There is no moment in poker quite like the bubble bursting at the Main Event. It's my favorite experience in poker. For many people, especially those who have won their seat via a mega-satellite or on the Internet, the money is a significant deal. It's why professionals often love the bubble as well because they are aware of this and are able to take advantage of people's tendencies to tighten up at this stage.
ESPN is on hand to make sure they catch all the drama and intrigue and tell the floor staff to instruct the dealers to stop and wait before a floor person or ESPN producer has told them when they have an all in and a call. In the first hour of play, there are a large number of short stacks who gamble it up. “All in and a call,” is uttered at least fifty times in the first 20 minutes and the ESPN camera crews look as if they are chickens running around with their heads cut off. By the time they get to the 1st break there are 659 players remaining... 11 away from the money.
It only takes 10 minutes once play resumes to get down to five from the money and the commencement of hand for hand play. They stop play to make a few announcements including no media in between the tables and a warning to players to not stand up and walk around. “I will give penalties if you do,” warns Jack Effel and adds. “Let's deal the 1st hand.” There is a quiet, excited murmur through the room as they know they are THIS close to cashing in the Main Event.
On the 1st hand one player is eliminated. There is a significant wait for players as the other tables complete their hand. Over at Tom Schneider's table and the surrounding tables they are passing the time watching a Strong Man competition on the television screen near the tournament clock. “Oooohhhh!” they say as one burly dude throws a barrel up in the air and it almost lands on his head.
I'm chatting with Jordan Morgan who is sitting comfortably. He is struggling to find change to tip a cocktail waitress but finally gets it. I joke with him, “I was about to offer you $1 for .01 percent of your action.”
He laughs and tells me someone actually texted him this morning and asked how much he wanted for 1% of his action. “I told them $50,000,” he says and adds “I would have to win for him to show a profit.”
Needless to say, I think that potential deal went out the window.
Effel announces that there is an all and a call at Blue 40 and someone lets out a Woo Hoo. On the 2nd hand of hand for hand play only one player is eliminated and we are three from the money. On the 3rd hand, one player is all in for his last 120K and an opponent is mulling over whether to call or not. The cameras swarm and the all in player is taking deep breaths in and out. His opponent finally folds, laughing as he does so, and says, “Nice hand.” The all in player exhales and collects the pot. No players are eliminated.
As the 4th hand is being dealt, I overhear players at one table talking about a rumor that Phil Ivey paid everyone at his table on day 1 $5,000 since they lost out on the opportunity for sponsorship patches. If that's true... wow. No players get eliminated on the 4th hand and Effel states, “My prediction is it will happen sometime today.”
On the 5th hand, I watch Tom Schneider in a big hand with a player who had doubled him up earlier. I didn't see the pre-flop action but the flop is and Schneider check calls a bet from his opponent. The turn is the and both players check. The river is the and Schneider bets 100K and his opponent says, “Why do I think you have aces?”
He makes the call and turns over pocket kings for a flopped set of kings and Schneider turns over J-10 for the flopped nut straight. Wow, I think to myself, that could have been a lot worse for the kid with kings. Even Schneider compliments the kid on his play telling him he lost the minimum there. Two players get eliminated on the hand and there is some slight applause and you can feel the excitement in the air as the players realize they are only one from the money.
There is an all in and a call on the next hand and people go running over to the table from various places around the room.
“I'm about to give 20 penalties,” Effel warns them.
I don't think they listen very well because there are at least 50 players surrounding the table.
Effel announces the hand. “We have Aces against King Jack,” he says. He breaks the hearts of nearly 650 players when he adds, “The all in player has aces.”
There are a few groans. There's a yell from the table and Effel tells the crowd that the flop came K-J but the turn and river were running deuces to give the aces a better two pair. Some more moans, a few laughs, but the guy with aces doesn't care what anyone else thinks as he thrusts his fists into the air.
I lose track of the number of hands that pass without anyone busting... it's at least five but it could have been more. After one of the hands Effel does his best Ryan Seacrest impersonation when he says, “Guess what players?”
The players stand up, ready to burst, when Effel adds, “You are not yet in the money.”
The players grumble and Effel says “sorry, I couldn't help myself.”
I heard one player at a table say “Ha Ha, very f***ing funny, I should sue for heart distress.”
Effel states he is going to give himself a penalty for slow rolling and they move onto the next hand.
The bubble is almost cruel. Never will you hear players rooting more against another player than during the bubble. At one table, a short stack survives their all in and the players watching go, “Awwww.” At another table, a guy goes all in with aces and is called by ace jack. The flop comes with a jack and a, “Jack, Jack, Jack!” chant goes through the room.
On one round of the hand for hand there is a significant delay at one table as a player tanks for nearly five minutes deciding what to do. The player had committed all but 90K of his chips only to face a four bet shove from another player at his table who had him just slightly covered. Convinced he was beat, the player folded kings face up. His opponent tapped the felt and showed him aces. Great fold. A $20,000 fold.
At a table over in the far corner, a player has tried valiantly to survive into the money. He's folded hand after hand but now has no choice. He only has one 500 chip left... enough for the ante. A late position player raises and the blinds both call and the flop comes Q-Q-7 and the late position player bets to win the side pot. He turns over 9-2 and I hear some people yelling, “Why did you bet? Why did you bet?”
I thought it was a good bet as it keeps the bubble going and he picked up a side pot that was much larger than the main pot. The all in player sees the 9-2 and has to be feeling good about his chances. Until he sees that he has 4-3. The turn is a 9 and that is enough to give us our bubble boy.
They wait a few minutes to make the announcement to make sure no one else busts at another table. No one does and Effel speaks into the microphone. “Congratulations Ladies and Gentleman...”
Before he even finishes his statement, the crowd breaks into applause, high fives, and man hugs. Smiles beam across the room and the railbirds who have been patiently following their loved ones try desperately to make eye contact with the player they are watching. It took nearly two hours, but finally they were in the money.
Ah, the bubble. I love it. I'll be back later with more... Until then...