The WSOP Main Event may have attracted $64m in buy-ins, but just how much was wagered on the final table outcome?
While most of us were glued to our televisions waiting for Peter Eastgate, Chino Rheem and the final table gang to make the kinds of plays that write history, others watched the WSOP final table with more of an interest at stake. Sports bookmakers across the Caribbean – those same entities that court action on everything from cricket to the Super Bowl – had set lines for the final table.
A couple of days after Eastgate was crowned champion, I got hold of Shane Catford, crack linemaker at BetCRIS.com, to ask him about WSOP betting. My questions were twofold: one, did WSOP wagers generate any real action? And, two, should I take a flyer on next year?
So, how busy was it? ‘On match-ups alone’ – that is, pitting individual players against one another – ‘we’re talking $ 100,000 in wagers, and we’re not the only ones taking these bets,’ Catford says, adding that his clientele is used to gambling on the offbeat. ‘We take wagers on all kinds of things. We get action on hurricanes hitting certain cities, the day of the week Castro dies, whether or not [disgraced NFL star] Michael Vicks will get convicted. It’s a joke. People are sick. They bet on everything.’
Including poker. In putting BetCRIS’s money where his mouth is, Catford looked for a combination of chip position, form and experience before handicapping the November Nine. He scoured the internet, surveyed local poker cognoscenti and considered the players’ past performances. ‘Dennis Phillips, for example, was the chip leader, but he had the least experience. So I didn’t give him as much respect as I normally
Right from the start, opponents at the table concurred. Despite Phillips’ significant stack, his chips didn’t do much to engender respect when he made big bets early on, got raised, and folded under pressure.
In terms of picking a favourite to win the Big One, Catford’s logic was in the right place, but his sensibilities were slightly off. He embraced Ivan Demidov as a favourite, factoring in the Russian pro’s final table appearance at the WSOPE. Catford correctly expected short-stacked Kelly Kim to blow out early and dark-horsed him at 25/1. Eastgate squeaked in at 4/1 to win it, while Chino, a fan favourite, posted at 17/2.
After the lines were set, Catford moved his numbers based on the flow of action. For some reason, he says, a flurry of wagers came in on Darus Suharto, which made him favourite in the last-longer against Chino Rheem. To me, Suharto sounds like a pretty good guy to bet against, but in actuality it would have been a bust. Unexpectedly, Chino got popped before the diminutive Canadian did.
Surprisingly, considering that Craig Marquis was being coached by both Tom ‘Durrrr’ Dwan and David ‘Raptor’ Benefield, Catford put him at 19/2. That price clearly served Catford and his employer, as Marquis flamed out early. As for Eastgate’s relatively low payoff, Catford admits that it could have been worse: ‘We had a lot of action out of Denmark. People bet on Eastgate out of patriotism. That brought down his closing price.’
Considering that the limits Catford was willing to take topped out at $20,000 per bet, you have to wonder if any of the players themselves wagered on an opponent as a hedge or on themselves as a sweetener.
‘I never checked that out,’ admits Catford. ‘But I wouldn’t be surprised if a player bet on himself. Some of them, even with $ 9m at stake, would still need to get down for an extra $ 20k. You know, people are like that.’
PokerPlayer magazine includes 68 pages of great content like this plus 24 pages of expert poker strategy