The final table of the ladies event began with a big crowd, but when four of the final nine players busted within the first couple of hours, their supporters left with them, necessarily affecting the ambience. Each of the remaining players had a few people there to cheer her on, but the scene was mostly quite serene and low key.
The woman who won, a former law student named Yen Dang, had distinguished herself yesterday as one of the better players, and she probably was the one of the best two or three at the final table, so her winning wasn’t too surprising.
As things concluded relatively early (I was essentially finished by about 7 p.m.), Donnie asked if I could come over and help with the Big One for One Drop for a few hours, and even though I could’ve used a few extra hours of rest, I went on over. Too curious not to, I’ll admit.
Incidentally, as I was packing up to move from my perch on the Pavilion stage, another group of players were being seated there for a different final table, the one for Event No. 52, the $2,500 short-handed 10-game mix event.
I spied Vanessa Selbst among those assembling to finish out that one, and knew she had a chip lead with seven left. Found out later she’d won the sucker, ending that streak of women not winning “open” events that extended back to her own win in 2008.
Two bracelets also puts her in rare company among female players, too, although again, like with Dang among her opponents in the ladies event, it’s never surprising to me to see Selbst win. When I was on the Keep Flopping Aces podcast a few weeks ago and Lou Krieger asked me about players to watch this summer, I’d mentioned her as one who always seems capable of winning any event she enters.
But like I say, I was out of there before they’d started up the 10-game, having moved over to join the group covering the Big One. I’d seen the main stage earlier in the day (pictured above) while also having toured the set they’d constructed for the five secondary tables, too. Rows of bleachers has been put in along with extra lighting and all the means for ESPN to shoot the event for later broadcast.
There was even a small buffet of finger foods, drinks, fruits, teas, and so forth set up for the players, the sort of amenities that seemed appropriate for an event with such an outrageous buy-in. WSOP staff and others associated with the television production and live stream had dressed up, although the players were all essentially wearing the same varied garb they always do, as did we reporters.
That said, the overall vibe wasn’t super intense, I suppose because it was still Day 1 and most players still had comfortably deep chip stacks. I happened to see and report on several interesting hands, including arriving just in time to catch Jonathan Duhamel’s bustout.
Witnessed another interesting hand involving Chamath Palihapitiya, the venture capitalist and former Facebook VP, and Phil Hellmuth which concluded with some semi-serious back-and-forthing between the two, with Palihapitiya firing back with the trash talking. Palihapitiya made a deep run in the Main Event last year, I remembered, finishing 101st.
Also saw Tom Dwan nearly eliminated by John Morgan, the Winmark CEO, after getting his chips in ahead, suffering an unlucky turn, then spiking a lucky river. By the way, you might have heard about a hand earlier in the day (before I got there) in which Morgan was involved in which the player to his left, Mikhail Smirnov, actually folded quads after Morgan shoved the river and a straight flush was possible.
Anyhow, I will say the poker was mighty intriguing to watch, with the various non-pros or amateurs or “businessmen” or “whales” or whatever you want to call them frequently giving away their relative lack of savvy or experience compared to the pros, although in many cases holding their own. In fact, of the 11 who busted yesterday, nine were pros -- although it’ll be much more meaningful to see who busts at the end, not the beginning.
Gus Hansen had a brick of $50,000 in cash (I think) sitting by his side throughout the night. Also saw Tom Marchese pitch to Ben Lamb what I believe was a banded-together, thick wad of hundreds adding up $10K when a prop bet between them had been settled. As I was joking with someone earlier in the day, in some ways these guys are about seven or eight levels removed from where most of us can even pretend to relate to them.
Will be moving back over to a much different event today, the last of the $1,500 buy-in NLHE tourneys on the schedule (Event No. 56), before finally getting a day off on Tuesday. Expect I might be back over at the Rio then, though, to see the end of this Big One and the sheer spectacle of someone winning over $18 million in a poker tournament. Kind of feels like the poker world can’t possibly be the same after something like that happens.
Again, I know full well there will be no relating to that. But I am curious to experience watching it. And then I’ll try to relate that here.