ESPN WSOP Main Event Recap: Episodes VII, VIII

5 October 2015

ESPN once again broke its weekly schedule of airing episodes of the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event, this week showing episodes 7 and 8 on Sunday night on ESPN2.

The move actually makes more sense than the network's original schedule, when it aired WSOP alongside Monday Night Football on its flagship network. This week, the Main Event coverage coincided with NBC's Sunday Night Football broadcast, but the game between the Cowboys and Saints was such a stinker that ESPN may have actually garnered more viewers for poker than it otherwise would have.

Anyway, episode 7 picks up on Day 5 of the Main Event, and episode 8 concludes with the end of Day 5. As always, if you don't want to know what happens later in the tournament, don't read this column. There are lots of references to who makes the November Nine, so consider yourself alerted to potential spoilers.

SETTING THE SCENE: The coverage begins with a brutal bust-out hand, when Andrew Moreno knocks out Dax Greene in 112th place. Moreno's ace-king suited is way behind Greene's pocket aces when the two get all-in before the flop, but two kings on the flop give Moreno trips and the eventual win.

NOTABLE BUSTOUTS: After Greene's bad beat, the first notable player to bust in episode 7 is Salvatore DiCarlo, whom my colleague Aaron Todd crowned the " episodes 5 & 6 MVP" last week. DiCarlo, who lost a huge pot at the end of episode 6 when his ace-king fell short to Daniel Negreanu's pocket kings, busts in 105th place in the early stages of episode 7 when he gets his 9-7 of diamonds all-in on a 4d-Kd-6s flop against Fedor Holz's dominating ace-six of diamonds.

Other notable players to bust on TV include Diana Svensk (83rd place), whose knockout makes Kelly Minkin the last woman standing in the 2015 Main Event field; Matthew Waxman (75th); and Stephen Lichtenberger (73rd), brother of Andrew "LuckyChewy" Lichtenberger.

NOVEMBER NINE APPEARANCES: Neil Blumenfield receives the most airtime among the November Niners on Sunday night, as the 61-year-old Silicon Valley native is seated at the feature table with pros Negreanu, Holz and Chad Power. Blumenfield gets involved in some large pots, including one where he takes down a massive four-way pot with just a pair of jacks. He also narrowly avoids elimination when he decides to slow play his pocket jacks against Negreanu's pocket aces, avoiding catastrophe when Negreanu decides to check on both the turn and river.

Max Steinberg makes another appearance this week, this time winning a big hand against fellow pro Justin Bonomo. Meanwhile, Federico Butteroni also benefites from Bonomo, when his pocket kings get all-in preflop and hold against Bonomo's pocket tens.

Josh Beckley also returns this week in the "First Timers" segment, though we have yet to see him play an actual hand.

MOST ENTERTAINING HAND: Holz is featured prominently in Sunday night's coverage, as ESPN runs a segment early in episode 7 profiling him as one of the best, most feared young players in the game today. And he plays tremendous poker throughout the coverage. But on one hand, Holz gets his hand caught in the cookie jar against fellow pro Upeshka De Silva, who makes an outstanding play to win the pot.

The two players have 1.8 million chip effective stacks, with Holz covering De Silva. Holz opens the pot to 90,000 from early position with 8-7 of spades, and De Silva three-bets to 265,000 from the big blind with ace-king. Holz calls. The flop comes Ad-Jd-8h, De Silva continues for 345,000 and Holz calls. On the queen-of-hearts turn, De Silva checks to Holz, who bets 425,000, roughly one-third of the pot. De Silva calls.

Then things get really interesting on the river, a nine of diamonds. De Silva checks again and Holz announces "all-in" for De Silva's remaining 765,000 chips. De Silva tanks for 10 minutes, causing Negreanu to call the clock. But De Silva has a huge decision to make; after all, he has just one pair, and the board completes every possible draw against his hand.

Eventually, De Silva throws in a stack of chips to call, and Holz sheepishly turns over his bluff. It was quite possibly the call of the tournament so far.

NORMAN CHAD LINE OF THE NIGHT: During the aforementioned hand between Steinberg and Bonomo, Norman Chad says, "Two former whippersnappers whipping and snapping against each other!"

He then clarifies: "Actually, neither is 30 yet. When you turn 30, you are officially over the whippersnapper hill."

BEST PLAYER EXCHANGE OF THE NIGHT: After busting DiCarlo, Holz leans over to Power on his right and asks him where he is from. Power tells Holz he's from Pittsburgh.

Power then quips to the German, "What about you – Texas?" Holz smiles, and Negreanu chimes in, "Texas? I've never heard German confused for Texas." Power admits he was joking, and the three have a good laugh.

GRACEFUL EXIT: Waxman, who finished 45th in the 2014 Main Event, makes another deep run in 2015 before eventually busting in 75th. Poker players say that the day they get knocked out of the Main Event is the worst day of the year. I'd imagine getting knocked out that deep is even worse, and getting knocked out that deep two years in a row would just be gut-wrenching.

But in his post-knockout interview with ESPN's Kara Scott, Waxman is extremely professional, albeit disappointed. He just speaks about his bust-out hand like it was business, the way a real pro should.

EPISODES 7 & 8 MVP: I have to give the honor to De Silva here, even if he actually loses most of the pots he plays on Sunday night. He wins this award because his call against Holz, with his tournament life on the line, is one of the best calls I've ever seen in televised poker.

Holz correctly points out after that hand that his 7-8 suited was "the only hand (De Silva) could beat." And yet, De Silva made the call anyway, and he was right.

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