Jessica, who this year has moved into a position as Managing Editor of WSOP.com, had stopped by the event I was helping cover, Event No. 42, the $2,500 Omaha/Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better event that had reached its final day. Was one of those scenes worth stopping for.
No, Jessica and I weren’t watching poker being played. It was another mulit-player game, Achtung, for the iPad.
They’d reached the first 20-minute break of the day, with 15 of the 22 players who’d started the day still with chips. I spent the first half of the break chatting and catching up with my friend Tom Schneider, one of the 15.
That’s when Bryan Devonshire, sporting a wide-brimmed cowboy hat, strolled over with his iPad. “C’mon,” he said to Schneider. “Yeah, yeah... I’m in,” said Schneider.
Soon Schneider and a couple of other players still alive in the tourney, Perry Friedman and Mike Krescanko, were huddled around the iPad with Devonshire, all playing Achtung, a game in which each directs a glowing line around the screen with arrows in the corner, trying to cut each other off to be the last one standing. Not unlike the goal of the tourney itself, although the reward for winning was a little different.
Eventually others jumped in to take turns, including my blogging partner Rich, and I stepped back to snap a pic. Finally the break ended, and the other game -- the one with cards and chips -- resumed.
It was the kind of day that reminded one how despite all the drama and seriousness that necessarily will accompany any contest in which participants’ money is put at risk, we are, essentially, watching adults playing games.
Seemed like most of the players who’d made it to those last two tables in Event No. 42 were having a good time. Helped that a number of them are witty, personable guys, too, such as Devonshire, Schneider, and Friedman. Lots of fun table talk punctuated the play throughout the day and evening, with those guys involved a lot of the time.
At one point Devonshire strolled over to Schneider’s table between hands to ask him how things were going. “Want to go fishing?” he added, and Schneider laughed. “I’m kinda bored.”
Meanwhile Friedman had ’em chuckling back at Devo’s table with his self-deprecating (and tongue-in-cheek) analysis of his own play. After winning an Omaha/8 hand in which he’d defended his big blind with a subpar starter, then stubbornly called down to eek out half the pot with a weak high hand, he half-jokingly explained how it had been his experience as a Full Tilt Poker red pro that made him such a calling station.
“Players always tried to bluff me, so I got used to calling a lot,” explained Friedman, wearing a green t-shirt with “NO SOUP FOR YOU” in big white block letters on the front. “I should’ve gotten over that after more than a year, though,” he grinned.
None of those guys would make it to the final table, going out successively in 13th (Schneider), 12th (Friedman), and 11th (Devonshire). But another who also brought the funny did make it that far, long time poker commentator Norman Chad.
Chad actually began the final eight-handed table with a second-place stack, though ultimately saw his run end in sixth place (out of 393 entrants).
Chad wasn’t always cracking wise during play, and in fact was mostly quite serious. But once he got short stacked with six players left, the fun really began.
First came a Stud/8 hand in which a player completed, another called, and the action was on Chad. As he considered what to do, he fished out a fortune cookie, opened it, and began to eat as he read.
“Within the week you will receive an unexpected gift,” he said, sharing what the slip of paper said. “That’s kind of vague,” he decided, and then folded.
It was the Omaha/8 round when Chad finally decided to commit his last chips. I’d noticed a hand or two before Chad had his wallet out underneath the table, and so had a feeling he was planning something else mischievous.
Sure enough, when betting in his last chips, Chad additionally produced a VISA card as well as his AAA card and pushed them forward. “This one has a $50,000 limit,” he deadpanned, pointing to the VISA and suggesting he’d like to use some credit to increase his bet. (Those pictures above of Chad playing his last hand was snapped by always-on-the-spot Joe Giron for PokerNews.)
Fun stuff. And a final table, too. Gotta give the man some credit (rim shot).
After Chad’s elimination things did grow relatively more serious until the young Ukrainian Oleksii Kovalchuk finally took the last of George Danzer’s chips to give the 22-year-old his second WSOP bracelet in two years.
There were probably 30 or so people there cheering Kovalchuk on, and when the final Omaha/8 card fell on the river, they came up to the table and surrounded him, all hugging and cheering.
Soon they were actually lifting him up and throwing him aloft -- no shinola -- something I don’t think I’ve ever seen happen at a tourney before. They weren’t too agile about it, actually dropping him on the floor which led to more laughter. But he was back on his feet in an instant to receive more hugs and congratulations.
It was a suitable conclusion to a day filled with grins from beginning to end. With reminders, too, that at the heart of it, we’re mostly a bunch of adults playing games here. And that really is a pretty good deal.