You catch a glimpse here and there. But only a glimpse. Imperfect. Incomplete. And as you write it down and try to share what you saw with others, the tourney continues while you look away. Running away from you, forever to hide in the past.
Yesterday Mike Sexton was playing Day 2b of the World Series of Poker Main Event. He was sitting just a few yards from my location, and so I was able to check in fairly frequently on his progress.
The “World Poker Tour” host was short-stacked for most of the day. I saw him lose a significant chunk in one hand versus an opponent in which he called a river bet, then saw his opponent had flopped a set and turned a full house to end with a better hand than his. Lost more than half his stack on that one. Wasn’t long after that he picked up pocket nines, ran into someone with pocket queens, and five cards later was out.
The latter hand occurred when I was on the other side of the room. In fact, the ESPN cameras had been hovering over Sexton’s table quite a bit during the day, but they were elsewhere as well when his elimination happened.
Players were just about to go on break, and so after I returned to the table I waited until the level had concluded and asked the dealer about Sexton’s bustout. I might’ve asked a player, but I didn’t want to take any time away from the 20 minutes they each had to stretch their legs, visit the restroom, call their loved ones and/or backers, grab a bite or drink, or whatever.
A couple of lingering players jumped in, though, to share details, including the fellow who’d knocked Sexton out, Josh Mancuso. We laughed a little afterwards about how no media had been at the table to catch the hand, in particular the TV crew. Incidentally, I’d heard that the ESPN guys had missed Jonathan Duhamel’s bustout the day before (on Day 2a). I’m sure they lamented that, but I think ESPN’s plan this year might be to spend less time on Days 1 and 2, anyway, so perhaps Duhamel’s bust would’ve only rated a brief mention anyhow.
“That’s how bad I run,” Mancuso said to me with a grin, referring to his missed chance for some air time on ESPN. I thanked him and made sure to give him at least a small bit of recognition in my post of the hand. Mancuso would finish the day with 115,700 chips, just a tad above the average stack heading into Day 3.
Long, long ago I remember writing a post about the bias toward “name” players in tourney reporting. The post was titled “Playing Favorites,” and basically addresses how the more famous faces often get more attention and even on some occasions tend to come off better in the reporting.
Big field tourneys cannot be comprehensively covered by small staffs of reporters. It becomes necessary to be selective in the reporting, and since it takes more time and effort to learn about and follow non-“name” players, the bias persists. Later on, when the field gets smaller and more manageable, that bias will gradually fall away. Players with big stacks -- regardless of how well they were known before this event -- will start to get the most attention. As they should.
At some point during the day yesterday I ran into Robbie Thompson (a.k.a., “Red Bull Robbie”), and he asked me how things were going. I said fine, and he responded by saying how it really isn’t until Day 4 and after that the tournament gets at all interesting. “It’s like the NBA in the first quarter,” he said, and I nodded. Lots of scoring happening, but not much terribly vital in terms of indications of how the sucker is going to turn out.
Of course, these first few days of the tournament do in actuality become the days when the final buzzer sounds for many. The majority, in fact. And for many, their stories begin, develop, and end without notice, like so many mute inglorious Miltons.
There are 6,865 different narratives going on here, all with their own specific arcs, all with their own distinct heroes and villains. There are considerably fewer storytellers around to capture those narratives, and then only in bits and pieces.
Just glimpses, hastily recorded and shared. Imperfect. Incomplete.