So said Flipchip, the longtime WSOP photographer, to Gavin Smith near the end of Day 2 of Event No. 44, the $2,500 Mixed Hold’em event, when there were 11 players left. I’ve had the chance to work with Flipchip each of these last three summers, and was there letting him know who was left in the field as he came around to snap up some late night pics.
I don’t exactly remember Smith’s reply. Something self-deprecating like “I hope so” or “That’s the plan,” I think. But I do remember Flipchip’s response -- a wordless nod, eyes closed.
He’d already snapped a few of Smith before I’d arrived with the list of the other players and their seating assignments. While he needed others’ names, he obviously knew Smith already. Like most all of us.
And like I say, he seemed to know something else, too. It was like Flipchip had just spotted something a moment before through that camera he held at his side.
Smith is one of those players whom a lot of us who follow poker feel like we know even if we don’t. As a longtime poker podcast listener -- from really the very start of such things back about five years ago -- I’d spent many hours listening to “the Caveman” on shows like The Circuit, PokerWire, and PokerRoad Radio, where I always found Smith a funny, entertaining contributor who could be thoughtful at times, too, when required.
He’s also one of those pros who has always seemed willing to share opinions about issues others shy away from talking about, less concerned (than most) with some of the politicking that goes on, as well as the tiptoeing some are forced to do relative to their endorsement deals or the desire for such.
Put all that together with his frequent television appearances on the WPT, “Poker After Dark,” and other shows, and like I say one sort of feels like one knows the guy even if one doesn’t. And I think many probably were glad to see Smith finally break through last night and do just what FlipChip said he was going to do -- win his first WSOP bracelet.
Was quite the scene, in fact, with a crush of Smith’s friends and supporters surrounding the main feature table there in the Amazon when the final hand between Smith and Danny Hannawa played out. I was lucky enough to be on this event from start to finish, and so got to help with the chronicling of it all three days.
Was kind of a frantic event to cover, right through final table, with eliminations happening quickly throughout and a ton of action. Indeed, there was a moment somewhere in there last night when I looked up and saw reporters for other publications and sites -- people like B.J. Nemeth who spent most of the day and night circling the final table with his camera, shooting pics for the WSOP -- and kind of envied how they were able actually to watch the final table playing out, enjoying a broader perspective as they slowly pieced together their articles and other means of telling the “story” of the night.
I definitely would’ve liked to have spent more time relating various “color” from the final table, such as reporting on the shenanigans happening in the bleachers among Smith’s supporters, some of the table talk that arose, and even perhaps trying to relate something insightful in the blog about Smith’s appearance and demeanor.
Smith has a bit of a party animal persona -- hence the “Caveman” tag from the podcasts – but during this event seemed to be playing a different role, with his suit jacket, eyeglasses, and fedora adding up to a more reserved, serious, sober Smith.
Would’ve liked to relate more along the way some of these other details from the evening (the kinds of things my fellow reporters likely wrote about in their articles), but I was too occupied getting down what the action was on the turn, etc.
Speaking of that changed look and deportment, I know Smith has gotten involved with this new poker “guru”-slash-life-coach Sam Chauhan with whom others have worked. I’m hoping actually to meet up this week with another poker coach -- my friend Tommy Angelo -- and might have to ask him about Chauhan.
Still, it was most certainly a fun final table to cover, and I was glad to be there to witness Smith’s triumph.
I was reminded more than once during the night of the very first final table I’d ever covered back at the start of the 2008 WSOP when Erick Lindgren won his first bracelet. That, too, was a mixed hold’em event, in fact. Lindgren, like Smith, definitely appeared to have an edge in the limit rounds over most at the final table. E-Dog also had a big rail there to support him, and there was the same festive atmosphere and celebration when he won.
When Flipchip uttered his statement of assurance to Smith night before last, I can’t say I paid much mind to it. Let’s not get carried away here, I probably would’ve said, if asked to respond. There are 11 left, Smith is in the middle of the pack, and a cooler or two in the limit rounds and he’s gonna miss the final table. That’s poker.
Then again, why not think positively, if given the choice? Imagining oneself succeeding generally does help one prepare for that eventuality. Or at least that’s what one often hears. Maybe I’ll ask Tommy about that, too.
Of course, it probably doesn’t hurt, either, to have someone who has seen three-plus decades’ worth of these things come around and tell you you’re winning this one.