Now that the World Series of Poker’s final table is set, I’ve had a chance to evaluate the nine finalists and would like to make a few observations on their prospects when play resumes in 102 days (but who’s counting?).
First of all, I know both of the Las Vegas-based players – Phil Ivey and Jeff Shulman – and believe they have solid chances of winning it all.
Phil Ivey, of course, is one of the top pros in the world – many consider Phil the best player in the game today – and he would make a great champion.
Phil’s also a gentleman, a class act and he represents the game of poker very well. It would be great for poker, as well as TV poker, to see Phil in heads-up play for the championship in November.
Jeff, though not as well known as Phil, is an accomplished player, cut from the cloth of that new breed of aggressive young players.
Personally, Jeff is a smart guy and great family man, and hales from the family that owns Card Player magazine. As noted, he uses an aggressive style, which fits the no limit game perfectly.
When play resumes in November, I think both players may find some of the dynamics of the game have changed. We’ve seen this in the past, where strategy and moves that worked before, may not be the right moves the second time around.
For instance, because of his reputation, Phil will get tons of respect from the other players, meaning they will be overly cautious in engaging Phil, and he may not get the action, especially when he has good cards.
Therefore, it might be to his advantage to become more innovative in picking his spots and making the right moves. I’m sure he will find that everyone will be playing their best against him.
Jeff, on the other hand, may want to change gears from his style of play. That is, he might put the "brakes on" while playing more patiently and cautiously. I realize that an aggressive style may have gotten him to the final table, but patience might be the recipe to keep him there, or to move on to the championship.
I point this out having seen these reverse scenarios unfold. This year, nearing the end of the WSOP main event, a player had over 20 million in chips, surely enough to make the final table.
But, he never relented from his wide-open aggression and it cost him a shot at winning it all. Specifically, he played a hand of 3-5 of diamonds, pushing in all his chips, even after the board paired at the end, opening the gate to a lethal full house.
This also happened last year, when I was coaching one of the players, who was in contention for the final table.
Well, the player simply ignored my advice and threw caution to the wind, with the result being another untimely bust-out.
The notion of coaching or mentoring is a good one for the nine finalists, but only if they follow the advice of their coaches!
Using a coach can be crucial for the player. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and they need to make the most of it. A coach can offer insights that could prove invaluable when the cards fly in November, but as previously noted, they need to heed the advice.
I can’t predict what will happen in 102 days; it’s the nature of poker that basically anything can happen.
But I’m hopeful for a compelling match-up when heads-up play begins; perhaps a match-up similar to the Sammy Farha and Chris Moneymaker final a few years ago.
Poker, especially poker on TV, can use something like that right now. Maybe it will end up being Phil Ivey and Jeff Shulman, a toe-to-toe battle with a Las Vegas dateline.
That would be a good story.
Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Joe Awada