Wednesday, July 14, 2010

2010 WSOP Day 47 - Main Event Day 4: I Want To Take You Higher

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

If you believe in ghosts, then you know when you walk into a room and a wispy apparition is in your presence. You instantly feel it, deep in your bones, as goosebumps ripple across your skin. A spooky feels rattles around inside your gut almost to the point of nausea as your heart races and your fingers go numb.

Step into an ancient church and cathedral in Spain or anywhere else in Europe and stroll down the aisle and peer up fractured light filtered through multi-colored stained glass and absorb the energy of centuries worth of prayers, hopes, dreams, aspirations, condemnations, and desperation. Churches are often places where people go when they have no other place to go. Before ye abandoned all hope, take a seat in an empty pew and pour your heart out to God. The truly hopeless expect miracles from God to bail them out of their mess.

During the bewitching hour when night bleeds into day, you'll pass by a few beings that are not of the point in time and space. Don't be alarmed that you're actually seeing dead people. The Rio ghosts have been on my radar for years. It makes perfect sense why so many of them congregate in one place -- the Amazon Ballroom is a mass grave for thousands upon thousands of vacant dreams. The broken spirits wander the hallways of the Rio, banished to an eternal purgatory and unable to pass over to the other side.

1,203 individuals wandered into the killing fields on Day 4 of the Main Event with a devastating fate meeting 456 of them -- their life force permanently detached from their spirit, and their carcasses wheeled into the back door of the local butcher shop.

That reminds me of a Sly and the Family Stone song which goes... "My own beliefs are in my song/The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then/Makes no difference what group I'm in/I am everyday people, yeah yeah."

1,203 different stories, journeys, and dreams. Some of them were going to be fulfilled, others brutally squashed. A jittery restlessness filled the Amazon Ballroom at the onset of Day 4. Whispers about Johnny Fucking Chan's re-emergence swayed in the background. Every photographer and reporter made Chan their prime directive and circled his name and table number. They wanted to see the legend up close, personal, and more importantly, they wanted to see him dance like a monkey. Either everyone was going to ride his coattails to the November Nine, or they were eagerly waiting to pick apart his carcass.

While Chan sat underneath the brights of the TV table, several Scandis sleeper cells were called into action -- a Nordic jihad led by a legion of Jan Randomsens, reminiscent of the attack of the clones, where dozens of blonde-perfectly-messy-haired hoodied assassins launched a full out assault. Just when everyone thought that the Brits or the Russians were going to be a big threat, it turned out that the Scandis were amassing armies on the horizon, led by Theo Jorgensen, Jesper Hougaard, and Johnny Lodden. Then there's some random Norwegian named Henrik Tollefsen and Sweden's Gerasimos Deres awho survived the money bubble and ended Day 4 with a decent stack. Don't forget about William Thorson. He made a deep run in 2006 and is no stranger to high pressured situations and recently shipped the Baltic Festival a few weeks ago.

During the money bubble, an Italian (Fillipo Candio), and Spainard (Tomeu 'Amatos' Gomila) attempted to grab the top spot away from Duy Le. However, when played on Day 4 was suspended, American Tony 'Bond18' Dunst (an almost ex-pat who I first met bumming around Australia in 2007) held the over lead with over 1.5 million. Dunst is the new big swinging dick at the WSOP, but the Scandis are going to make him their target on Day 5.

Only 747 players on Day 4 were able to claim a share of the $68 million prize pool. A min-cash of $19K or so was promised to them. For online qualifiers at PokerStars, they also had an extra incentive to cash in the Main Event -- a PCA package added as a bonus to sweeten their deal. The Stars marketing department finally figured out a way to prevent their hyper-shove-happy players from committing mass suicide on Day 1 or 2 -- just by dangling a trip tot he Bahamas over their head. (I dunno what the big deal is about the PCA because Atlantis is bunk. The only reason to go is the fun and hijinks that you'll have with your friends, but Atlantis is way overrated, like a Hollywood star five years past her prime. The service is shite, the food and booze is grossly overpriced, the weed is horrible, and the cocaine prices are jacked up for tourists).

