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Poker News | World Series of Poker | WSOP2008 | The Works

A View From My Eyes – Day Eleven Of The WSOP

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Walking in

I park the car in valet and for the first time in a week, the valet doesn't know who I am and asks me what my last name is. It's warm outside and there are numerous people gathered outside the entrance to the Rio. There must be a convention going on, I think to myself. A French man walks by me talking to himself. I can't understand what he is saying, but he's wearing a French poker shirt so I imagine it has something to do with a bad beat... the universal language of poker.

I walk in the doors and am surrounded by people. Yep, it's a convention. I look at the signs advertising who it is. It is Jackson Hewitt, the tax services company. It's moderately humorous as there are middle aged men and women who fit every description of tourist. Flowered tropical shirts hanging loosely off the paunch of a fifty something tax man. Women wearing over sized hats that I thought you could only wear to church or the Kentucky Derby. I navigate my way quickly through the maze, anxious to reach the safety of the poker world.

A few men stare quietly up at the screen replaying Chris Moneymaker's Main Event win. Every poker player dreams of winning the big one. They're no different, I think. I walk into the Amazon Room. It's quiet with the exception of a few cash games going on in the front corner. The dealers all sit dutifully at their tables, waiting for the clock to strike noon and the action to begin. I take my perch on the media stand, stare out into the sea of empty chairs and know that soon it will all change.

The beginning

They start playing Black Eyed Peas over the loudspeaker and Let's Get It Started of course. A floor person starts dancing and clapping his hands to my immediate left. It's a good thing he has a real job. Players start to creep in, holding their registration card in their hand, looking across the vast room for wherever their table might be. Paul Magriel walks in and sits at a table directly in front of me. Magriel's an interesting character who has some type of disability or disorder, I don't know what it is, that causes him to constantly lick his lips while he's playing. It always reminds me of a frog as it's about so flick it's long tongue out to catch a fly.

The tournament director, Jimmy Somerville, is making an announcement saying that some tables have been re-routed to outside of Buzio's, the seafood restaurant inside the Rio that is about half a mile walk from the Amazon Room. Because of this, he announces, their table will not start until 12:15 rather than 12:00. He adds that the event has sold out, which is not unexpected considering it is a $1,500 event with a cap at just over 1,000 people.

I've got to think that Shootouts are the easiest way to cash in a WSOP event. Sure it's not easy beating nine other people but that is all you have to do to make the money. In a tournament you usually have to outlast hundreds, if not thousands, of people to make the money.

Whoa. This place is going to the birds. Literally. Two pigeons just flew over my head and came to land on a beam over the head of the players. I walk up to take some photos of the birds and the security guard laughs. I tell him “it'll be funny if they poop on a player's head” and the guard smiles and says “that's what I'm waiting for.” Probably the most excitement he'll see all day.

The initial walk

Every day at about the same time, I take a walk through the tournament floor to see who is playing. It's usually the time of the day the players are most relaxed and talking with one another. If big name professionals are playing they are usually trying to figure out what kind of prop bet they can make with one another. As I'm about to enter the main area, I see Humberto Brenes walking into the area. He is walking so fast that his butt is squished up as if he has to go somewhere other than a poker game. He spots his table and sees that they are about to deal out a hand and he takes off in a dead sprint and gets there right before his second card is dealt to him.

My pace is more of a shuffle as I don't want to miss anyone or anything. I see Tom Schneider, last year’s Player of the Year, move all in on a 8-6-3 two spade flop. He is instantly called by the young kid who is in the hand with him and rightfully so as the kid has aces. Tom has a big draw with the 10-9 of spades but is unable to improve and is eliminated very early in the tournament.

Players I recognize give me a familiar nod as I walk by. Some stop me and give me a fist knock or a handshake. A PokerNews reporter comes up to me and asks, “What do you think the over under on how long Dmitri Nobles lasts is?”

I tell him an hour and a half and he tells me I'm being generous and I explain it is because I figure he'll donk out on someone and get lucky and then give the chips away. He laughs and walks away.

