Las Vegas, NV
Poker is a selfish and lonely pursuit and played in Las Vegas, a city swamped in moral decay, there's the potential for disaster in the quest for wealth and indulgent pleasures. Sin City corrupts people and leads them down a path of self-destruction. The end result? Their intoxicating hopes and unattainable dreams were annihilated. Burnt to a crisp in a valley of ashes.
It's absurd to pony up $40,000, compete against the elite NL tournament players in the world, and then 36 hours later end up with absolutely nothing. That's what happened to quite of few players in Event #2 $40,000 NL whom did not make the money. Only 27 players were fortunate enough to guarantee a cash out of the original 201 runners. 89 of them began Day 2 with Chris Moneymaker among the chip leaders. By the time Day 2 ended, Moneymaker's march towards glory came to a shocking halt and only 23 players survived. They each advanced to Day 3 and have to fade 22 more players to win a bracelet.
Chris Moneymaker represented a modern day Jay Gatsby. Much like the main character from F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, Moneymaker and Gatsby both were self-made millionaires. They earned their money in unconventional ways; Moneymaker through poker and Gatsby through bootlegging in the 1920s. They achieved a status of fame and fortune that epitomized the fulfillment of the American Dream and became the center of the party.
However, Jay Gatsby's fate included a tragic ending when he was unable to come to grips with his past. While Moneymaker's future has been slowly unraveling before us, the $40,000 NL event gave him a chance at redemption. He wanted to prove that he wasn't like the "monkey on the grinder" while paraded all over the world by PokerStars like some sort of carnival side attraction like Siamese Twins or the Bearded Lady.
Chris Moneymaker has been chasing his own shadow since 2003. Every single person in poker today has been effected by his monumental victory inside Benny's Bullpen, and as poker continues to grow, more and more pressure gets thrust upon his shoulders. Folks like me and other results-oriented-obsessed media types constantly write about what he hasn't done in the last few years, instead of bestowing him with accolades for achievements off the felt by inspiring thousands and perhaps millions of people to play poker and actually believe that they too have a chance of taking down the best pros in the game.
I've seen him carry the burden as far away as Monte Carlo and Argentina. He's walked in jam-packed poker rooms all over the world and chuckled as he said, "I kinda started all this." Yet he also knew that he had a target on his back no matter where he went.
Moneymaker began Day 2 second in chips to Bruno Fitoussi. At one point Moneymaker snagged the lead and for most of the afternoon, he was consistently in the Top 5 in chips. He had been diligently working on his game and plugging leaks (especially blowing huge chip leads and playing smarter in the early stages of tournaments). It seemed as though his tweaked game plan was working, until his run abruptly ended. Inside of a short period of time, Moneymaker went from the penthouse to the outhouse. He crashed and burned way before the money bubble broke. A dejected Moneymaker wandered by the press box as he left the Amazon Ballroom. He, more than anyone in this world, knows how vital it is to get an opportunity of a lifetime. He was well within reach of making poker history but the poker gods had other things in mind.
As Moneymaker faded away, Greg Raymer flew under the radar and emerged as the chip leader shortly after the dinner break. He lost and regained it a couple of times. But when Day 3 ended, Raymer found himself fourth in chips and trailed the leader by 400,000. Justin Bonomo finished up Day 2 with 2.67 million. Ted Forrest, aka the Suicide King, was sitting in second place despite missing a substantial amount of Level 15. He took a nap on his dinner break and overslept. Even though he was being blinded off, he woke up and returned to the tournament. He managed to have a late night surge and finish up with almost 2.6 million in chips. David 'WhooooKidd' Baker was third, Raymer fourth, and young Dutch pro Lex 'RaSZi' Veldhuis found himself fifth overall. RaSZi (also known as Evelyn Ng's boyfriend) held a share of the lead at one point on Day 2.
OMGClayAiken busted out in 29th place which set up a somewhat lengthy bubble. When it finally broke, Neil Chriss found himself heading to the rail in a disappointing 28th place. Once the bubble broke, a couple of eliminations ensued including Vanessa Rousso (27th), JC Tran (26th), Sorel Mizzi (25th), and The Dragon (24th).
23 players remain including a couple of familiar faces. $1,891,012 and a bracelet are both on the line. There's still two more days of poker left (action on Day 3 will stop once they get down to the final nine) and anything can happen.
Bouncin Round the Room on Day 3...
When I arrived in the morning, I noticed the car wash being set up in the parking lot. Several strippers from the Sapphire pool were doing some sort of promo with a local radio station. The concept was simple... bikini car wash. The girls were not the cream of the crop and leftovers from the afternoon shift, yet they still managed to catch the attention of different media types. God bless Mean Gene for snagging several photos.
I stepped away from the press box and when I returned, I found an entire bag of beef jerky sitting next to my laptop. Benjo picked it up for me. Supposedly, the folks at Jack Link's dropped off several free bags of beef jerky (retail value? $10 in the Poker Kitchen) in the media room. Heck, the schwill merchants at Milwaukee's Beast never gave us a sip of free beer. But, times have changed and we were given free beef jerky. Those devious suits at Jack Link's are purposely giving us free beef jerky so we'll all get addicted on it and then we'll be forced to buy overpriced jerky in the Poker Kitchen. I smell conspiracy. I'm gonna get Oliver Tse and Alex Jones on the case.
I watched Game 6 of the Lakers/Nugs series at the All American Bar. During halftime, Jerry Buss shuffled by without a care in the world. Surreal.
Benjo spotted someone who looked like Vinny Vinh and he asked me to confirm his appearance. Indeed, it was Vinny. He sweated The Dragon from inside the ropes for several minutes. When he was done, we followed Vinh all the way back to the cash game section where he returned to his seat at a 2/5 PLO table. As Benjo said, it's officially the WSOP when you have a Vinny Vinh sighting.
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