They were down to the final two tables at the $1,650 buy-in WSOP Circuit Main Event in Atlantic City when this new piece of poker knowledge was delivered to me. It was getting late.
Another player joined in excitedly, agreeing that the “proven fact” should be reported. It was a conversation that had begun with more straightforward discussion about percentages and how AJ-suited compared to a lower pocket pair when it came to preflop all-ins. Then came the silly. Both agreed it would surely go viral -- the proclamation about pocket nines -- as the report got picked up and repeated in the forums, on Twitter and Facebook, and elsewhere.
“That’s good information to know,” I responded with a grin.
From the reporting side of things, that progression was kind of how the day as a whole went, starting out somewhat staid, then gradually turning increasingly giddy. Kind of thing often happens once a tourney has moved through those last orbits just prior to the money bubble bursting to the period afterwards when everyone has at least cashed. And many if not all still harbor hopes of landing the big score.
We had 81 players to begin Day 2, evenly divided among nine tables. Bustouts came quickly, but my blogging partner Rich and I were able to keep track of players relatively well thanks to the seating chart with which we began the day.
I had done what I often do in that situation as players were first arriving and taking their seats -- go around and make notes next to names about their appearance or dress to help me remember who was who later on once they’ve begun moving around. The side of the page gets peppered with keywords like “purple shirt,” “red hair,” “Titleist,” “LAPC,” “plaid hat,” “bald,” and the like. Then come the knockouts, represented up and down the page by unfeeling crossout lines.
Things were most tense right as the bubble burst yesterday. An unusual set of circumstances led to there being no hand-for-hand play, as a half-dozen players all busted within just a couple of minutes of one another to take the field from 50 to 44. Since the top 45 finishers made the money, there was a bit of uncertainty regarding the last two bustouts, which had essentially happened at the same time. Took a few minutes of sorting out -- some of which time was taken up calming the fellow who appeared as though he might get shut out of the cash -- but all seemed to work out well enough (45th-place money was split between those two) and play finally resumed.
As I say, once in the money the overall mood relaxed considerably, the table talk increasing as the night wore on.
With about three tables left players at Mike Kosowski’s table finally recognized him from his late 2009 appearance on “Million Dollar Challenge” where he managed to defeat Daniel Negreanu in a heads-up match to win the $1 million. We reported the entertaining scene that followed, and the conversation about Kosowski’s experience on the show continued on afterwards for quite a while. (Kosowski finished yesterday in 16th.)
A lot of other stories were being passed back and forth, including one very humorous one told by a player about a particularly poor display of behavior by an opponent at another tourney he’d played. Won’t rehearse the whole thing here, but it involved the player unpeeling a banana and smearing the peel on the felt, then putting the banana on his chips as well as part of some sort of ill-conceived protest. Or performance art.
Talk of penalties followed, with the tournament director joining in to share the no-nonsense way he’d have handled the situation. “They should have at least taken his banana away,” cracked one player. The storyteller noted how he had a friend who’d once endured the bad behavior of “Banana Man,” and the friend confirmed he was the “douchiest player” ever.
“At least he’s the best at something,” said another, and the table broke up in laughter again.
There was another very funny sequence lasting several minutes once we’d crossed midnight and the main topic of conversation turned to Daylight Savings Time. No one seemed to know with absolute certainty whether the clocks were to be moved forward or back, nor when the resetting was due to occur. The discussion was complicated even further by some wanting to know what time it “really” was.
Additionally, a couple of players noticed after midnight their Verizon-connected phones were saying it was a little after 11 p.m., which made as much sense as pocket nines being more likely to hit a set than any other pair.
“That’s because you guys are on Verizon time,” said the tournament director with a grin, clarifying nothing.
The whole conversation about time started to feel a little “existential,” especially given the context, namely, a casino, a place specifically designed to obscure the whole concept of time for its inhabitants. I joked with Rich that the whole “spring forward fall back” mnemonic only really works if you know what season it is -- harder than one might assume for those who spend the majority of their time inside of poker rooms.
As I say, there was a lot more banter that made the scene quite fun to be around. Those who have played tournaments and made deep runs before well know how this strange sort of camaraderie often develops between the survivors -- strange because while they’re becoming friends, they’re also trying to eliminate one another.
And after spending another 14 hours or so yesterday with those who’ve made today’s final table, I have to say I’m glad for all nine, and will be more so for whomever comes out on top.
Have no favorites among them, although I cannot help but notice a couple of neat storylines suggesting themselves rather strongly. Roland Israelashvili, who nursed a very short stack for much of the latter half of the day yesterday, will be there. He actually won this same event last spring (when it was a $5K buy-in tourney), and so would make WSOP Circuit history should he defend his title.
And speaking of “title defenses” and such, a heads-up battle between Brian Ali and Ellis Frazier would make for some nifty headlines, wouldn’t you say? If that were to happen, we’d know for sure the bout would end with a knockout.
Check over at PokerNews starting at 2 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time) today to see how it all turns out. No matter who makes it to the end, we’ll be providing blow-by-blow coverage.