Everyone has heard the story of Chris Moneymaker turning a $39 satellite into his $2.5M championship. If you recall, he was hoping to make the bubble in the satellite to win some cash, and this philosophy is consuming a significant group of players heading into Day 3 of the World Series of Poker. If they are knocked out Friday, they receive nothing. If they survive 286 other players, then they receive at least $14,597. To double that, players must finish in 441st or better.
While some are here to win, others are here to cash. As I've played a couple of times this week at the Treasure Island poker room, it becomes apparent what segment of the player population is here in the Main Event. These players are playing $2/4; they've cashed in their expense check and are living on the cheap in Vegas. There is nothing wrong with them, and some of these players are extremely good. However, even the smallest cash will change their life, pulling them out of debt, allowing them to go to college, funding the basic essentials of life. There are people here who are homeless, those who live below the poverty level, single mothers trying to make ends meet and husbands struggling to pay child support.
Should these people be faulted for being here? Here are some facts associated with the survivors headed into Day 3:
- Number of players to nuke before cashing: 286
- Blinds when resume (1 hour): $600/1200 w/ $200 ante (pot is $3,800)
- Number of players starting with M of 5: 71
- M between 5 and 10: 129
- M between 10 and 15: 213
- M's as above after an hour (blinds of $800/1600 +200): 108/257/243
As I was working around 3:00 AM Thursday, an Asian gentleman, who I will call Kim, sneaked into the Media Room. I have been sweating him since the beginning of the Main Event, and I only have a cryptic understanding of his story: he is in his 50's, appears to be beyond struggling to make ends meet, has a very old laptop, has grooming and attire issues. Yet he sits somewhere between $140-190k in chips. I watched as he excitedly talked to a pro yesterday, basically begging to understand what it would take to cash. I opened up the spreadsheet I had just made, found his table and his chip count, figured out who was out his table (he's at one of the top ten players in chips), and we went through all of the different things that could happen, how many times the button would make an orbit each hour, what that would do to his stack, would his table be moved, etc. I told him it was important to look the part, offered to buy him something to wear.
Kim may be an extreme, but he represents a significant minority group in the field, the qualifier that desperately wants to cash. This has nothing to do with online poker as that is simply the vehicle to win a seat. It is about what will happen when the cards start being dealt. Will this turn into a slow-play dance, choreographed by a three-toed sloth? Will the better players beat each other up as they attack these players? Is this good for poker, or does it artificially change the field and the tournament? It's hard to know for certain, but the Main Event won't be the same because of these players in the field, trying to claw their way into the cash. It won't be the same because some will simply sit on their chips and try to outwait the blinds. Can one of these players strike really deep? We'll see what they do as the cash bubble will be confronted fairly early.