Las Vegas, NV
I didn't see who was driving the silver Mercedes, but Gavin Smith sat in the passenger seat. At least, I thought it was him. Not too many people are sporting the classy fedora look in these Jersey Shore-fashion-influenced masses these days at the Rio. By process of elimination, it had to be Smith.
Gavin Smith was heading to the final table of a Mixed hold'em event and "dapper" is a word to prefectly describe his new look. He wore a "smart" jacket, dress shirt, spectacles, and an old school hat -- which replaced his former ratty backwards Full Tilt cap. Smith would begin the final table second in chips (only tailing by the slimmest of margins) and the amateur bookies in the press box were labeling Smith the odds-on-favorite to win his first bracelet before cards even went in the air.
ESPN3 was taping the event and for the first time in a few weeks, the final table stadium had a slicker feel and a more serious tone with all of the camera equipment and production staff running around. In that regard, Smith held an even bigger edge over his opponents. He's not camera shy in the least and has spent his fair share of time underneath the bright lights of a televised table.
The final table stadium area was moderately filled with spectators at the onset of play. The majority of Smith's friends were playing in other events at the Rio, but Chris Bell (who was also playing in the PLO/8 event) and Layne Flack stopped by to sweat from time to time. Flack was in usual rare form -- rowdy, obnoxious, hysterical, and most likely crocked to the tits. Andy Black and Miami John (also playing in PLO/8) made token cameos during breaks, and Black still looks like he's been living at a halfway house the last four weeks.
Even Pokerati's own Toothless Bob wandered into the stadium seating to check out the festivities. Toothless Bob and Michalski go way back to the underground Dallas days, but he was AWOL for a few days. That sort of disappearing act happens from time to time at the WSOP. You get used to seeing one person every day and then they vanish into thin air. Toothless Bob finally re-emerged just in time to sweat Gavin Smith.
While I wandered around the rail, I overheard a few conversations including the one guy int he entire Amazon Ballroom who did not have a working mobile phone. He was pestering random players, "Can you let me make a phone call for $1?" My favorite fans of the day were the trio of Brazilians in green and yellow soccer jerseys toting around oversized cocktails and a vuvuzela.
My view most of the final table from the beef jerky lounge
Within the first hour of play at the final table, Smith quickly went to work. One player busted out as Smith surged over $1 million in chips. His closest opponent, Danny "The Hurricane" Hannawa, had almost half his stack. Smith jumped out to an early lead, but could he keep up the pressure?
Over the afternoon, Smith failed to pad his his 1 million stack and he even slipped back below 1M. He was still ahead with the lead as WSOP-Circuit guru Dwyte Pilgrim hit the rail in 8th and Dan Idema went out in 7th. But with six to go, Smith ran into a little trouble as Timothy Finne seized the lead.
After Jamie Rosen busted in 5th place, Smith was near the bottom of the foursome. He battled back and after Michael Michnik hit the rail in 4th, he chipped up and found himself in the lead.
With three to go, Timothy "highlandfox" Finne posed the biggest threat to Gavin Smith, but he was knocked out in third place, setting up a heads-up battle between Smith and Danny Hannawa. Smith was ahead in chips 2.1 million to 1.7 million. Only one person, aptly nicknamed "The Hurricane" stood in the way of first place money and the bracelet.
During a round of NL, Smith extended his lead to 2-1 over Hannawa. However, it would take him a few more hours before he could finish off his opponent. While most of the free world followed along with Smith's progress via the internet and Twitter, many of Smith's friends -- new and old -- flocked to the final table area of the Amazon Ballroom. They wanted to witness the beloved Smith win a bracelet in person. He did not disappoint them.
Old Gavin Smith
Smith etched his name into the history books and proved that a sober, focused, and disciplined self is one tough son of a bitch to beat. Congrats to Gavin for turning things around.
Bouncin' Round the Room on Day 30...
Man, I can't believe that the WSOP has been going for longer than a lunar month. Wow, so many of my peers have that thousand yard stare. Others look like zombies or extras from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. They look like my friends, but something else is driving the bus if you know what I mean. The end of week two is when people start to hit the wall. By the end of week three, everyone has succumbed to the Vegas malaise. By week four, you either turn it around and catch a much needed second wind before the Main Event, or you go south and turn into a mindless zombie.
Event #46 $5K PLO 8 Day 2: Barry Greenstein and James "Flushy" Dempsey were among the leaders at the onset of Day 2, but both failed to make it to Day 3. At some point during Day 2, Chainsaw Kessler and everyone's favorite middle-aged ginger, Dan Heimiller, held the overall lead.
When action was paused at the end of Day 2, 21 players remained with Russian Sergey Altbregin atop the leaderboard. A couple of familiar faces are still left: Chainsaw, Devilfsh, Heimiller, Andy Black, Dan Shak, Leif Force, Rob Hollink, Miami John, and a short-stacked Erik Seidel.
Event #45 Donkament Day 2: Saturdays are always packed at the Rio's convention center as the WSOP caters to the weekend warrior's and amateurs who are taking their shot at the big time. This weekend featured a donkament and another donkulus! Friday's donkament attracted over 3,000 players (3,097 to be exact) and around 400 lucky donks survived the killing fields on Day 1 and returned for a race for the money. Will "The Thrill" Farilla ended Day 1 as one of the leaders and he began Day 2 in the hot seat.
I noticed that DonkeyBomber was still alive in the donkament only because his wild and wacky pants screamed out to me from all the way across the room. You can see those pants in the thickest of fogs. British pro Sam Trickett, who already has a runner-up performance this summer, jumped out to the lead before the dinner break with around 200 players to go.
DonkeyBomber got as far as 128th place before he busted out. Man, these donkaments are rough...playing for almost two days and doing better than a min-cash. Then again, if you can final table a donkament and take it down -- you get a sweet score for a minimal investment.
Day 2 ended with 36 players remaining, and Sam Trickett at the top of the heap. Can he pull off bracelet #6 for the Brits? If he can't do it, perhaps Stevie Chidwick can do it? The young Brit is not far behind in chips. Americans Alex Outhred and Dutch Boyd is also still alive with three tables to go. Outhred is seeking bracelet numero uno, while Boyd is seeking his third career bracelet, and his second of the 2010 WSOP.
Photos courtesy of Harper & Benjo.