The day was about as intense a one as I can ever remember, when it came to reporting from the World Series of Poker.
It took a long time, nearly 12 hours including the dinner break, for them to play down from 27 to the final nine at the Main Event yesterday, the final day of poker for the summer. For nearly all of it I was stationed at the secondary feature table, at first one of three tables, then one of two. Initially I was reporting on my own, then had Mickey helping me considerably in the passing along of many of the hands played there.
Nonstop scribbling meant I hadn’t really looked up a lot from the immediate tasks at hand to pay much attention to what was happening on the main feature table where the two remaining women in the Main Event, Elisabeth Hille of Norway and Gaelle Baumann of France, spent most of the day and night. Hille was there throughout, and Baumann was only at the secondary table for a short while during the first part of the day before moving to the main.
Suddenly it was late evening, and they’d played down to just 11 players. I looked up and realized both women were still in the sucker. I knew Baumann had been nursing a short stack the entire day, but hadn’t really paid attention to Hille slipping down the counts. I checked and saw both names at the bottom of the list, in 10th and 11th. The idea that they both might go out shy of the end occurred to me and everyone else.
And then it happened. What we were all thinking, I mean. They did go out -- both of them.
During Hille’s elimination, even the players on the secondary table weren’t paying attention to their own hand, most standing and looking over their shoulders in the direction of the raucous noise of the crowd reacting to the flop, turn, and river being dealt. It was an utterly electric atmosphere, with hundreds there, including fans of most of the players -- not just the women -- providing a barely-controlled cacophony all along the way.
Down to 10, there was a redraw to arrange the remaining players around a single table on the main stage, and I scurried over to a new location from which I would help report hand-for-hand play from that point forward with Rich and Chad. Before they resumed, Hille was asked to come out for a round of applause, and she waved and even appeared to curtsy while everyone cheered.
Then came the hands, which were punctuated by more chants and cheers, especially when the one arose in which Steven Gee raised from the button, Greg Merson reraised in the small blind, and Baumann had woken up in the big blind with pocket kings.
When the action had gotten to her, people all around were saying how great it would be if she had a hand, given her short stack of about six big blinds. Then it happened. And when the cards came out the crowd was chanting “Deuce! Deuce! Deuce!” before the river was dealt... and a deuce arrived.
It was as though the collective will had somehow translated into the cards coming out utterly perfectly for Baumann. The media tower was literally shaking as I typed, and I might have used an exclamation point or two more than was needed when doing so. But with everyone exclaiming what seemed utter elation all around me, it was hard not to get caught up in it all.
I mean it was something else, man.
Baumann would shove again and get no callers, though she was still on an extreme short stack. Then, as if to prove in the most dramatic fashion that the cards really don’t care, the end abruptly arrived. Baumann would shove with , get called by Andras Koroknai’s , and the community cards didn’t help her.
That Koroknai had been the one involved in that controversial Day 5 hand -- against Baumann, in fact -- in which he’d made a mistake that if ruled upon differently might’ve spelled the end of his tournament life only added another wrinkle to the drama of his ousting Baumann.
It was over. Hille and Baumann had gotten as close as they possibly could to that final table, something a woman has only done once in 43 years at the WSOP Main Event. But neither will be coming back in October.
Neither will I, most likely, unless perhaps I get invited to do so. Like past years, my WSOP essentially ends in July, at least as far as live reporting goes. And as I was saying might happen, it all went so fast. It was like that “mothership” of an arena really was flying, transporting us all for a few wondrous moments.
And just like that it’s time to pack up and go home. Safe travels, everyone. See you again soon.