Once again, play went much faster than any of us seemed to have anticipated. Players were readily shipping their below average but deep stacks left and right, and with just three levels done we were down from 27 to 14.
Dinner break followed, and about a half-hour after we’d returned, Ben Lamb had gone out in 14th and James Calderaro in 13th, and suddenly we were looking at a couple of six-handed tables. But with a dozen players left, the average stack was 16.235 million -- over 67 big blinds. We still weren’t convinced the night was going to end any time soon.
Then boom, boom, and boom. Probably three of the most exciting moments I can recall ever witnessing at a poker tournament. Two happened within minutes of one another, then about an hour later, the third -- the last three eliminations of the night.
The first was a genuine what-the-hell-just-happened moment on the secondary table where F-Train and I were watching. It began as what seemed to be a not-so-extraordinary hand between Billy Kopp and Darvin Moon. There’d been some preflop action, the flop was single-suited -- -- after which it had gone check-bet-call. The turn came the and before we knew it there was something like 42 million chips in the middle, the cards had been turned over, and both players were standing up -- one expressing a kind of reserved elation, the other a kind of mute horror as though he was just then realizing he’d accidentally downed the glass with the poison in it and not the one without.
Moon had checked, Kopp had bet 2 million, Moon had raised to 6 million, then Kopp had shoved his entire stack of 20 million in the middle and Moon had called. Kopp showed and Moon . It took us all an extra beat to realize Kopp was drawing absolutely dead.
We were still wondering aloud about the hand when we heard the noise from the main feature table, a response to another all in. Details of the hand actually weren’t clear from our vantage point, but we knew Ivey had someone (it turned out to be Jamie Robbins) all in and it was an A-10 versus K-Q situation. Ivey winning meant we were suddenly down to a single ten-handed table.
The crowd was absolutely nuts. And I’ll admit I found myself feeling a little starstruck there watching Ivey and the others get their chips situated on the main feature table. I mean, not only had a so-called “name” pro made it this far, but this was Phil Ivey! Seemed to good to be true, that Ivey could still be in the mix here like this.
The third electrifying moment came on the night’s final hand, when Jordan Smith got it all in on an 8-4-2 flop with pocket aces and was looking at Darvin Moon’s pocket eights.
Again, from our position some distance away, it was hard to tell initially that Moon had pocket eights and not, say, 8-7 and a flush draw or something. Eventually it became clear what was happening, and when the turn and river bricked out for Smith, it was again kind of a “did it really happen?” sort of moment.
Couldn’t believe the night was already over. Couldn’t believe the summer was over. Had been thinking all along this was going to be a much longer goodbye.
But boom, it was over. And the crowd went wild.
Robbie Thompson, the funny and engaging Tournament Director who was announcing the main feature table last night, began bellowing out the names of the new November Nine. Earlier in the evening, Nolan Dalla, the WSOP Media Director next to whom I sat for most of yesterday’s final day of play, had remarked to me how well Thompson handles the announcing, heightening the drama in a successful effort to get the audience involved. Thompson was perfect here, reading off one by one the names of the last nine players with chips, each followed by raucous, energetic cheers.
About an hour later I shuffled out of the Rio, saying goodbyes to all of the terrific people with whom I got to spend my summer once again. Somewhat oddly, I had my bags with me, having brought them to the Rio in anticipation of possibly having to go straight to the airport after a super long night. But since we’d ended early I was heading back for one more night at the home-away-from-home to sleep a few hours first.
Still, carrying the bags felt sort of symbolic, making my exit seem more momentous than just walking out of the Amazon Room with nothing but my laptop. As if it were most any other night from the previous seven weeks. Made it more final seeming, as if to emphasize the fact that I wouldn’t be coming back the next day.
Next stop home. Vera. I’m ready.
Thanks to everybody for reading these posts all summer and especially for all of the kind comments both on the blog and that have been delivered to me via other means.
Time now for me to move back to the other coast. To the other life.
Looking forward seeing you all on the other side.