"So, why aren't you playing the Ladies Event?" about a dozen different people asked me as I wandered the field with my notepad in hand and my media badge around my neck.
Well, there are many reasons, my friends. One being that after my last 12 months in poker, spending $1,000 on a single tournament would be an extremely bad decision in terms of bankroll management. As in, if I bought in, I wouldn't have much of a bankroll left.
The other is that even if I did have that kind of money to throw around on a WSOP event, I certainly wouldn't buy into the Ladies Event after my experience in it last year. Poor structure, not enough starting chips, bad payout schedule and you'd better hit a hand in the first hour or else you aren't hitting anything else except the rail. If I had $1K to spend on tournaments, I'd play three Venetian or Caesar's deep stack events instead. Those actually carry some bang for your buck.
1,190 players entered this year's Ladies Event, a slight decline from the 1,236 that played last year. It reflects a theme that has played out in all of the events thus far-- flat registrations. Rather than blame it on the decline of poker, I think the current economic state has more to do with it than anything. When gas is $4.40 a gallon (at least that's what I paid yesterday) and peoples' mortgages are suddenly doubling, there's not a lot of room for the average American woman to just decide to head out to Vegas and blow four figures on a poker tournament. And that's exactly who this tournament attracts-- regular gals. And a few token celebrities like Mimi Rogers and Kathy Najimy. Oh yeah, and tons of porn stars who are bought in by the various websites they represent. One of my field reporters told me there were TWIN porn stars playing and I had to check it out myself to confirm. But there they were... twin porn stars, each wearing a PerfectTen.com hat.
Most of the top female pros decided to avoid this minefield. Annie Duke, Cyndy Violette and Jen Harman had stacks in Day 2 of the $10K stud. Kristy Gazes decided to play the 5 p.m. Omaha-8 event instead and ended up cashing in 28th place. Vanessa Selbst was one of the chip leaders in the $2,500 NLHE but decided to two-table it more for fun than anything, moving all in on almost every hand. Vanessa Rousso, Erica Schoenberg and J.J. Liu all played but didn't make it past the first break.
"Any dudes playing in the dyke festival?" texted Pauly as I blogged the first level.
Rumors had been swirling around that Phil Ivey was going to try to play, given the sheer amount of money he has riding on prop bets that he'll win a bracelet this year. The rumored figure is around $2 million. A player by the name Allan Jaffray (not Allyn Jaffrey Shulman, but close) arrived dressed in drag and attempted to register, but was ultimately turned away. Apparently he'd been egged on to do it by B.A.R.G.E. regulars Sabyl Cohen-Landrum (yep, she just got married) and Patti Beadles. Fortunately, WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack decided to preserve the small shred of integrity this event retains and forbade men from buying in.
One transsexual did make it in, though (and made the money). Not sure if she was pre or post op, but there was some beard stubble going on, not to mention an Adam's apple the size of a golf ball bobbing around on her neck.
Two media pals of mine made the money-- Poker News and Poker Road's Amanda Leatherman who finished 45th and Poker Stars' Brazilian blogger Maria "Maridu" Maynrick who made her second cash of the series, finishing in 35th place. Nice work, chicas!
To illustrate just how fast this structure was, over 80% of the field was out before the Day 1 dinner break. We were down to 62 players by the end of the night and enjoyed a short Day 2 with the final table of nine set before midnight. Tao of Poker favorite "Sweet" Svetlana Gromenkova was the runaway chip leader going into the final table and was by far the most experienced and aggressive player left. Anh Le, who had finished runner-up to Jennifer Tilly in '05 also made the final table. I've played with her on several occasions at Commerce and the Bike and she's a very good player.
We got the main stage to blog the final table, as it was being broadcast live on ESPN 360. Having covered over 100 tournaments now, doing hand-for-hand coverage is pretty rote for me at this point but I was actually excited to do it for the ladies' event, just to see how different the play would be from the open events I usually cover. If you're interested in checking it out, the Poker News live blog from this event can be found here.
The major difference? A lotta limping. One woman failed to ever open for a raise at the FT, preferring to limp-call her opponents' raises. My eyes rolled back in my head when I saw her do this for 1/3 of her stack then proceed to check-fold to a small continuation bet. Not a shocker that she went out first, despite coming into the final table as an average stack. Once we were down to five, everyone tightened up so much that we didn't see a flop for 21 straight hands at one point.
Eventual winner Svetlana Gromenkova played a very similar final table strategy to the one I saw Annette "Annette_15" Obrestad employ at the WSOP-Europe main event. She even cut a similar figure to Obrestad-- petite, stone-faced, and eyes hidden behind massive sunglasses. Gromenkova sat back for much of the early going, playing tight and letting the short stacks duke it out. Once we were down to four, she turned up the aggression and started playing back at her opponents. Unafraid to put in a re-raise or three-bet all in Gromenkova made quick work or shorthanded play and got heads-up with Anh Le at a 2-1 chip advantage.
It looked like Le might finally have her day in the sun when she hit a five on the flop, holding A-5 to Gromenkova's A-K in a pre-flop all in confrontation, reversing the stacks and putting Le in the lead with 1.4 million to Gromenkova's 800,000. Unfortunately for the 30-year old Californian, she'd be a bridesmaid again, finishing second in this event for the second time in her brief career. Sweet Svetlana took down the bracelet, buoyed by a cheering section that included several Atlantic City players as well as newly minted $10K Mixed Event champion Anthony Rivera, who, according to Amy Calistri, loaned Svetlana the Prada sunglasses he had worn when he won that event last week.
No regrets for me for not playing in this, or any other WSOP event. My time will come eventually. For now, it's time to enjoy my fourth day off this summer (already 1.5 more than I had all of the '07 WSOP) and play some cash games.
Or perhaps try my hand at another one of those satellites...