Las Vegas, NV
The demarcation line between pipe dreams and reality falls somewhere toward the end of Day 5 of the World Series of Poker Main Event. If you can survive the onslaught in the killing fields and somehow make it to the end of Day 5 without a scratch, then you're on the verge of fulfilling your wildest dreams. Most players play poker because they are driven by ego, money, and/or fame. And a small category of folks are fired up by all three motivating factors. Sprinkle in a little luck, blessings from the poker gods, a slew of poker acumen -- and you have a recipe for a potent elixir -- one sip from that so-called Holy Grail will attain you immortality.
That is, if you get a shot at have a sip of the sweet nectar.
"Vegas has no respect for history," blurted out my cab driver and twenty-year inhabitant of Las Vegas as he pined over the eventual destruction of his favorite casinos -- the Dunes, Stardust and the Sahara.
"At least the WSOP hands out bracelets," I assured him. "That's one of the few places in Sin City that recognizes the old in order to tantalize the young."
But aside from the notion of bracelets, you'd have to struggle to find an hints of history at the Rio. Only the Amazon Ballroom housed the massive murals of former Main Event world champions. However, if you walked into the Rio's convention center on Day 5, you might have wondered, "Where did the Wall of Champions go?"
Yeah, for some odd reason, the entire convention center was stripped of WSOP logos and branding. Once the Pavilion went out of commission on Day 4 all of the chairs vanished and were lined up in the back service hallways. I walked down a narrow corridor with a wall of banquet chairs stacked 10 to 12 high or $100,000 to $120,000 worth of buy-ins. Within a ten yard stroll, I passed $1 million worth of dead money.
The Poker Kitchen and the hallways were next on the list. All branding was removed including the wrinkled Player of the Year banners in the hallway connecting the casino to poker's Mecca. The corridors leading up to the Amazon Ballroom were bare -- with just a few tables shilling poker books that everyone already owns and another table hawking cheap sunglasses.
The stripped down hallways gave the WSOP an odd feel on Day 5. Outside the Amazon Ballroom, it seemed like any other day at the Rio instead of "Moving Day" at the WSOP. Then again, aybe that's why they dubbed it Moving Day, because a bunch of workers were packing everything up and carting it away to the depths of some storage facility. In case you wondered where they housed POY banners for Allen Cunningham and Tom "DonkeyBomber" Schneider, it's in the same highly-guarded facility with the Ark of the Covenant, Elvis' brain, and the flying saucer that crashed at Roswell.
Even though outside the Amazon Ballroom it barely looked like the most prestigious poker tournament was running -- 378 poker players slugged it out for eight hours. When they bagged up chips at the end of the night, only 142 players remained. The field inched closer and closer to a number under three digits and the pay jumps made your eyes grow wider and wider. As the few remaining known-pros busted, the cameras focused on the lesser-known professionals and a couple of amateurs were caught up in the opening minutes of their 15-minutes of fame, as a flock of drooling media reps circled the tables, while the ESPN cameras hovered.
Inside the Mothership, a trio of familiar faces were seated on the center stage --Allen Cunningham, Daniel Negreanu, and Jean-Robert Bellande. Allen Cunningham flew under the radar for most of the Main Event, probably because he's usually the most quiet person in the room and he's also had a bleh WSOP leading up to the Main Event. Allen has a chance to turn his entire summer around with another final table appearance. He was one of the favorites to win the 2006 Main Event, but the cards didn't quite fall his way.
Negreanu fell to the wayside in 211th place. Even an army of Negreanu-heads at home helping log hands couldn't help Kid Poker. I guess the poker gods decided it wasn't his time to win the Main Event.
Jean-Robert Bellande (Busto Bobby or JRB) must have cashed in some karma points because JRB advanced to Day 6 with a healthy stack worth 1.1 million. Maybe this is Bobby's year? He managed to avoid an implosion. Instead, Day 5's Demolition Award (aka the Dimitri Nobles Trophy) for worst implosion goes to Manoj Viswanathan. The New Yorker started the day as the overall leader, took a hit early on, then busted unceremoniously in 191st place.
Photo by WhoJedi
Cue the rise of the Gunslinger.
At the 2007 LAPC, one of my colleagues joked that David Bach asked to be put into the chip counts as David "Gunslinger" Bach. It might have been a joke in 2007, but after snatching up a 50K HORSE Championship and ended in Day 5 of the Main Event as the chip leader, maybe it's time to finally bestow the Gunslinger moniker on Bach?
Bach is a character for sure -- the unshaven Bach with a Georgia twang looks like a guy who walked out of a Widespread Panic concert instead of the chipleader at the WSOP. He's usually clad in a cowboy hat and some sort of seasonal shirt. Bach has a bad back and is rarely seen without a massage therapist working on his troubled areas. He even attempted to bring his own chair to WSOP. He's often snagged a dealer's chair to sit in that instead of the creaky banquet chairs -- the same beige chairs that have been used since I started cover the WSOP at the Rio in 2005.
Bach ended Day 5 as the chipleader with 4.7 million. He got most of his chips by ravishing Vanessa Rousso's stack. Last week on Day 3, Bach dragged one monsterpotten with an aggressive call against Rousso, then finished her off shortly after. On Day 5, Bach re-activated his luckbox powers in a decisive hand against Max Bach four-flushed the German... and the rest is history.
2011 Main Event - Quick Stats
Players Remaining: 142
Chipleader: David Bach - 4,706,000
First Place: 8,711,956
Juice to the WSOP: $4,119,000
End of Day 5 - Top 10 Chip Counts:
1. David Bach - 4,706,000
2. Pius Heinz - 4,699,000
3. Kyle Johnson - 4,654,000
4. Phil Collins - 4,109,000
5. Ben Lamb - 4,032,000
6. Aleksandr Mozhnyakov - 3,462,000
7. Sebastian Ruthenberg - 3,354,000
8. Lars Bonding - 3,327,000
9. Bryan Devonshire - 3,292,000
10. Thomas Grey - 3,262,000
Sam Barnhart 3,065,000
JP Kelly 2,664,000
Fred Berger 2,119,000
Daryl Jace 2,110,000
Tony Hachem 2,067,000
Joseph Cheong 1,988,000
Christian Harder 1,624,000
Jean-Robert Bellande 1,230,000
Sami Kelopuro 936,000
Peter "Nordberg" Feldman
Ray Henson 795,000
Amanda Musumeci 738,000
Steve Brecher 736,000
Eli Elezra 707,000
Allen Cunningham 641,000
Carl Olson 531,000
Sorel Mizzi 500,000
Erick Lindgren 385,000
Cory Albertson 258,000
Click here for a complete list of 2011 WSOP Main Event money winners.
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