Friday, June 24, 2011

2011 WSOP - Day 24: Dwan Song, Revelry, and Hooligans

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I love a good drunken spectacle.

Especially when a flash mob of possessed inmates seize control of the asylum. Depending on your perspective, you're in caught in the eye of a hurricane and found it utter hell, you were likeme, mesmerized by the sheer path of destruction that is about to be released, but on the verge of joining in on the madness.

Day 24 of the WSOP featured a pair of Day 3's ($10,000 HORSE and $2,500 NL) with fields attempting to play down to a final table and declare two new bracelet winners. The outlook was grim with both events grinding away at a much slower pace than anticipated. That and the 10-level hard stop times meant the odds were high that one of the final table would not finish by night's end, and when play reached that bewitching hour, both events were still running.

Photo courtesy of Winamax

Event #36 $2,500 NL was initially dismissed because it was going to played out on a secondary tale, and at this point, even the hardest hardcore poker fans got a little tired with the same NL-swan song.

But Event #37 $10,000 was everything that the promoters hoped for an more. With Ivey sitting out this year's fiesta of poker, Tom "durrrr" Dwan has become the hugest draw in poker. In the last year or so, Dwan has been a major attraction for the biggest nosebleed games online, or cash games in Maccau, or playing on a closed set for High Stakes Poker. Dwan still achieved rock star status, even with his affiliation to Full Tilt. Dwan somehow escaped the spumes of ire from those of us caught up in Full Tilt's Ponzi Poker, because he was the only one to make a public statement and offered to pull cash out of his own pocket. When Ivey attempted to sever ties with FT (awkward announcement via FaceBook), rumors suggested Dwan was about to follow Ivey and defect. I have no clue of FT's angry response was sufficient enough to quell any potential mutiny from FT's crew, especially Dwan... or... if Uncle Tilty secretly whispered something in Dwan's ear to keep him out the fracas.

At this point, if you've been following Dwan's relationship with the WSOP, you know about the various bracelet prop bets he has -- both publicly and privately. So whenever Dwan goes deep in a bracelet event, the collective assholes of certain prop bettors shrivel up.Dwan's final tables are not just about trying to determine the best player in that game on that time in history, but they are also about the redistribution of wealth in the poker community.

Read the piece I wrote last year 2010 WSOP Day 10: Most Likely You Go Durrrr's Way (And I'll Go Mine) about his run in a Donkament, while the high-stakes poker community sat on the other side of the room with a keen eye on Dwan's progress.

On Day 24 of this year's WSOP, Dwan advanced to the final table of 10K HORSE, along with Shawn Buchanan, Michael Binger, Fabrice Soulier, and Daniel Ospina. Dwan started out as the chip leader, but hit a few rough patches and went busto in 5th place. While the high-stakes community dodged a bullet, the international poker community was just getting warmed up.

A contingency of French fans gathered on Fabrice Soulier's rail inside the Mothership. Fabrice is one of the most popular players from France, and one of the cooler European pros you'd meet on the circuit. I remember when he went deep in the Main Event in 2007, and busted out in 421st odd number for sure. Fabrice had another deep run in a HORSE event a couple of years ago, but fell short of his goal to win a bracelet.

Fabrice's popularity is derived from his breezy, yet engaging attitude. The amicable pro is kind of guy you'd sit at the end of a bar and shoot the shit with about poker, life, and the universe. Fabrice was the opposite of the two icons of French poker, ElkY and David Benyamine.

ElkY is an outlandish Frenchie version of David Bowie or Lady GaGa on quaaludes. Everyone calls him by one name -- like Bono, Madonna, or Elvis -- and dresses the part with weird accouterments, and carries himself with the panache of a rockstar.

Benyamine seems unapproachable, like a sad, quiet, tortured legend in the likes of Papa Hemingway. Benyamine seemed distant, even with the French press. I remember Benjo was super excited earlier this WSOP when he walked through the tables and Benyamine called out, "Hello Ben." We joked that was the most he's ever said to him in over six years. The American equivalent is if Texas Dolly called me by my real name, sort of a mind-tripping moment when the Godfather acknowledges your existence.

The French vocally supported Fabrice in nothing short of what I described as jubilant. The "Faaaaaaaaaaa-brice" chants inside the Mothership from the French were catchy, but were soon drowned out by a roaring squall of hooliganism outside on the secondary final table.

When Barmy Army bellowed, that meant only one thing -- a British player made the final table.

"It's Middy," explained my English colleague Homer. "He lives not too far from me in Leeds. Tom Middleton is quite a big draw among his friends. He'll either have a gigantic stack or spew it all off in a matter of hands. Middy is an exciting player to watch because you'll never know what will happen next."

The Brits on the rail of the $2,500 NL were dressed up for Ladies Night at Stoney's, a country western bar on the fringe of North Las Vegas. They hoped all the ladies were shithoused drunk on $1 cocktails, and couldn't resist their charming accents, and all of those young pros could bed American tourists with loose morals. Thanks to the Snookification of American society, that's like shooting spray-tanned orange fish in a barrel.

The Brits consumed liquor at a staggering pace -- food and beverage crew were losing their shit in the back hallways, scrambling around every nook and cranny inside the Rio to round up every bottle of Jagermeister. The night passed midnight and Middy's rail grew drunker and rowdier, which was pretty much the same story for any British assault on a bracelet over the last two years. Some nights have gotten a little crazy with an army of young, excitable, British players attempting to put their mark on WSOP history. They all embraced the Vegas attitude of anything goes, while putting a British spin on things. Hence the binge-drinking and ear-piercing chants that tilted a few players and media.

"We've only come to see Middy!" reverberated throughout the Amazon Ballroom.

A waitress contentiously brought out trays and trays of Jager and Redbull. At one point I heard "Eskimo" chants mixed in with "Get your tits out!", along with Middy's online screen name "Hit the Hole!"

At one point, Middy was on the brink of elimination when he got it all in with A-9 against A-Q. The Brits had conceded the hand pre-flop and began singing, "We're all off to Stoneys! We're all off to Stoneys!"

A Nine hit the board and a thunderous howl filled the room and the air reeked of Jagermeister. The Brits altered their chant to "We're not off to Stoneys! We're not off to Stoneys!"

I got crocked on Carlsberg at dinner and was cooking on Percs, so I was in the proper state of mind to embed myself on the rail with the hooligans. The antics were kinda funny, but I finally understood how riots begin. When caught up in a flash mob, you surrender to the group-think mentality and join in with the fervor, destruction and mayhem.

That's when events took a turn from absurd to utter anarchy. Middy's rail drowned shots of Jager out of shoes. That's no typo -- it's true -- shoes.

"This Middy kid better fucking win," I thought. "Otherwise these crunk'd up hooligans are going to turn the Mothership upside and torch the entire fucking thing to the ground."

Middy didn't win... yet and five players were still alive. Up on the main stage, no one had won a bracelet either. They were down two with Fabrice was heads up against Shawn Buchanan. For both tournaments playing down to a bracelet, action was suspended when play reached the 10th level. The hard-stop time was enacted an the party was over for both the French and Brits. Much to the chagrin of ChipBitch, the Germans didn't have to be called in to quiet the rowdy Brits and uppity French.

The deafening monsoon of revelry had come to a complete halt as a calming silence fell over the WSOP.

"You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here."

Off to Stoneys.

* * * *

Follow @taopauly for Twitter updates throughout the day and over the weekend for random WSOP stuff and other hijinks.

Also, help support indie writers and buy my books: Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers and the World Series of Poker, and my recently released novel, Jack Tripper Stole My Dog. Both are also available for Kindles and iPads.

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