Many of the Starsdonks folded their way into a min-cash and a PCA package, while hundreds of others failed to get any return on their $10,000 investment. Nothing is worse than playing poker for a week with nothing to show for it. Pros feel like shit for wasting their time and missing a shot at winning the lottery. Amateurs feel like ass because their vacation is over and they missed their shot at the big time and becoming a somebody instead just another cog in the wheel of a multinational corporation who doesn't give a rat's ass about anything you do, yet, if you're in the Amazon Ballroom with a three story stack of chips, then everyone is going to want to know your name and your mug will be plastered all over episodes of the WSOP on ESPN.

After all, isn't that what we all want in life? The fulfillment of Andy Wharhol's prediction that we'll all get fifteen minutes of fame. I dunno about you, but I got like ninety seconds left before I fade into obscurity like Tae Bo. But for everyone inside the Amazon Ballroom, they were one hand away from becoming that rags to riches story about the unsung hero who came out of nowhere to overcome adversity to beat the best of the best at their own game in their own backyard.

As play dipped under 1,000 players and trickled to under 750, the Ballroom became a bastion for anxiety, apprehension, and nervousness. It could sense it in the eyes of some players along with many of the spectators on the rail. Once action reaches the money, the parasites emerge. People who were once casual acquaintances and ex-girlfriends all of a sudden showed up on the rail cheering on their potential meal tickets. Agents slithered around hoping to lock up one of the chipleaders or secondary pros before one of the Big 2 online rooms gobbled them up. The pros who were still remaining were being carefully watched by their backers or former backers awaiting to collect past due debts and makeup. Whenever I see a pro on the rail at this point of the tournament, you know he's sweating one of his horses. You also have friends who swapped pieces of themselves and the lucky ass mofos who busted on Day 1 might have two or three horses left in the Main Event which means three potential big pays days ahead.

Mixed in with the twisted parasites were the super poker fans wearing branded WSOP gear and other online poker schwag. They were so easy to spot out -- ogling, snapping photos with flash, and practically jizzing themselves at the sight of Humberto Brenes. Peope get passionate about weird things -- motorcycles, hang gliding, and watching poker tournaments.

Part of the rail included the support group for hundreds of players, mostly amateurs. Pros are self-contained at a tournament because this is their job. The amateurs need a little help, which is why those two or three friends/family/spouses on the rail are essential for providing "pit service" duties, whether it's words of encouragement or bringing them proper nourishment throughout the day.

Most of the restricted media was forced to cover the tournament on the rail once it go to under 100 players to go in the money bubble -- a restriction that we knew was coming, but just surprised that it happened much earlier. Some of the more other media stuck inside the ropes -- mostly to keep an eye on players that were not being covered by the official crew.

I usually don't care about those restrictions because the aisles need to be clear for ESPN cameras. Some of the biggest stories develop on the rail, which is why I prefer to embed myself with the railbirds. You have to mingle with the masses from time to time in order to get the straight dope on the tournament. I learned that the majority of bored spectators spend time on their mobile devices. I only saw one person on Twitter but mostly the females on the rail were on Facebook. One guy had an iPad and was following the updates, but mostly everyone else as probably posting sick brags about where they were, or rather the opposite, complaining about boring fucking poker tournaments. They are, but the Main Event Bubble is one of the most exhilarating moments in all of poker, dare I say, one of the most exciting moments in non-traditional sports (think on the par of the Nathan's hot dog eating contest).

The anxiety of the bubble often gets transformed into a kinetic field of energy and the room starts buzzing. Christmas morning is often tossed around as an accurate description. I liken it to the moments before a Grateful Dead concert begins and the acid kicks in.

During the hand-for-hand process, the floor staff knows when to continue on after every single dealer stands up after their hand is complete. The tables lasting the longest are often the ones where fireworks ensue. Sometimes, it's a false alarm -- online pro four-bet shoves, Jan Randomsen tanks-folds after seven minutes of deliberation. Or it's worse -- known player moves all in and an unknown player camera-time-tanks for a several minutes just to Hollywood it up. Everyone wants to be their own reality TV star these days, and what's a bigger reality show that the WSOP? Real people. Real money. Real stories. But no short orange chicks with poofy hair and fake boobies.

On the Bubble, the media acts like a flock of starving pigeons in a dire search of an old lady with a bag full of stale bread. Where ever the bread crumbs get tossed, we end up. It was no different when the ring of fire converged on Tim McDonald's table. The Kentucky native went out in 748th place and got carted up to the beef jerky lounge where his dubious honor of Bubble Boy was rewarded by the WSOP with a buy-in to next year's tournament. I always thought that we should be covering the person one off the bubble who busts. That's truly the unluckiest fucker in the tournament. They should give away a bottle of lube -- because if you're gonna properly get fucked in the ass, you'd like it happen as smooth as possible.

