Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2011 WSOP, Day 28: Getting Loopy

A player bet...“It’s that time of the night where I start forgetting the names of the three people I've been writing about for the last 12 hours.”

So tweeted my buddy Eric a little after 2 a.m. last night as he neared the end of another long shift of live blogging from the WSOP. Was the sort of thing many of us who have been in his position identified with instantly.

I know I experienced something similar just a couple of nights before when covering the lengthy heads-up battle between Matt Jarvis and Justin Filtz in Event No. 40 (the $5K NLHE 6-max.). I remember one moment after having aggressively tutored my fingers to type the correct spelling of “Filtz” -- both “Flitz” and “Fitlz” kept butting in there -- having to look once again at the chip counts just to remind myself what his first name was. (No shinola.)

Sounds absurd, perhaps. But I imagine you’ve probably experienced something similar yourself. When made to repeat something again and again and again, we generally spend the first part of the sequence fully engaged until we’ve become familiar with what it entails. The learning complete, we achieve understanding. And then we get bored. Or distracted. Or whatever. And after a time of having no difficulty doing that thing again and again and again we move to another stage where we have to work actively just to keep our focus.

There’s a lot of repetition in poker, both for those who play and those trying to report on it. One of the greatest challenges, really, for anyone attempting either.

The brain seeks patterns, but also craves novelty. Poker provides both, of course, but unevenly. Interest flags. The mind closes in on itself. Allow yourself to become too greatly numbed by the patterns and you might well miss something genuinely new. Something worth responding to, say, with a reraise. Or a story to remember, to share with others.

One method we all employ to fight off the numbness is to step outside of the loop, recognize its absurdity, and have a laugh. Hang around the World Series of Poker for more than a day or two and you will witness a lot of laughter, much of it coming from unexpected breaks in the routine.

Two days ago I was reporting on that Event No. 45, the $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em event I was talking about yesterday in which much of the field was comprised of relative unknowns. Late in the day I found myself watching a table at which was seated Prahlad Friedman, and ended up finding a sort-of-interesting-but-really-just-routine hand of his to report.

I watched the hand from beginning to end, ran back to the laptop and wrote up a little narrative describing it, then got back up out of my chair and hit the floor once more. To my dismay, I immediately saw that in the time taken to report the hand -- three or four minutes, tops -- Friedman had been eliminated from the tourney.

Now possessed by the need to find the more interesting sequel to my humdrum first part, a dealer change at the table provided an opening and I asked a player if he could tell me how Friedman had been knocked out.

“I don’t know,” he said with a shrug.

Then, one second later, “Naaaahhhh... I’m just kidding, man. I busted him.”

The story of the bustout he subsequently related to me was also routine. But I dug his dig, that initial faux-evasion of the question. The lie, instinctively delivered, it seemed. Just kidding, man. Just effing with you.

The new dealer sat down, greeted the players, and began to shuffle. The player turned back toward the table. I walked back to the laptop, sat down, and began to type.

This is how we deal.

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