There was more to see on Day 1C than the obvious. And some of it was just a downright ridiculous spectacle.
But let’s start with the obvious . There were more players on the third of four starting days of the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event than the previous two, which wasn’t much of a surprise. Most of the pros took the time to enjoy the holiday weekend and its associated festivities through the weekend - and recover - before settling into the Main Event, something that they hoped would be a grind for several of the upcoming days.
There were pros in the field that many would recognize immediately, such as Johnny Chan, David Williams, Carlos Mortensen, Hoyt Corkins, Daniel Negreanu, and Annie Duke. Even reigning Main Event champion Joe Cada was in the crowd, along with some non-poker faces like Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, celebrity Shanna Moakler, and legendary cricket player Shane Warne. All of them - and more - received their shares of the spotlight, whether by the ESPN cameras, poker media, or fans along the rail who snapped their own photos.
And there were others looking for their moment in the spotlight, whether a two-second shot that might appear on ESPN, a photo posted on the live reporting blog, or a mention in a poker report. The man who appears every year in a full-length Indian headdress and goes by the name Andrew “Little Big Chip” Fields wears his regalia each year, and he gets his moment on ESPN. But as some of the media have pointed out under their breaths, no one in a funny hat, Batman costume, or clothing from the opposite gender has ever won the World Series of Poker Main Event. Nevertheless, they must feel like they’re making a mark of some sort, and they have every right to dress in whatever over-the-top manner they like.
And then there is the one person who not only wants to be noticed each year but chooses to announce his presence in the Main Event in such an outrageous way that it becomes the talk of the day. It goes without saying, but yes, it was Phil Hellmuth.
Past years have included entrances as a NASCAR driver and Caesar, one of which ended with a wrecked car and an injured Hellmuth. Both were complete spectacles, but the Caesar entrance to the Rio in 2009 brought so many fans and members of the media to its starting point in the Rio Convention Center parking lot that the entourage and followers had extreme difficulties making their way down the hallway to the Amazon Room. That was the ultimate goal, in fact, to get Hellmuth to his tournament seat so he could play for the chance at another Main Event title and a possible 12th bracelet.
It was in 2010 that Hellmuth tried to make another original entrance, and it started with a makeshift stage in the 105-degree parking lot that was taken over by scantily-clad female dancers, all of whom at some point held up large WSOP gold bracelet replicas. Somehow, a man appeared on the stage at some point as well, and his dancing eventually led to the entrance of sports ring announcer Bruce Buffer, who announced Phil Hellmuth, the fake MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter. Eventually, Hellmuth and his staff made their way to the Amazon Room, where the poker player took his seat at a featured table and the rest of the entourage soon dispersed.
The scene was one that entertained many fans and media alike, and the ESPN television audience may well like it as well. Most other players seem annoyed by the disruption, though. And some of the media refuse to cover it with anyone other than a brief mention.
Hellmuth claims to be the best no-limit holdem poker player in the world, and his record-holding 11 bracelets to attest to his skills and longevity in the industry. But for most who respect the game and those who have been successful in it, Hellmuth’s accomplishments stand on their own. His antics only go to diminish the respect that should be given to him, and his reputation slowly devolves into one that requires antics in order to get noticed.
There are mixed feelings about Hellmuth and all of those who try to stand out from the crowd at the World Series. Do they sully the game or bring much-needed entertainment to it? Do they make a mockery of a tournament that requires a $10,000 buy-in and is a very serious event-of-a-lifetime to some, or is it simply an individual flair that should be respected?
There are arguments for both sides. And ultimately, poker fans will decide.