For anyone who isn't clear on the definition of a Shootout, it's quite simple. Instead of the play continuing all day with tables being rearranged as players are eliminated, each table plays down to one winner who continues on to the next stage of the event. This structure has several consequences on the way the tournament unfolds.
First of all, the game plan of each individual must be altered to take into account the fact that only one player from each table is going to survive. There's no room for taking it slow and trying to survive to get into the money - you either beat the other players at your table or you're eliminated.
Secondly, the second day of the event is very different from traditional tournaments in that every player starts with the same amount of chips. This serves to level the playing field as you will never see the huge chip leader who can just sit back and coast into a high paying position. Conversely there are no short stacks either, who in a regular tournament would be forced into action as the blinds begin to climb higher and higher.
Thirdly, and perhaps most striking, is the fact that unlike most tournaments, players are forced to engage in short-handed play, all the way down to heads-up, every step of the way. It's almost like playing three final tables, one each day, and having to overcome them all to win the event. This can prove difficult for many players who may not have the experience when it comes down to two- or three-handed action.
With so many big names in the field, there were lots of great match-ups in this event. Mike Sexton and Steve Dannenmann played each other heads-up for a spot in the next round, James Woods beat his table to continue, and many others competed to make this tournament a success.
Speaking of short-handed play, the controversy I alluded to earlier was a direct result of the tournament staff's decision to begin the event with only six players at each table.
Play had been underway for about half an hour, and I was busy taking photographs of all the note-worthy professionals when I noticed a commotion a few tables away, but first a little background is needed.
The structure of the tournament was such that in order for ten players to end up at the final table, there had to be ten tables playing on Day 2. Remember, each table contributes only one player to the next round. To get ten tables on Day 2, one hundred tables had to be formed on Day 1. Add to this the fact that there were only six hundred entrants and the result was that there had to be only six players at each table.
This was the cause of the problem that eventually led to one well-liked pro being ejected from the tournament. He wasn't removed by force but let's just say it took two security guards to convince him to exit the tournament area.
Harry Demetriou, aka The "Wise Owl" was the player, and he took "great exception" to the short-handed structure at the onset of this event. Truth be told he had a valid point, it's just too bad he was unable to convey that point in a manner that wouldn't get him tossed out of the room. With a raised voice and a frenzied flailing of his limbs he let everyone within a hundred yards know that he was not happy with the way things were going.
There were a few things that lent credence to his objections however. First, a round of applause and cheers of agreement went up from the other players in regard to the truth that they were being forced to play short-handed in an event that was not promoted as such. Also the fact that Harry was playing well and had more chips than he started with gave weight to his argument.
Unfortunately in the end none of this mattered. Harry, who has a reputation for hot-headedness, was escorted out of the poker room. Whether he got his money refunded or not I don't know, but this episode should serve as a lesson to the tournament staff that communication with the players about the reasons for their actions should be paramount. Perhaps if both parties had handled the situation differently this unpleasantness could have been avoided.