I’ve done some traveling abroad, and I suppose I might liken the experience to finding oneself in a foreign country, far away from family and friends, interacting with a culture much different from the one to which one is accustomed. An utterly social experience, yet one is also always alone, too.
And there’s really no stepping away from it, even just for a moment in the hopes of catching some clarifying glimpse to help determine what it “means” or where it all fits into the “big picture” or the like. That’ll come later, perhaps, after one has returned home and resumed that other life, the so-called “real” one filled with familiar faces, routines, and/or modes of communication.
Was feeling that weird sense of being utterly enveloped in this other, strange world last night as we were off in the Brasilia room covering Day 2 of Event No. 28, the $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha w/rebuys event. The Brasilia room is down the hall and around the corner from the Amazon room where I had been every other day I’d worked thus far. Whereas the Amazon contains something like 165 tables, plus that mini-arena over in the corner (where I’ll be for tonight’s final table), the Brasilia room has perhaps a third of that number. Still a lot of people coming and going -- some asking about satellites and/or napkins -- but relatively speaking yr fairly well tucked away from the main thoroughfare of poker playing and watching.
Had a few exchanges last night with visitors inquiring about the WSOP and what was taking place there in the Brasilia, and I could sense their amazement when I told them who was playing over there in the middle of the room. Yes, that’s right. Chris Ferguson, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, John Juanda, and David Benyamine are all over there. Yeah, I know it looks like just any other cash game, but that’s them, battling for a bracelet.
We went deep into the night-slash-morning, my first real marathon of a day (ended up working about 14 hours, total). If I were given to hyperbole (which I ain’t), I’d almost describe the scene at 4 a.m. as surreal. Didn’t seem right, somehow, for all of this to be going down so peacefully. Shouldn’t there be music? A laser show? Norman Chad?
The six above-named pros, all regulars on televised poker and unquestioned celebrities in our little poker world, were at that last ten-handed table being dealt the last hands of pot-limit Omaha of the night. Standing around the table were perhaps 20 people total inside the ropes, only a very small handful of whom were charged with the duty of reporting on what was taking place. There were some fans there, too, though not too many. Due to the late hour and the relative obscurity of our location, I’m guessing few had any idea what was happening.
Hellmuth, incessant craver of attention, would occasionally pipe up to remind everyone he was there. He had to, as his short stack of chips didn’t allow him to make any noise otherwise. Negreanu was quick and alert as always, constantly engaging others in strategy talk and post-hand analyses. Benyamine exuded confidence and competence, once defending his play against a half-baked criticism from the Poker Brat, but essentially remaining focused on the cards.
Chan chimed in at one point after dragging a pot with a fairly weak hand. With a king in his hand and one on the board, he’d offered from early position at a small pot and had a couple of takers. All checked the turn, then another king on the river prompted Chan to bet again. All folded, and Chan showed his king (and not much else) as he dragged the pot. Some ribbing about the lucky river ensued, but Chan defended his play through infectious laughter.
Juanda remained silent throughout those final hands, and in fact seemed almost to be hiding behind the dealer over in Seat 1. That’s Juanda’s style, constantly flying under the radar. He’d only appeared in a couple of our posts last night, despite having the chip lead at one point during the night. You just don’t see him over there for some reason, and he certainly does little to draw attention to himself.
I was standing behind Ferguson, and so didn’t see his expressions or reactions during those final hands last night. Didn’t have to, though, as we all know how little he varies his countenance and behavior at the table. After the hand in which he was eliminated, the player who knocked him out, Brian Rast, shook his hand, saying “Sorry, Chris.” Ferguson was utterly gracious, taking a moment to congratulate everyone for having made the final table before sauntering off into the sunrise.
And after spending some time helping chronicle those last moments over at PokerNews, I, too, made my exit. It was daylight again, the only evidence of the evening being the still-turned-on headlights of a few of the vehicles on the road with me as I made my way back to the home-away-from-home.
Another stacked final table tonight. As I said, we’ll be back in the Amazon, over in the staging area, with the cameras and an announcer and fans in the stands. Will seem more like a spectacle today than that quiet, serene scene from early this morning.
Which, in an odd way, may make it all seem a little less strange to yr humble observer.