Tuesday, July 10, 2012

2012 WSOP, Day 44: And Doyle Makes 6,598

WSOP Main Event entrants, 2003-2012Numbers geeks (a group to which I occasionally admit belonging) watched the final tally closely yesterday, tracking the number playing Day 1c of the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event, the last of the three Day 1 flights.

Once late registration finally closed a total of 3,418 came to play on Monday, making the overall turnout for the 2012 WSOP ME add up to 6,598. That’s a bit shy of last year’s 6,865, which was also down a touch from the 7,319 that played in 2010. Still a huge number, and really we might as well say the ME has essentially been holding steady attendance-wise throughout the post-UIGEA era (2007-onward).

I was writing yesterday about the relative lack of spectacle at the Main Event compared to years past. In part I was thinking about the goofy, sideshow stuff such as players coming dressed as Snow White and the like. I suppose I was also remembering the first time I came to the WSOP, when the UNLV marching band wound through the Amazon room playing “Viva Las Vegas” with Wayne Newton singing and announcing “Shuffle up and deal.”

Yesterday’s Day 1c did see some of that. There was a player with yellow crime scene tape wrapped around his head like a bandana. Another came dressed as a large banana. And Spider-Man played, that is, a dude dressed in a Spider-Man get-up, not Tobey Maguire (who has played and cashed in the Main Event in the past).

Speaking of actors, Jason Alexander played yesterday, sporting a “porn stache” and sideburns thanks to his being in the middle of shooting a film set in the ’70s. The director Mars Callahan was there, as was cricket player Shane Warne and basketballer Earl Barron.

Jonathan Duhamel was awarded a new bracelet for his 2010 WSOP Main Event win, the original having been damaged after that scary home invasion and robbery that included the bracelet being stolen and recovered. And Antonio Esfandiari was given a big comedy check for $18,346,673 for his win in the $1,000,000 buy-in “Big One for One Drop.”

Our buddy Kevin Mathers also played yesterday, lasting most of the day until running pocket queens into Jamie Kerstetter’s pocket aces to go out during the last level. Kevmath had a ton of support from those recognizing his significant contributions to the poker community, and I know I got a kick out of his getting to play the ME.

Doyle Brunson on Day 1c of the 2012 WSOP Main Event (Photo: Joe Giron/WSOP)Of all the stories yesterday, though, Doyle Brunson changing his mind and deciding to play this year’s Main Event was the one that stood out for me yesterday (photo: Joe Giron/WSOP.com). As I mentioned yesterday, he’d earlier tweeted his intention not to play this time around, but mid-afternoon sent a note saying he was having “second thoughts” since the ME was “such a great event.”

Finally he did join the thousands of Day 1c entrants and took a seat, managing to build the starting stack of 30,000 up to 81,400 by day’s end. That means he’ll be there for the second Day 2 flight tomorrow, when I’ll be back on the reporting beat.

Brunson is the only one of the 6,598 playing in the 2012 WSOP Main Event who was around for the very first WSOP back in 1970. He’s played in every ME since except during the period from 1999-2001. (He sat out during those years amid the family feud that saw Becky Binion-Behnen take over control of the Horseshoe and institute a number of changes to the WSOP.)

While there are dozens in poker who might justly be regarded as “ambassadors” for the game, Brunson transcends them all.

Sure, his longevity is remarkable, and being able to play the game at such a high level for more than half a century certainly distinguishes him from pretty much all of his contemporaries. But Brunson has always been much more than just a great player. While he’d shrug off such grandiose claims, he really is a “living legend,” and over the decades has come to represent numerous positive aspects of the game, including the way it rewards skill and demands integrity.

Of course, besides being a symbol or icon, he’s a real person, too, with plenty of flaws just like the rest of us. Just read his memoir, The Godfather of Poker, where he confesses to many.

He’d said he wasn’t going to play the Main Event this year because he was “really tired after 6 weeks of tough cash games, playing 10-12 hours every day.” That explanation made me think of how I, too, began this year’s Main Event feeling tired after many long days that were taxing both physically and mentally. But Brunson is nearly twice my age, and this year I’ve only been here at the WSOP half as long.

All of which is to say, I lamented Brunson’s skipping the ME, but certainly understood the decision if he were not to play. But I’m glad he changed his mind and decided to play. And I look forward to seeing him sit down again on Wednesday and continue to try to work up that stack to which he’s coming back.

I’m off again today, but will be on every day from Wednesday through the end when they play down to the final table next Monday.

Am thinking I might get back over to the MGM today for that weekly H.O.R.S.E. tourney. I hear Norman Chad might be playing as well, which provides further incentive to play. Wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to get whamboozled in a stud/8 hand versus the graduate of University of Maryland, home of the Ragin’ Cajuns.

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