As I walked out of the Fontana Room a quick flash from a camera blinded me. A woman the size of Lawrence Taylor wearing a fanny pack and a WPT visor snapped three photos in a row as I struggled to regain my vision. She was trying to get a picture of Doyle Brunson who lumbered behind me. I wanted to grab Texas Dolly's crutch and spear the overzealous tourist in the ribs.
Almost three hundred players filtered out into the casino area where they were mobbed by hundreds of fans, friends, and family members. The scene has become all too common at poker tournaments. Our celebrity culture worships anyone we see on the boob tube including poker players. The result is a swarm of autograph seekers. Of course in the 21st century the autograph has been replaced by the photograph as people fumbled with their camera phones and disposable cameras.
The air quickly filled with cigarette smoke as nicotine jonesin' players lit up. It had been over ninety minutes since their last cigarette and they chainsmoked and told other smokers bad beat stories while they fought off the sunburnt camera vultures. Several more camera phones appeared out of nowhere as fans grabbed a piece of any poker pro they could find. One young woman got groped by Devilfish as they posed for a photo near the slot machines. Another guy and his nine-year old son took a photo with Scotty Nguyen who held a beer in one hand and put his other arm around the kid.
"Excuse me," asked one forty-something guy with a beer gut the size of a boulder said as I made my way through the dense deluge of people. "Is Gary Greenburg playing?"
"Gary Greenburg. That guy who gives all his money to those African kids."
"You must mean Barry Greestein," I corrected him.
"Yeah Gary Greestein," he said.
"No. He played yesterday, but his son is over there," as I pointed to the Fontana Bar where Joe Sebok talked with a slimmer Gavin Smith.
I rushed over to the sportsbook and put in a couple of bets on the NBA playoffs. Since I had not played a single hand of poker since my arrival in Las Vegas on Friday, I needed my gambling fix. I craved action and bet the Mavericks, the Spurs, and the Cavs. I also bet the Yankees heavily. They had not been swept in Boston in what seemed like almost a decade. The game seemed like a lock. I went 1-3 with my picks as I found myself stuck a grand without playing one hand of Hold'em or Pai Gow.
I felt bad for Benjo because I got him involved with one of my vices.
"What have you done to the poor chap?" Jen from Blonde Poker said in her very proper English accent. "He's been in America for two days and he's picking up your bad habits."
"Strips clubs are next," I answered.
After reading about my March Madness adventures in the sportsbook at Red Rock with my brother and Senor, Benjo was intrigued about the sportsbooks in Las Vegas. He asked me about sports betting with the spread when we were in Monte Carlo. Back in France he bets on football but wanted to get in on some sportsbook action. He pulled out a $50 bill out of his wallet and told me to put it on the same team I was going to bet. Since Tony Parker was also French, it seemed like the right thing to bet on the Spurs. Of course, I felt terrible that my pick went down the crapper. Not only did I piss my money away, I also lost Benjo's money.
I grabbed a beer at the Sportsbook bar and walked back to the Fontana Room. I stood outside to observe the scene while the break ended. Spectators pestered the maroon blazered security guards to let them inside, while a wedding party walked through the entire crowd. They must have been taking wedding photos in the conservatory that had been pumping out flowery aromas due to the recent rotation of flora which fit into the spring theme. The groom carefully held up the bride's train as they navigated the crowd of degenerate gamblers and poker wastrels and all I could think was that 1 out of every 2 marriages fail in America. The young couple were a walking coinflip.
Back in the Fontana Room, there was barely any room to walk. A Dutch film crew camped out on the table in front of me which made it difficult to get in and out of my work area. I must have ruined dozens of shots as the camera guy cursed me out in Dutch.
The day was quiet even though Mike Matusow played. He was on the other side of the room and was relatively calm. Compared to the first day, the action was slow and nowhere as entertaining as the Phil Hellmuth and Jamie Gold spectacle. Those two should go on the road together.
Photo courtesy of Flipchip
The only fireworks involved Vinny Vinh and Devilfish. The two are feisty and love to talk smack. Vinh had been needling Devilfish all afternoon.
"You are not a Devilfish. You are a little fish," explained Vinh.
"Who are you?" shot back Devilfish. "Come to talk to me after you write a poker book."
That might have been the only banter all day which was minor compared to the Hellmuth-Gold pissing match.
