At time of writing, players in the High Roller field are preparing for their dinner break, while some other sharks mingle in the corridor waiting for their first taste of the action.
Liv Boeree, Igor Kurganov and Philipp Gruissem are among those spotted close to the desk that offers “alternate” tickets. They are perhaps waiting for space to open up in a field that has already attracted 150 players.
That field will grow further very soon when an influx of another eight players sit down. That octet will be grinning even more broadly than most, having just battled their way through the £170 satellite to earn passage. It’s costing them less than one tenth of what the others are stumping up.
The satellite event kicked off at 1pm today, two hours before the start of the High Roller, and took place in the PokerStars LIVE card-room at the very top of the Hippodrome Casino. It attracted 53 players and, with several taking their option for a single re-entry, offered eight seats plus £1,460 for whoever went out in ninth.
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That meant that 10-handed play was the stone bubble and a tournament that had taken place in carefree fashion for six hours suddenly got a little tense. They were split across two tables of five and there was a vast discrepancy in chip stacks. One player had only 9,000 in chips (blinds were 2,000/4,000), with others at around 16,000 and 20,000. At the other end of the spectrum, a few players had more than 100,000 and the opportunity to breathe easily.
“If anybody raise, I go all-in,” said David Kahan, who was the outright leader, and could afford such bravado.
On one of the tables, Thiago Da Silva Freitas opened from his big stack to around 8,500. Valentin Frunze, who was also pretty comfortable, three-bet to about 20,000. Action on the other table was already over, so Kahan was among those to come over to take a look what was going on. He also called the clock as Freitas pondered his options.
When he announced that he was all-in, the short-stacks must have been delighted. Were they going to sneak in thanks to some big-stack cannibalism. No, they were not. Frunze folded. “Kings,” Freitas said.
A passerby came over to talk to Leon Lewis. “It’s me, him or him,” Lewis said, pointing first at his meagre 15,000 and then at two of the other short-stacks. As it turned out, it was one of the “hims”. After Lewis folded his big blind, a shove with A♣4♥ ran into Mikhail Drozdov’s J♥J♠. The jacks held and we had our bubble boy, wandering away anonymous in his misery.
That guaranteed eight players a ticket to the big dance, with one other certain to pick up nearly £1,500. It didn’t seem likely to last long, even without Kahan repeating again, “If somebody raise, I go all-in.”
There was a shove on the first hand: 21,000 from Erhan Constantin in the cutoff, which got through. There was a shove on the second hand too, from the same player. This one was a three-bet and he showed 10♥10♠ to prove he wasn’t at it with air.
An open to 9,000 on the next hand got things done, but then there was the tournament-ending collision. Lewis, who was now perilously short, moved in for 13,000 from the hijack.
Frunze called from the cuttoff and then Kahan, reneging on his promise, called from the big blind too.
“You win money no matter what,” Constantin told Lewis, offering some consolation come what may.
“I think I’m going to win the hand,” Lewis said.
Both of his opponents checked the full board of 9♥10♠7♦7♥7♠ and Lewis span over his A♠Q♠. Frunze quashed his hopes very quickly, exposing his Q♦Q♣. (Kahan was forced to show his K♦8♥.)
“Good game,” Lewis said as he waiting to receive his payout ticket. Meanwhile the others waited for the receipt that would get them into the big one and the chance at a very significant spin-up indeed.