The Kroon Swoon

(NOTE: Gentle readers, once again, I’m having the WordPress problem of everything being in italics, and no matter what I do, it just won’t go away, thus, once again, I ask for any assistance, as any wordpress forum stuff I’m finding about hidden open “em” tags is not helping me with this one. Thanks!)

ESPN Episode 2’s intro is all about Ivey, sitting with a good stack and oh so dangerous, with replays of his near bust-out of Mader. They will definitely be in the spotlight again.  In previous posts, I’ve mentioned how incredibly improbable it would be for him to get back to that spot where Moneymaker felted him back in ’03. What I didn’t mention is that he DID make it deep again, all the way to the final table, in ‘09. Sadly, Ivey started the table with short stack, and busted pretty quickly, by perhaps an even more inexperienced player than Moneymaker, Darvin Moon. Ivey’s unreal greatness (making five WSOP Event final tables in a row over a thirteen-day span last year) and a likeness that went at least a smidge beyond race, at one point led to some calling him poker’s Tiger Woods, but comparisons faded away (although a few diptychs like this can still be found on the interwebs).


ESPN cuts away from the final table to show us the requisite annual bust out of Johnny Chan. As Chad tells us, the legend (for his pre-Moneymaker greatness, from “Rounders”), has only cashed in the Main Event twice in the past twenty years.

Quick cut to Mark Kroon, whose stack has grown to 700k, still top o’ the pile.

Focus back to Phil v. Phil. At one point, Ivey asks Mader where he’s a farmer. Mader tells him, Nebraska, then asks, “You know where that’s at?” Then, in a key hand between them, Ivey flops two pairs, and shoves, Mader calls with JJ (a tough call for all his chips, but not necessarily a bad one with such a dry board). And suddenly, Phil Mader, cinderella farmer, is in big trouble. He stands up to leave, and the turn is a blank, but then Mader hits the trip jack on the river to take the hand and double-up. Here it is:

After the hand, so un-Ivey like, the great one complains about his luck, is really openly annoyed. The cameras roll and Ivey continues chattering, even going to far as to ask the farmer what he had in the hand earlier where Ivey had the full house and Mader somehow folded his QQQ. Mader tells Ivey about the Q’s and Ivey’s even more tilted. The farmer stands up between hands and chats with his wife. He’s ESPN’s poker wet-dream – a regular guy having the time of his life. (Watching again later, a second time, Ivey’s behavior is that of someone who’s just not quite right. Later, McEachern calls him “smart Farmer Phil Mader,” which, if I were a farmer, I’d sure find a tad offensive.

Meanwhile, Sheikhan continues to needle his table, calling opponents hands when he folds (he’s by no means untalented, just, at least when cameras are rolling, one horrible human being), even calling Doyle’s hand once (he was wrong on that one, but not by much).  At one point, he says to Doyle, “Once I win this, there are going to be changes in the poker world.” The difference between Sheiky’s antics and Hellmuth’s, to me, are substantial. Sheikhan is just a jerk – Hellmuth is a clown, an entertainer, a WWF-worthy bad guy. In a profession where, even for the elite, a dry spell of several years is normal, he’s branded (and thoroughly monetized) himself  “Poker Brat,” and the money has followed in terms of endorsement deals, product lines, the list goes on, and on, and on, like Phil himself.

After a break, we see replay of Ivey bubbling the ’03 final table that I showed you a few posts back. It flashes through my mind how many phenoms have risen and then vanished in those ten years. Where are the LAG (loose-aggressive) Europeans, Antonius and Hansen and Elky, Where’s Paul Wassicka? Where’s Dennis Phillips? Where is Tom Dwan?!!? For the most part, they flamed out. Some probably just haven’t cashed in big TV tourneys. Some switched to just playing cash games, which can be easier on both wallet and soul for many players. What makes players like Doyle, Ivey, Hellmuth, Negreanu (the little shit) so impressive, and such fascinating characters, is that they just keep grinding tourneys, sometimes cashing, occasionally going deep, mixed with lots of losing, but then persevering, re-emerging time and time again, gritty little poker phoenixes. All those years of losing such a huge percentage of the time, and they keep grindin’. How? Why?

At one point, Sheiky wants to make a bet with Doyle about a hand. Doyle, who’s been mostly smiling or ignoring Sheik to this point, replies, “You don’t really want to bet, you just want to talk.”

Cut to Ray Romano busting out, his KK vs. AA. He takes it like a champ, which of course is easier when the money is no issue. It’s markedly easier to play poker if money is no issue, which is why bankroll management and playing at one’s proper level are so important. X tried to teach me this a few years back. I’ve only learned it recently. On a tangential note, most pros have backers, people who buy substantial pieces of them in tourneys. X once told me he doesn’t sell pieces of his action.

ESPN does it’s usual highlight real: one bust-out after the other, and as I watch the TV, I realize, OH MY GOD, X WENT SOOOO FRICKIN’ DEEP!!! (and I can’t wait for when we’ll start seeing him on TV).

Mark Kroon is starting to look as invincible as he apparently seems to feel . . . and then, as the announcers wonder why he’s taking so long to fold, he inexplicably five-bet reraises all-in on the river with no pair to an opponent with a straight, donking off more than half his stack. Kroon lost his mind for just a second, got way too happy, and, BOOM, one big  mistake, borne of fatigue, and of believing your clippings more than a bit too much. When fatigue sets in, when that third 12-hour day starts to drag, people will suddenly “blow up,” make a huge, often deadly lapse of judgment. Steadiness, calm, focus, so crucial. Kroon is clearly embarrassed. Let’s take a look:

Ah, hubris. And just like that, a complete unknown German amateur named Somar Al-Darwich (with two tourney cashes for $6k before this) is handed the gift of being overall chip leader in the Main Event as Day 3 ends.

The more I watch this with my analytic glasses on, the more I realize ESPN does a heckuva at making people sitting and playing cards into great TV, if not honest sportscasting by any means. Even the obnoxious Chad and bland McCairn, who seemed like awful choices a decade ago, and still annoy the hell out of so many, have helped build their brand consistently.

(next: hitting quads in the big one)

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