Vanessa Selbst stood up from the feature table, a smile on her face.
“Well, I have a story to tell,” she said.
Talk about a story. This is a doozy.
They start with 50,000-chip stacks here in the Main Event, with the blinds just 75/150 and no ante for the first two-hour level. That’s 333 big blinds (and a third!).
Such deep stacks necessarily make early eliminations the rarity — make them into stories to tell.
Actually that’s a quote from Selbst, too, uttered during the hand she just played — her last one of the 2017 WSOP Main Event.
Early on today Selbst flopped two pair with eight-six versus an opponent who’d made a set with pocket eights, and the Team PokerStars Pro managed to get away from the hand on the turn without too much damage.
Then as the day’s second hour began, Selbst picked up A♠A♦ and raised to 400, getting two calls from two tough players — 2012 WSOP Main Event 10th-place finisher Gaelle Baumann on the button, and Noah Schwartz in the small blind.
Since it was the feature table and being shown on a delay on ESPN2, those watching knew the others’ hands, too. For the sake of suspense, though, we’ll keep that information to ourselves just now.The flop fell A♣7♣5♣ — top set for Selbst. When checked to Selbst bet 700, Baumann called, and Schwartz folded his J♣8♥.
The turn was the 7♠, giving Selbst aces full of sevens and removing any concern caused by all those clubs. This time Selbst checked, and Baumann fired 1,700. Selbst then made it 5,800 to go, and Baumann called.
The river was the 4♦ and Vanessa bet big — 16,200, or just a bit more that what was already in the middle. Baumann sat quietly for a few beats, then announced she was raising all in.
Selbst immediately broke into a grin, starting to talk aloud as she wondered just what was going on. Selbst had about 20,000 behind, and Baumann had her slightly outchipped. To call and be wrong would be the end.
“Wow,” said Selbst. “This might be a quick Main Event for me,” said Selbst, incredulous.
She talked through the hand, reducing Baumann’s range to just a couple of possibilities — ace-seven suited (necessarily hearts), and sevens for quads. Meanwhile the French pro sat utterly stone-faced, looking straight ahead and offering little to help Selbst with her quandary.
Ultimately Selbst decided on A♥7♥, saying “I have to call.”
Then Baumann showed her the other hand — 7♥7♦. She got all the chips, and Selbst got just the story.
“If I had two red aces, I would have folded the hand,” Selbst explained afterwards to ESPN’s Kara Scott, noting how Baumann wouldn’t have gotten involved preflop with just ace-seven offsuit.
“Which is insane to say,” Selbst added, “but I really felt like there was a really good chance she could have quads.”
Still a doozy. But first-level bustouts happen — just ask Selbst’s red-spade wearing teammate, Celina Lin.
We caught up with Lin on the day’s first break, and couldn’t resist asking her about her own Main Event memory of a first-level fright.
Two years ago Lin was ousted in Level 1 in a hand versus Gavin Smith. Like Selbst, her story started with pocket aces. Meanwhile Smith had a pair of kings and had Lin covered when the chips went in preflop. A king on the turn spelled a sudden, painful and premature end to Lin’s Main Event.
“Everything we’ve ever been taught as pros is not to be results oriented,” said Lin, who like many in the Amazon Room had heard about Selbst’s elimination.
But she knows how for many that’s easier said than done.
In fact, there had already been a player knocked out during the first level at Lin’s table today. “On my table we’ve actually already seen a guy lose his whole stack,” she told us. “He had a straight and another guy made a full house on the river.”
Lin noted how Selbst having top boat made getting away from the hand exceedingly difficult, with only Baumann’s reputation as a similarly strong player perhaps making it possible to think about her having quads.
Or at least not insane. Getting away from the hand, though? That’s a different story.
“It is the World Series,” said Lin, whose first level went well. She made quads herself once, in fact, and built up to around 70,000 by the break. “It’s a tournament with such a big prize pool and everyone has such high hopes for it,” she added, again recalling the pain of imagining playing for two weeks only to be knocked out after an hour.
But as Lin already knows, the story lasts a lot longer.