We were between hands, and the dealer was pushing the cards around on the felt before him, jumbling them up and reassembling them in preparation for the subsequent hand. Suddenly I hear a voice addressing me from well above my left shoulder.
I answer before looking up. “PLO final table.” Then I look. Why, it’s Phil Gordon. Man, he is tall.
He sticks around for a couple of hands. One came up in which Selbst made an almost pot-sized bet after the flop and the action was on Pickering. He hemmed and hawed for at least a couple of minutes. It was one of many instances where to continue with the hand would’ve meant committing oneself utterly, as a call would represent probably a third of Pickering’s stack.
“Is he like this every hand?” Gordon asked me in a low voice.
“Nah,” I whispered. “The shorties are trying to outlast each other,” I added by way of clarification. Gordon nodded.
Pickering eventually folded, and Gordon left soon after that.
I mention the encounter for a couple of reasons. One, it illustrates something that has happened to me every single day I’ve been at the Rio: casual, fleeting interactions with individuals I’d only known previously from their frequent appearances on my television screen (and/or my iPod). I haven’t even mentioned most of them as they don’t really amount to a heck of lot in terms of what the day ultimately signified (to me, anyway). Those encounters do, nevertheless, provide a curious rhythm to one’s day.
The other reason why I mention it is to illustrate (again) the intensity of that final table. Pickering might well be remembered as a wild party guy who lucked his way into almost winning the bracelet. The fact that he is a wild party guy -- I believe he runs a strip club in his home Australia -- will contribute to that impression, too.
But the fact is, he played some solid poker throughout the tourney, and especially at that final table. He, Selbst, and Statkiewicz (the final three) were tough, competitive, skillful combatants. The time Pickering took on that hand Gordon witnessed was a bit unusual (at that point in the night, anyway), but indicative of how carefully he and the others were playing.
Both Pickering and Statkiewicz would eventually manage to double through Selbst, making the three stacks relatively even. And boy did it become even more intense, then. What had been a relatively light-hearted scene in which Selbst’s victory seemed assured and everyone else was playing for second had suddenly shifted into something much more serious.
Back with more a little later.