Day 1 and Day 2s are a matter of foreplay -- dinner and drinks with lots of flirting and heavy petting on Day 3 before you seal the deal on Day 4. Monkeys gets lifted off the backs on the players who cashed, while the losers become those pesky ghosts in the hallway.

In case you were wondering who you knew that cashed on Day 4...
PokerStars Pros: Humberto Brenes (736)
Full Tilters: Allen Cunningham (581), Patrik Antonius (601), David Chui (642), Gavin Smith (730)
Olympic Medalists: Petter Northug (653)
Familiar Faces: Chris Bjorin (591), Mel Judah (672)
Southern Pros: Frank Kassela (674), Court Harrington (676)
Weird Old Guy: Paul Magriel (683)
Online: Jim Collopy (585), Jay Rosenkrantz (684)
Mizrachi Clan: Eric Mizrachi (718)
Tao Readers: Jonathan Stamm (727) and Jesse Herron (729)

End of Day 4 Chips:
Tony Dunst - 1,546,000
Duy Le - 1,460,000
Garrett Adelstein - 1,440,000
Matt Affleck - 1,395,000
Phil Galfond - 1,392,000
Matthew Jarvis - 1,373,000
Theo Jorgensen - 1,343,000
Benjamin Statz - 1,283,000
Bryan Pellegrino - 1,240,000
Matthew Brown - 1,203,000

Johnny Chan 1,159,000
JP Kelly 1,000,000
Filippo Candio 939,000
Hasan Habib 875,000
Jesper Hougaard 871,000
Scott Clements 828,000
Johnny Lodden 766,000
Alexander Kostritsyn 761,000
Christian Harder 730,000
James Carroll 697,000
Juha Helppi 693,000
Thayer Rasmussen 675,000
Praz Bansi 660,000
Scotty Nguyen 632,000
Jason Somerville 606,000
Eric Baldwin 506,000
Allie Prescott 504,000
Shannon Shorr 482,000
Mark Teltscher 476,000
John Kabbaj 466,000
Vince Van Patten 455,000
Bruce Buffer 450,000
Carter Phillips 447,000
Gabriel Nassif 446,000
Sergey 'Gipsy' Rybachenko 442,000
Danny Mizrachi 437,000
Will Farilla 435,000
Matt Matros 405,000
Steve Billirakis 400,000
Jason Mercier 398,000
Vanessa Selbst 397,000
Ryan Young 381,000
Robert Mizrachi 381,000
Sammy Farha 377,000
Matt Keikoan 375,000
Jean-Robert Bellande 356,000
Dean Hamrick 353,000
William Thorson 346,000
David Benyamine 329,000
Steve Sanders 326,000
Adam Schoenfeld 320,000
Isaac Baron 256,000
Eric Buchman 250,000
Diogo Borges 242,000
Todd Witteles 239,000
Shawn Rice 228,000
Brett Richey 226,000
Bart Hanson 213,000
Jason DeWitt 207,000
Brandon Cantu 196,000
Eric Morris 190,000
Padraig Parkinson 185,000
Gualter Salles 182,000
Anthony Lellouche 182,000
Cole South 164,000
Jesse Martin 158,000
Richard Ellis 156,000
Evelyn Ng 156,000
Brett Puffer 154,000
Jason Lester 149,000
Russell Rosenblum 148,000
Doug Carli 142,000
Allen Rash 142,000
Eric Liu 130,000
Vitaly Lunkin 130,000
Michael Woo 113,000
Fabrice Soulier 104,000
CK Hua 103,000
Yevgeniy Timoshenko 102,000
Karina Jett 80,000
Lauren Kling 68,000
Bernard Lee 47,000
Day 5 begins at noon PT on Wednesday.

Photos by Paco, Benjo, and Harper.


  1. pungissunob8:56 AM

    <span>Great coverage and insight. Thanks Doc.

  2. Randeroo2:59 PM

    I want SOOO BAD to see Selbst, Clements, Farha and the Prince of Poker at a table together. Hell, I'll even settle for just Selbst and Clements.

  3. SpeakEasy10:56 PM

    This is some of your best writing this year.  The ghost analogy is great and really captures the feel of what it must be like to be around so many people who experience the crush of defeat all in the same place.