All of the finishers from Day 1A and Day 1B returned on Tuesday, July 8th - a total of 1251 players - to power through the escalating blinds and survive their second day of play. But only 466 were able to do so and schedule a Day 3 return for Thursday.
While the focus typically stays on the survivors, namely the chip leaders of the day, probably the most special story of Day 2A revolved around a player who was eliminated late on that second day. Hal Lubarsky is a name that might be familiar to some, as he stood out from the crowd at the 2007 World Series of Poker. The legally blind player cashed last year in 197th place for $51,398. And while he didn't make the money at the 2008 WSOP his name and circumstance should inspire.
The long-time poker player moved to Las Vegas in the 1980's to play poker, and for about 15 years, he was recognized as one of the best limit hold'em poker players in Sin City. But over time, Lubarsky's eyesight began to degenerate, and he is now considered legally blind. When he could no longer see the cards or his opponents, he gave up his lifelong passion.
But within the last few years, Lubarsky found his way back to poker. Strangely, it was through the death of Mirage poker room manager Dennis Jackson, and he was asked to play in a charity tournament to support the Jackson family. When he told the organizers that he was unable to see, they suggested he find a reader, someone who could sit with him and relay the cards, chip counts and bets, and player actions to him. Inspired by the idea, he did so and found that poker could again be a part of his life.
Lubarsky played the 2007 WSOP main event and bested thousands of opponents to finish in an astounding 197th place with the help of his reader, then a Las Vegas bartender and poker fan named Jason Williams. He became the first legally blind player to cash in a WSOP event, and the Lubarsky/Williams team was featured on the 2007 ESPN broadcast of the Series.
The now-famous face, with a new reader, appeared again at the WSOP this year. First, however, he made a final table of a tournament at the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza in late May, then won a mega satellite to play in the WSOP main event. Lubarsky told Ian McKenzie of Bluff Magazine that he plays poker every night but doesn't follow the tournament circuit, as he owns and oversees a carpet cleaning company in Las Vegas, which requires a decent amount of his time.
Michelle Murrell was reading for Lubarsky this year, and the team looked to be on a roll, coming into Day 2A with over 70K in chips. The second day wasn't good to them, however, and Lubarsky continually lost chips throughout the first few levels of the day. Finally, late into the evening hours, his low stack went into the pot pre-flop with pocket 8's but came up against the pocket Aces of his opponent. The Lubarsky/Murrell team was eliminated before the end of Day 2.
While there will be no financial boom for Lubarsky at the 2008 WSOP, he can leave knowing that he gave the gift of inspiration to poker players and fans everywhere. Not a player at his table could go unaffected by the dedication and ability to overcome a "handicap" to sit down at that table and compete on a level playing field. Not a member of the media could watch the concentration of Lubarsky and not be inspired.
This is what makes poker a great game. Anyone can play. Throughout the 2008 WSOP, there have been players with missing limbs, in wheelchairs, playing with their toes, and numerous physical challenges. But a love of the game brings them to the Rio to play in the most prestigious series of tournaments in the world. While most of us complain that we are tired, our feet hurt, our backs are sore, and our bodies are weary, there are others who overcome the greatest of odds to be here.
Poker allows each player, no matter their size, ethnicity, native language, gender, or age, to sit down at the table with the same amount of chips as everyone else and use their skills - whatever they may be - to outwit, outplay, and outlast their opponents. As they say, anyone can play, and anyone can win. Thanks to Hal Lubarsky and many others, that statement rings true again at the 2008 WOSP.