The World Series of Poker Main Event is the most watched televised poker tournament in the world.
There’s been much debate about whether delaying the final table until November has improved or diminished the broadcast.
I’m indifferent on the matter, but what I know for sure is that the delay – and the almost-live broadcast it enables – adds another layer of strategy and pressure to the final table.
It was hard enough to live with botching a hand at the final table, but now players can still be alive and read tweets calling their play “an abomination and insult to the intelligence of poker players everywhere” just minutes after it happened.
I watched only some of the final table this year, but I followed Twitter throughout broadcast, and there was an explosion of criticism over a big hand between J.C. Tran and Jay Farber.
Tran entered the final table with the chip lead and the most impressive résumé, making him the popular favorite to win the tournament. But after losing half his stack leading up to six-handed play, Tran committed a major error in his big hand with Farber.
With blinds of 300,000-600,000, Tran raised to 1.4 million from the small blind with Ac Qd and a stack of 21 million. Farber was in the big blind with a stack of 60 million, and with his 6s 6d he reraised to 3.1 million.
Tran thought for a moment, then reached for a tall stack of chips and raised to 6.4 million. The raise sent Farber deep into the tank, and he alternated between looking over his chip stack and trying to evaluate how much Tran had in front of him. Then, Farber announced a raise to 10 million, a wager that represented nearly half of Tran’s stack.
I watched the hand play out on ESPN, where the hole cards are concealed until after the action is over.
When I watched Farber make the tiny reraise, I was pretty convinced that he had a huge hand, but I also thought it was possible he was making a small raise to represent a stronger hand than he actually had – a popular play among younger players.
I had no clue that Tran had a hand as strong as A-Q, which is generally an automatic hand to get all in with when it’s blind vs. blind and you’re down to 35 big blinds. Tran thought about Farber’s raise for a moment, then tossed his hand into the muck.
When the hole cards were revealed, my eyes nearly popped out of my skull. Tran, holding a premium hand, had invested a third of his stack in a blind-vs.-blind pot and not only failed to get the money in, but failed to have a plan for what would happen if his opponent reraised his four-bet.
Although I believed that Farber had a strong hand after he made his small five-bet, if I were in Tran’s shoes, I’d have just cursed under my breath and gotten my chips in the middle, which is what the math dictates at that stage. But I don’t want to pile on Tran.
He likely realized his choice was a mistake minutes after making it, and he certainly knew it was once he learned what Farber actually had. Tran is one of the most professional and courteous players I’ve met during my time on the circuit, and I was happy to see him make a big score. I just hope he has thick skin.
Tony Dunst is a poker pro and host of “Raw Deal” on World Poker Tour telecasts. Catch him every Sunday night on FSN.