World Series of Poker Norman Chad is employed a.) to analyze poker, which isn't that hard because the cards are right there in front of all of us; and b.) to entertain, which is hard because you gotta think of stuff to say and be creative (which in the preceding phrase I was not).
So below is his take on the November Nine in the World Series:
Meanwhile, Casino City Times explains the machinations ESPN is facing.
Kelly Kim: Has to feel like he's on a free roll - he was the short stack when they got down to 10 players - but that doesn't mean he'll play recklessly. In fact, with a big gallery of friends and family on hand, he'll probably play it snug - you don't wait 117 days and bring all your supporters into town to go bust in 15 minutes.
Craig Marquis: He played smart, small-pot poker to get here. I like him because he stood up to Tiffany Michelle late in the Main Event. And I like him because he started playing in January 2007 after going to a New Year's Eve party and realizing how much money Tom Dwan and David Benefield were making at cards - on New Year's Eve, most people just get silly and make stupid resolutions.
David Rheem: He could go out first or he could end up first. He's not afraid to mix it up, he goes with his reads and he'll risk it all early if the spot feels right. Even when he bluffs off most of his stack, he has a great ability to not let the moment destroy him - he'll brush it off and move on. And, of course, most of the established pros are rooting for him.
Darus Suharto: At 39, the second-oldest player left in the field, which speaks to the youthful state of no-limit tournament hold 'em in 2008. He's quiet, respectful and a big fan of fellow Canadian Daniel Negreanu. Plus, he's a CPA - the last time an unknown accountant won the Main Event, it set off a poker boom; nobody would mind a second boom, or at least a boomlet.
Ylon Schwartz: He once was a top-flight chess player. I give him a point for that. He says if he wins the Main Event, he wants to go somewhere no one will find him "like Tim Robbins in Shawshank Redemption." He gets another point there. He's smart and strange - you've got to fear the smart, strange ones - and he'll wait for others to make mistakes at the table.
Peter Eastgate: Ah, to be young, fearless and playing for $9.1 million. In Europe, the poker community talks about uber-aggressive Scandinavian players like Eastgate. He is calm and icy at the table as he continues to shove big bets into the middle. Like many online young guns, his modus operandi is to keep putting opponents to tough decisions for most of their chips. Pressure, pressure, pressure. It seems to work.
Scott Montgomery: Another improbable product of the now-famed University of Waterloo poker factory in Canada - if it's such a good engineering school, how come everyone there is playing cards? Montgomery describes his playing style as "psychotically insane," and that might be an understatement. He doesn't play position, he plays preposterously. He can't help getting all his money in with the worst of it, and he's forever good-natured about it.
Ivan Demidov: Here's a calendar-year feat for you: Making the WSOP Main Event final table and the WSOP Europe Main Event final table. That's a stunning double. In recent years, Russians are making a bigger impact in poker. Demidov is seldom recklessly aggressive like other twenty-somethings; rather, he's smart and measured and overcomes his lack of live tournament experience with a steady countenance and solid reads.
Dennis Phillips: Perhaps no player could be more negatively affected by the 117-day final-table delay. When play was halted in July, Phillips was in a zone. He was running hot and reading well, getting all the right cards and pushing all the right buttons. Poker is a streaky game, and he was on a week-long streak. Heck, 3 ½ months later, he might not even be able to find his St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap.