Day 1c at the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event drew a massive turnout with 4,262 players showing up for the third and final Day 1 flight, creating a total field of 7,221 for the event — the most since 2010 and third-largest in WSOP history.
Frenchman Victor Saumont was among those who played yesterday, looking to match or improve on his 257th place finish for $36,708 in the Main Event in 2016. Prior to that score Saumont had only collected a few small cashes, though just before the Main had earned his first five-figure score in a Grand Poker Series event at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, so his Main Event run was something special.
Some of us who cover poker tournaments know Saumont better as a tournament reporter himself, having covered many events in Europe alongside him while playing with him in the occasional media event. Saumont also is known by others for having recently made the excellent documentary about other French players playing at the WSOP called Nosebleed.
He'd collected some more cashes since his deep run at the WSOP last summer, including winning another tournament at the Golden Nugget late last month, a $150 buy-in event in which he bested a 1,944-entry field to win $18,093. It was only natural, then, that he'd try his hand again at the WSOP Main Event this year.
With such a huge Day 1c turnout, Saumont little expected to find himself facing across the table not one but two of poker's very best. There was Daniel Negreanu, the winningest tournament poker player of all time and six-time bracelet holder, and right next to Negreanu was seated five-time bracelet winner and last year's WSOP Player of the Year Jason Mercier.
My colleague spoke briefly with Saumont late in the day, and he confided it had been more than a little stressful to have such a seat assignment. Throw in the fact that the table was chosen for the main feature table and shown on PokerGo yesterday on a day with hole cards up, and that made for an even greater challenge.
Saumont managed to survive such a poker crucible, though, getting through five full two-hour levels and even ending the night with more chips than either Mercier (28,500) or Negreanu (26,200).
While playing against these two kings of poker, about halfway through the day during Level 3 Saumont found himself being dealt two kings in late position on consecutive hands. Not only that, but first Negreanu and then Mercier became his primary opponents in the two hands, both of which put him in difficult spots.
It was a perfect "What Would You Do?"-type of scenario, made all the more easier to imagine given how most of us can better imagine being in Saumont's seat than either those of Negreanu or Mercier. Continue on and tell us how you think you would handle the decisions Saumont had to make in these two hands.
Hand #1: Pocket Kings vs. Negreanu
For both of these hands the blinds were 150/300 with a 25 ante.
In the first, Negreanu had 51,200 to start the hand and he raised from middle position to 800. It folded to Saumont in the cutoff with 65,400 where he'd been dealt . Saumont made it 2,350 to go and was called both by Jean Fabre who started with 33,575 in the small blind and by Negreanu.
The flop came and it checked around to Saumont who continued for 2,700, and only Negreanu called. The then fell on the turn, and both players checked. Pot 12,975.
The river then brought the , putting a second pair on the board. This time Negreanu bet 3,800 — not quite 30 percent of the pot.
Saumont took a while, even engaging Negreanu in a little table talk as he decided what to do.
"Ten-seven?" he asked Negreanu. "Ten-seven?!" answered a grinning Negreanu. "I mean that's a stretch even for me. Sounds like a guy with jacks who's hoping I would bet with 10-high."
Okay... you're Saumont with those kings. After that action and that exchange...
Saumont eventually folded his hand, conceding the pot to Negreanu who didn't show but confirmed that he did not have . Rather, he had .
Hand #2: Pocket Kings vs. Mercier
On the very next hand, Mercier — with 40,550 to start — opened to 750 from under the gun. Saumont had 60,325 to begin this hand, and once again looked down at , this time in the hijack. Saumont chose just to flat-call in this instance, and Steve Karp called as well from the big blind.
The flop came , and after Karp checked Mercier continued for 1,100. Saumont called with his overpair and Karp folded, then the turn brought the , pairing the board.
Mercier checked this time, and Saumont bet 2,200. Taking his time, Mercier check-raised to 6,100, and Saumont thought a while before calling, bringing the pot up to 17,025.
The river was the , and Mercier made a big, almost pot-sized bet — 15,800.
Saumont went deep in the tank, thinking for about three minutes. Okay, you're in his seat...
Providing commentary, Nick Schulman noted how "it's not easy to fold kings back-to-back on rivers [when your hand] could be good." Saumont started counting his chips. "Looks like he's going to look it up," added Schulman.
Again, though, Saumont chose to fold. This time, he'd chosen well, as Mercier had .
"Excellent laydown," noted Schulman, highlighting the fact that it was made even more difficult given how Saumont was "underrepped" because "he just flatted pre."
"Might see on TV?" said Saumont to Mercier afterwards. "Maybe," answered Mercier.