Usually, the best ESPN can hope for during the main event is one, maybe two, well-known players at its featured table. With the fields so large and the top professionals randomly spread out among the tables, ESPN will take a Doyle Brunson or a Phil Hellmuth and a cast of unknowns and run with that one.
When the producers saw the lineup for Table 206 it had an easy time selecting that one for its featured coverage on Day 3. The line-up included not only tournament chip leader and Danish super stud Gus Hansen , but former WSOP main event and World Poker Tour Championship winner Juan Carlos Mortensen and Gavin Smith, another winner on the WPT.
As play began at noon on Thursday, the crowds gathered both in the stadium seating area surrounding the table and at the lounge above it. Two ESPN cameras attached to booms surveyed the landscape and three cameras on rollers circled the featured table.
A high definition display of the action on television monitors above the table captured Hansen picking his nose. (ESPN is televising the WSOP in high definition for the first time this year. The Hansen pick will probably not make the telecast I'm guessing.)
With blinds of $1,500 and $3,000 and a $400 ante, there wasn't much action initially. On one hand about an hour into the affair, there were several limpers and the flop was . All checked to Mortensen, who bet $15,000 of his quarter million stack. All folded except for Hansen, who called. With his more than $600,000 stack he could spare the change. After a turn of , Hansen checked and Mortensen doubled his bet to $30,000. Hansen thought for a long while and Mortensen put on his sunglasses. After about a minute, Hansen mucked.
Hansen could be seen whispering notes into a tape recorder between hands. It would be interesting to hear what he had to say about that hand.
Erick Lindgren was sitting among the crowd with a laptop in his hands and took a picture with a female fan upon request. Hansen went over to talk to Lindgren and look at his monitor. He was probably either playing online at Full Tilt Poker, checking updates on the overall main even progress or both. Like Lindgren, Hansen, Smith and Mortensen are all members of Full Tilt Poker and were adorned in the company's logos Thursday.
The table broke around 1:30 p.m. and the players didn't seem to mind. It's nice to get TV time, but with such a brutal table that 15 minutes of fame could be in expense of making serious money in the main event. Mortensen was smiling as he chatted with Hansen as they racked their chips. He probably didn't mind the move either. There were undoubtedly easier fish to fry elsewhere.
Hansen remained at the table, moving from the five seat to the three. Apparently, ESPN decided to continue coverage of whichever table Hansen was going to be moved to. And the second table was a doozy, as well. It included John Duthie, the British based poker player and former producer who was integral in starting the European Poker Tour, and noted poker writer Matthew Hilger.
Duthie, who is also a member of Team PokerStars, has over 1.7 million pounds in tournament winnings. The new featured table also included Tinten Olivier, who was the chip leader after Day 1 with 270,500 in chips, but faltered over the next two days. Olivier came into Day 4 with a short stack after poor luck at the tables on Wednesday and Thursday.