Ironically, I walk right by Nobles table and see that he is involved in a pot with multiple players. Nobles makes a bet of 150 on a K-5-4 all heart flop and gets four callers. Now that's respect. The turn pairs the board with another 4 and Nobles wisely checks. Nam Le bets 400 and a guy that I don't recognize grabs 400 in chips and starts to call but then thinks better of it. He looks at Le and it is as if he realizes it's Nam Le and he probably has nothing. Carefully, he takes his entire stack and places them in the middle without saying a word. Le quickly folds.

I finish walking through the blue section of tables and head into the orange section and the first table, #1, is a beauty. It contains Nick Schulman, Carlos Mortenson, Greg Mueller, and David Williams. I'd bet money that none of the four win their table though but the odds are in my favor on that by 3:2. A couple tables over Beth Shak stops me. “Tell everyone how bad I've been running,” she says.

I smile and say “What are you talking about? You're on a mad rush.”

She starts to go on about the hand I saw her lose in the women's event yesterday when she moved all in with jacks and was called by pocket sevens only to see the sevens hit runne, runner flush to knock her out. She's seated two seats over from Phil Gordon who is making his first appearance. I take a photo of Beth and she gives me one of those looks men would die for. The girl knows how to play to the camera.

I'm almost done with my walk and Hevad Khan turns around and shakes my hand. I ask him if he's having fun so far this year and he says he is. He tells me how he spent eight hours doing the commentary for the ESPN 360 event yesterday and how much he enjoyed that. To top things off, he adds, one of his horses won an event in which he owed him makeup and he got shipped a nice five figure payday. I asked him how many events he was playing and he told me that PokerStars puts him into any televised no limit event so he would be playing all of those plus a few others.

Two tables from reaching the end of my walk I see Phil Ivey getting a massage with a 1K chip in front of him. There is about 1,300 in the pot and his opponent, another young kid that I don't recognize is mulling over what to do. Ivey is staring into space as if he doesn't want to be here. The kid stares at the cards as if they will change. There are three diamonds on the boards and a straight possibility and the 1K it would cost him to call will be for most of his stack. Someone at the table calls the floor on the kid and I can tell that he wants to call but is probably thinking to himself “it's Phil f'in Ivey, I can't call.” Somehow with about twenty seconds left to act, he convinces himself to do it, and he tosses the yellow chip into the middle. I think he's scared of what Ivey will turn over, but Ivey says “you got it, all I have is a nine” and starts to muck his cards. The kid lets out a deep breath and turns over Q-9 for two pair. Ivey would be out moments later.

The pace slows down

On most days the buzz fades after the first hour or two has subsided. I spend a couple hours working on an assignments before I make another stroll through the room. I almost dive to the floor as the pigeons swoop right over my head to find a new perch. Thankfully no one saw me because they would have gotten a laugh out of my scared reaction. Fewer familiar faces nod back at me this time around as they have been eliminated from the tournament. I do see Michael Banducci who won a bracelet the other day and set up an interview with him for later. He makes an interesting call of a player's all in. He can't even beat bottom pair. I think he knew the player was bluffing but he couldn't even beat a bluff as he mucked his cards.

I get back to the media area and start to write when the birds swoop in again. This time they start strutting around on the floor. I go over to get a close up shot of them but an ass of a floor person comes over and scares them and they fly up to a light support. “I was trying to get them out of the door,” the floor person said.

I roll my eyes knowing he has about as much chance of doing that as Jamie Gold does of ever winning another poker tournament. Nolan Dalla comes down as I am taking more pictures of the bird and he says, “I know what you can use for the caption.”

I ask him what and he says “a bird’s eye view of the World Series of Poker.”

I kind of like that one. David Plastik is sitting right underneath the light support and I think how funny it would be if the bird let loose. Plastik is eyeing the birds uncomfortably. Andy Bloch walks over and taunts the birds to fling their white stuff down on him but these aren't obedient birds. They fly off to another corner instead. Is it sad that the most excitement in the room for me right now is a pair of pigeons? Maybe I've been watching too much poker.

