one of the dullest final tables in history. We had a chip leader in Duhamel whose blank-eyed stare from deep within a plain black hoodie was about as interesting as cabbage soup. The man who seemed never to talk, never to bluff, and never to fold (except aces, once, incorrectly).

The Ugly

The more I watched Duhamel play during the coverage of the WSOP, the more it seemed that he was intent on giving his chips away in messy situations with bad odds.

The ugliest spot was one that happened just short of the final table, when Duhamel made possibly the most horrible call in recent poker history on the turn to crack Affleck’s AA on the river. Most people reading this article will have seen this travesty of a hand by now, but for those that haven’t, just type “horrible donk call makes young man cry” into YouTube and the link will come up.

This display of an ill-disciplined inability to fold by Duhamel against Affleck in the biggest tournament of the year makes Cheong’s six-bet hero play with A7 all the worse. If Duhamel won’t lay down JJ when he thinks he is behind - on the final table bubble of the World Series Main event -why on Earth would you imagine he’d fold QQ three-handed against Joseph Cheong, the most aggressive player at the table? Come on Joseph – think about it. No need for such heroics. You were crushing them. You were the only one playing poker. Your victory could have pulled the final table out of the muck and made it eminently watchable.

But alas, Joseph busted 3rd and Racener proceeded to let himself blind away heads up.

But good, bland, or ugly, the WSOP coverage always gets my juices flowing. Because there’s always next year, isn’t there? And hell, why couldn’t it be me sitting there under the lights?

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The Good, The Bland and The Ugly of the 2010 WSOP Main Event final table The Good, The Bland and The Ugly of the 2010 WSOP Main Event final table

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