The top 693 finishers got paid, and so when the total number left had fallen under 700 tourney staff began to make preparations for hand-for-hand play. Usually they try to stop play once they get within four spots of the bubble. I believe yesterday they had actually gotten down to 695 by the time they were able to start hand-for-hand.
Dealers stood at their tables, signaling to staff that they had completed their hands, and when all were standing they were instructed to deal one hand and stand again. We reporters sought out the short stacks, and I ended up near Rosen, down to just 12,000 when hand-for-hand play began.
The blinds were 2,500/5,000 (with a 500 ante) and the button had just passed Rosen, so he was still good for nearly an entire orbit of hands. But you could tell he wasn’t at all content with the situation. He sat shaking his head and showing all sorts of expressions that wordlessly communicated his disbelief at the very real possibility that it all might end with his narrowly missing the cash.
It took at least 10 minutes to complete the first hand, during which time Rosen stood up and paced around a little. He’d already had his picture taken several times, including by the excellent Joe Giron (these pics, incidentally, are ones Joe took of Rosen for PokerNews). Seeing me standing there with pad and pen in hand, he came over and asked me if it were true that the player finishing 694th would be receiving a free entry to next year’s Main Event. “That’s what I’ve heard,” I said, not wanting to usurp the WSOP’s authority even though I was reasonably certain it was in fact true. Rosen returned to his seat, which I judged wasn’t feeling much more comfortable to him than when he’d left it.
Meanwhile, an all-in and a call erupted on a nearby table, though it turned out both players had pocket kings and they ended up chopping. I’d scampered over, then returned to Rosen’s table where the players asked me if someone had been eliminated. I could see Rosen’s exasperated, this-cannot-be-happening look out of the corner of my eye as I explained what had happened.
After all of the big decisions he’d made, the 30-plus hours of poker, spread out over more than a week, was it really going to happen to him? Was he really going to bubble the World Series of Poker Main Event?
Another couple of hands passed, including a big, potential-elimination hand right at Rosen’s table. But no one was knocked out, and still he was in danger. Finally an elimination occurred on the other side of the Amazon. One to go.
Things were looking slightly better for Rosen, and I’ll admit that after standing there for a while I was starting to hope he’d make it. Interestingly, a player at Rosen’s table started a conversation with the dealer in which he asked her if she ever became emotionally invested in the fortunes of the players. Did she ever feel bad, for example, when a player suffered a bad beat to lose a big pot and “crumbled” at the table in response? She said she did when she first started dealing, but had learned over time not to be affected.
Meanwhile Rosen sat there, saying nothing. I wrote a quick post describing his plight.
After a couple more hands -- just one before the big blind had reached Rosen -- another elimination occurred, again on the other side of the room. The bubble had burst. Rosen was elated, his joy increasing after he managed to double up on each of the next two hands and make it to the next break. (I wrote another update on Rosen, post-bubble.) He’d run over to the rail a couple of times to share in the excitement with supporters, and called someone as well to report the good news.
He’d eventually be eliminated in 586th, actually sneaking up an extra payout level to make $21,295. And the tourney marched on, with a couple hundred more hitting the cashier’s cage before we were done for the night.
It was a memorable day for Rosen. He’d won some money playing poker, and that’s always a fun thing to do. But he’d won a great story, too, and that’s going to last a lot longer than the money will.