Sure, there have been some complaints about the caliber of the play, which admittedly has been somewhat lower than one might expect from a couple of WPT events, but aside from that (which might actually attract pros in the years to come), the one thing holding the North American Poker Championship back from really spreading its tournament wings is the blind structure.
Simply put, it's slow. Slooow. Too slow for a tournament like this. We talked about it yesterday when the first of two Day 1s went until 1:45 am, and it's been a focus of attention today as well. We're eight hours into Day 1b, and only about thirty people have been eliminated from play. I mean, I understand that Canadians are naturally a reserved kind of people, but I'm really not prepared to believe that that reluctance to do anything brash or larger-than-life extends to not moving all-in at a poker table. Unless there are mitigating circumstances like a blind structure that moves at glacial speed.
At the NAPC, players paid $10,000 CAD for their seats and received $20,000 in tournament chips. The blind structure began with $25/$25 blinds and moved up to $25/$50, $50/$100, $100/$200, and so on with the passing of every level. With 90 minute levels, that means it will take hours (maybe even days) before anyone but those unlucky or foolish enough to be caught on the wrong end of really big hands feels the pinch of the approaching small and big blinds. And in tournament poker, those who aren't foolishly moving all-in blind or playing an advanced, aggressive game, are sitting back playing one or two hands an hour, waiting for aces or kings to show up.
You could see it yesterday as the hours crept by and the players kept folding. Average stacks kept being announced at $21,000, $22,000, $24,000 as levels passed with only a handful of eliminations in each. I'm convinced that the reason there were only 119 players left at the end of Day 1a is because most of the amateurs simply got restless as the night wore on, not because the blind structure caught up to them at all.
It's too late to fix anything this year, and those players who survive are doomed to spend a long next few days waiting for the blinds to catch up to the stacks so that a final table of six players can be established. But next year - for everyone's sake - please hurry things up a little!
That said, Day 1b wasn't without its interesting moments. These included Daniel Negreanu, resplendent in a Toronto Marlies American Hockey League jersey, being seated at a table with Paolo Colaiacovo, brother of former Toronto Marlie Carlo Colaiacovo. Negreanu would not get much time to talk hockey with his tablemate, himself a former goaltender in the Ontario Hockey League, as he wound up being the first person eliminated on Day 1b, losing out with pocket kings against Anthony O'Hagan's queens-full boat.
Other notable incidents included John Phan making prop bets with pretty much his entire table centering on what the dominant card color would be on the flop, while a table over Jean-Robert Bellande and Sean McCabe made bets on all things water related, including Niagara Falls and the fountains at Bellagio.
As far as actual poker-playing was concerned, Allen Cunningham and David Williams found themselves seated next to each other for a number of hours, before Williams moved all-in and Cunningham's cards got the better of him, sending him to the rail about five hours after play began. Other pros who are still in contention as of this writing include Mark Seif, Amir Vahedi, Gavin Smith and Bradley Booth, the latter of whom could be seen wearing a ridiculous winter hat as an homage to his Yukon roots.
The plan is to play down to about 150 today, so expect play to last until midnight at the earliest and two in the morning at the latest. The amateurs will likely begin to get restless in the coming hours, so expect eliminations to pick up as the night wears on. But the blinds will stay low and the stacks will stay large, so settle in; we've got a long way to go yet.