The big story had to be the strength of the field with some of the best players in the history of poker. Over 20 multiple WSOP bracelet winners played on Sunday in the WPT Championships such as Doyle Brunson (10), Johnny Chan (10), Erik Seidel (7), Billy Baxter (7), Layne Flack (5), Ted Forrest (5), Huck Seed (4), Scotty Nguyen (4), Allen Cunningham (4), Daniel Negreanu (3), Chip Reese (3), Chau Giang (3), Dewey Tomko (3), Bill Chen (2), Mile Matusow (3), Minh Nguyen (2), Carlos Mortensen (2), Sam Farha (2), Humberto Brenes (2), Pat Poels (2), and Steve Z (2).
Oh in case you had a hard-on for things like chipcounts... Sammy Farha ended Day 1B as the chipleader with over 200K. Anna Whatshername ended Day 1A as the chipleader in her flight.
Players who did not advance to Day 2 included: Phil Laak, Erik Seidel, Clonie Gowen, The Grinder, Antonio Esfandiari, Ed Moncada, Marco Traniello, Layne Flack, Jen Tilly, Max Pescatori, Gene Todd, Bill Edler, Nam Le, sbrugby, Jeff Madsen, John Gale, Cyndy Violette, John Juanda, David "The Dragon" Pham, TJ Cloutier, Shaniac, Men The Master, Barry Shulman, Doug Lee, Mike Woo, Tuan Le, Johnny World Hennigan, Chad Brown, and Davidson Matthew.
Bouncin Round the Room on Day 1B
Ted Forrest busted out on the second hand. He had his Aces cracked by the Hilton Sisters. Hollis Stabler rivered the set. Live poker is rigged.
Mike Matusow showed up to the tournament feeling sick. He skipped the first hour of play and took a nap on one of the plush circular couches that lined the wall of the Fontana Room.
Joe Hachem arrived fashionably late as he took a page out of Hellmuth's book.
Gus Hansen sat a table with Erick Lindgren, Lee Watkinson and Doyle Brunson. After hands that he played, he'd been see talking into a voice recorder in Danish.
Doyle Brunson bluffed Erick Lindgren out of a pot with.... 10-2. He showed the cards and flashed a huge smile. Lindgren rapped his fist on the table and said, "Nice one."
At the EPT Championship in Monte Carlo, there were over 200 press badges issued in a 604 player tournament. That's a ratio of 1 press member for every 3 players. At the WPT Championship, there were around 60+ badges issued for 640 players or one member of the press for every ten players.
Isabelle Mercier listened to a pink iPod mini at the table. Jen Harman has the same one but in green. Isabelle also sported a Montreal Canadians t-shirt. For most of the day, she was perched up on her chair... barefoot. She smoked a lot on the veranda where most of the European players hung out on their breaks.
Max Pescatori wore all red (from the waist up) including a red shirt and a red skull cap. The Italian Pirate was seen drinking Pellegrino.
Steve Hall aka Foiled Coup is having another rough tournament. Poor guy. Last year at the WPT Championships, he had his badge confiscated because it was a Poker Pages badge and he had quit their organization. The owner found out he was using their credentials and she bitched out a few WPT suits. They grabbed the badge and threw it in the trash can. This year, Foiled Coup has a badge since he's working for an Italian poker site. However, his laptop is on the fritz along with his camera. He had a borrowed digital camera with instructions that were in German. He would have switched it to English, but he couldn't figure out how since it was stuck in German mode.
Antonio Esfiandari's girlfriend somehow convinced the security guard to let her into the Fontana Room. She delivered him a pizza and a fruit cup. He didn't get a chance to finish the fruit cup. The magician busted out on the last hand of the day when his 9-9 ran into J-J.
Jen Tilly stormed out of the Fontana Room after she busted out. Hey, at least Bride of Chucky outlasted her boyfriend The Unabomber.
Benjo sweated David Benyamine's table in the poker room (where they had to use a couple of tables for the tournament). A few drunk fans on the rail were joking about Benyamine's recent weight gain. One guy offered Benjo $100 to poke Benyamine in the stomach. Benjo walked over to Benyamine and told him (in French) that he had a shot at free money if he could poker his belly. Benyamine laughed and said it was OK. Benjo poked him a few times and collected a $100 bill. He was up for the day after I lost him $50 on the Spurs game.
Don't forget to check out Flipchip's WPT Championship photos. And you can follow the action from live updates over at Poker News that are written by yours truly.
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