I hear a very loud f-bomb from across the room. It's a woman's voice. I see a blonde woman, in her thirties probably, hurry her way out of the tournament area, nearly knocking over five chairs in the process. She hurries her way under the ropes and out of the room. Me being the nosy kid I am, I get up and sneak up behind her to hear if she says anything. She's silent but her pace is fast as she walks out to the smoking area. Her boyfriend or husband walks up to her as she lights a cigarette.

“Threes?” he asked.

“He hit a f***ing three on the river!” she said on the verge of tears.

I walked into the poker kitchen, thinking I'd been there before. Losing sucks. Losing to a two outer sucks even more.

Losing money

With the $1,500 Shootout losing steam, I decided to go play a Pot Limit Omaha satellite while I waited for the $5,000 No Limit Deuce to Seven to get started. My table was a mix of older guys with one guy that was a few years younger than me. Over on the other table, Arnold Spee was throwing a fit as the dealer pushed all the chips over to another player after Spee lost a hand and Spee swore he had him covered. Spee is berating the dealer telling him that there was no excuse for what he did. One of my table mates asked Spee what happened and Spee glared at him with snake like eyes and asked, “What business is it of yours?”

My table mate suggested he ask them to look at the video. Security came in and Spee left the area.

I got off to a good start in the satellite, doubling up when I called a raise pre-flop with A-Q-10-3 with the ace suited. The flop came A-10-4 and I called a bet from a fairly loose guy. The turn was a queen and he put his remaining chips in. I called, hoping he didn't have K-J or a set. He had A-10 and I knocked him out. Five minutes later, I limp in with A-A-x-x in early position and five of us see the flop. The flop is A-4-3 with two spades. I check and a bigger dude puts in his remaining 600 in chips. I call and he turns over K-J-8-7 with two spades. The dealer is at least quick about not making me suffer as he puts another spade up on the turn. The river doesn't pair the board and I'm back down to 1,300.

I see a few flops and miss them all and am down to 250 with the blinds at 150/300. There are six of us left and I put my last chips in with A-Q-10-6. The small blind completes and three of us see the flop. It's not a good flop for me. J-5-3 with two spades. Everyone checks. The turn is a red king, at least giving me a few outs. Everyone checks again. The river is red ten and I've hit the nut straight. This older guy, who's a bit crazy for being an old guy, quickly slams a bet down and causes the other guy my age to fold. I'm thinking it's a chopped pot but he turns over 10's for a set. The river was the case 10. I'm up to 750.

Two hands later I am in the big blind for 300 and it is folded to the small blind who completes. I have 10-9-8-7, a pretty good random hand for the big blind. The flop comes 8-7-6 with two spades. It doesn't get much better than that. My opponent, an older black guy that I've seen around the tournament circuit, bets 300. I put in my last 450 and he calls with J-6-5-3 with two spades. The dealer again doesn't waste long in putting me out of my misery as he puts up a spade on the turn. I don't get an 8 or 7 on the river and I stand up and start to head back to the Amazon Room.

I walk over to the area where they are having the $5,000 No Limit Deuce to Seven. This is a crazy, fun event. I remember it from last year. It's by far the smallest field of the entire tournament with under 100 players and the money flies pretty quickly. Most of the people I expect to be there are. Doyle in one corner. Eli in another. Ivey in the middle of the room. Even the kid Tom Dwan is playing. Do they spread deuce to seven online I wonder? I'd love to sit down and play this game but I have enough problems rationalizing putting down $1,500 to $2,000 for a tournament. These guys will throw in 20 times that amount without even blinking an eye.

Losing money is what makes poker such an emotional, psychologically draining game. People do stupid things when money is involved. It is what makes following poker compelling. Fortunes are lost and won on the swing of one card. When that card comes off to give you the big win, there is almost no better feeling in the world. The opposite is true when it's the card that delivers the knockout blow to you. It's like a punch in the gut... a kick in the privates. I've seen people cry after losing a pot. I've seen people who are some of the nicest people I've ever met become verbally and physically abusive. Losing money is what poker is all about. As a poker player, it's my goal to make people lose money. To make them feel that punch in the gut.

*Author's note – today I thought I would try and bring readers into a day as I see it. Every sight... every sound... every thought. A different perspective of the World Series of Poker. I hope you enjoyed this view of a day through my eyes.*

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