Friday, July 08, 2011

2011 WSOP, Day 38: Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall

Mirror, Mirror, on the WallThe 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event kicked off yesterday with a modest-sized field of 897 turning out for Day 1a, the first of four consecutive Day Ones. Day 1a usually attracts the fewest entrants of the four, although yesterday’s total was down fairly significantly (about 20%) from last year’s Day 1a total (1,125).

The low turnout meant the entire Day 1a field could be seated inside the Amazon Room with a lot of tables to spare. With the big, bright “mothership” sitting there in the middle of the room taking up a lot of space, there are fewer tables in the Amazon this year than in years past. They did use the feature table there, but most of the time there were only two or three dozen spectators in the stands watching it. All of which made the vibe seem somewhat desolate yesterday, with lots of empty seats and tables surrounding the players, dealers, staff, and those of us covering what was going on.

Nor was there much fanfare, either, as far as the preliminaries went -- e.g., no UNLV marching band like in 2008 or anything close. Just a somewhat tired-seeming Doyle Brunson quickly delivering the “shuffle up and deal” instruction before shuffling himself over to the feature table where he lasted just a few hours more before being eliminated.

Just before the start of Day 1a at the 2011 WSOP Main EventNor was there much in the way of Main Event goofiness on the fashion side of things. Just a couple of crazy hats and one dude in a red velvet robe. It was almost refreshing to see one player, Richard Wyrick, surprisingly return from the dinner break dressed as Snow White, complete with outfit, makeup, and black wig. Had kind of a Divine-like thing going there, really, as he sat there behind his dwindling stack of chips.

Wyrick finished 27th in the WSOP ME in 2006, actually. Apparently he felt like things weren’t going too well during the first three levels, so he dressed up for the post-dinner poker in order to try to change his luck. He made it through the day, but will return to a super short stack on Monday (Day 2a). And perhaps in a different costume.

But that was really it as far as novelties went. Otherwise it was a lot of baseball caps, hoodies, sunglasses, and a few cowboy hats. Just a lot of dudes (and a few women here and there) playing cards. Was almost wishing I’d see the seven dwarfs arrive at some point to cheer on Wyrick, but Dopey, Bashful, Sneezy, and the rest were nowhere to be found.

Grumpy was there, though.

Many readers of this blog no doubt are familiar with the blog kept by Bob Woolley, a.k.a. “Poker Grump,” and thus probably know about how he managed to score a seat in the Main Event this year via that raffle conducted by Daniel “jungleman12” Cates. (See here for details.) As it happened, Bob was seated in my section yesterday and so I had the chance to follow his progress off-and-on during the day.

Bob 'Poker Grump' Woolley at the 2011 WSOP Main EventOf course, I would’ve been visiting Bob’s table frequently anyway, since he ended up drawing one of the more stacked tables in the room, one including Olivier Busquet, David “the Maven” Chicotsky, Tom Schneider, and Greg Raymer. No shinola! That photo of Bob, by the way, is courtesy of Ben over at Wasted Aces Poker. Check out his post from yesterday for some more shots from Bob’s table.

Bob managed to survive to the dinner break with roughly the starting stack, then lost some afterwards to finish the day on the short side. (Here’s Bob briefly describing his day; stay tuned to his blog as I’m sure he’ll be reporting further on it all.) In fact, Bob outlasted Chicotsky, Schneider, and Raymer -- all of whom busted yesterday -- to be one of the 560 who made it through to Day 2. (Busquet eventually was moved to another table.)

Bob actually knocked out Schneider, and I happened to be there to report on the hand. Pocket aces for Bob and pocket kings for a short-stacked Tom. Kind of poignant for me to write that one up, given that I’ve been friends with both guys for several years.

Long-time readers of the blog know how I met Tom way back in the spring of 2007, before his great run at that summer’s WSOP when he won two bracelets and WSOP Player of the Year. I had spoken with Schneider just before play started yesterday -- in fact, I’d gone over to the table, talked to him, and didn’t even notice Bob sitting a couple of seats away -- and he related to me how it had been a somewhat tough Series for him and he’d hoped the ME would turn things around.

I was over there later on to see him make an amazing fold versus Raymer, laying down a middle set of tens on the turn versus Raymer’s top set of queens. He was obviously playing well, but the cards just wouldn’t cooperate. (See this short piece by Otis on the PokerStars blog reflecting in part on Tom’s plight.)

Wasn’t the most thrilling day of poker I’ve covered, but certainly a memorable one. I’m currently fighting a touch of the “blogger flu” I think, and by night’s end my sinuses were on fire, my eyes bloodshot and moist, my head heavy. I took a look around at those remaining and found myself kind of weirdly identifying with everyone in the room, all of these hopefuls, just wanting to get through to the end with chips, to keep it going.

Bob’s playing yesterday might’ve had something to do with my being possessed by such feelings. Although he’s certainly a more experienced and accomplished player than I am, I still kind of think of him as a peer of sorts and thus his playing makes the idea of me taking a Main Event seat seem less fantastic. Thus (perhaps) I was thinking more specifically about the players’ perspective yesterday than I would have otherwise. Tom’s hard luck day might’ve also affected me in a similar way. Such a good guy, and terrific player. But the cards don’t care about how good anyone is -- as people or as players.

Richard Wyrick, dressed as Snow White for the latter part of Day 1a at the 2011 WSOP Main EventOr maybe it was Snow White sitting over there that made everyone seem just a tad more vulnerable. Who knows?

It’s an odd thing, the WSOP Main Event. I suppose it’s like the Queen’s magic mirror. The poker world looks into it year after year, asking for some sort of validation or truth or something of use in its ongoing quest for self-definition.

Still a couple more weeks for us to look and see. And ask.

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