As has become a habit of mine lately, I’ve arrived for my flight a couple of hours early. I might have taken a later train from Atlantic City and thus cut down on the waiting time, but I decided against chancing any possible weirdness that might have arisen along the way to create problems for arriving ahead of my departure time.
After those first two marathon days (discussed here and here), yesterday’s third and final day ended in relatively rapid fashion. Of course, it was still a 12-hour day, as play began at noon, ended a little before 11 p.m., and it was after midnight by the time my last task was completed.
Joseph McKeehen took the sucker down, leading the entire final day as the tourney played down from 19 to one. Indeed, once the final table began he had close to half the chips in play, and around four times the stack of the player in second position. Thus were there a number of short stacks, and the formula added up to one of the quicker final tables they’ve had on the WSOP-C this year (if not the quickest), ending in less than three 75-minute levels.
McKeehen is just 21, but already has two six-figure cashes under his belt now thanks to yesterday’s $174,150 score. He was kind of an entertaining player to cover, a friendly guy who provided a lot of fun (and at times funny) table talk along the way. He also was following the live blog on his iPad for a lot of the tournament and would sometimes engage us with responses to the hand updates, which occasionally helped make things a touch more interesting for us, too.
Actually there were a number of interesting personalities at the final table. Raymond Morgan was an amiable guy who engaged Kevin and I frequently during the tourney’s last couple of days. Meanwhile, white-haired Tom Sheets finished 10th (thus not quite making the “official” final table). He amazed everyone at one point yesterday when he revealed he was 76 years old. Among other facts about himself, he additionally mentioned being able to do 120 push-ups as part of the explanation for his not necessarily appearing his age.
Dennis Thurman, who finished fourth, was another old-timer at age 64, and he also surprised his opponents who’d guessed him to be younger. He explained how he still works full-time driving a truck, and in fact plays about 100 tournaments a year as he tours the country. Two-time WSOP Circuit ring winner John Holley (aged 51) and Leo Walker (aged 46) were also at the final table, helping further to make the average age much higher than what one usually sees among the final ten of a tourney.
You’ve read me writing of physical exhaustion and mental fatigue the last couple of days, but I have to say seeing these older fellows’ performance as they played (and thrived) through 30-odd hours of poker was somewhat inspiring. Poker most certainly is a game for all ages. And as if to prove that truism, it was the youngest player of the final table -- and perhaps one of the youngest among the 540 entries overall -- who ultimately triumphed.
Despite the heavy workload, it was great fun working with Kevin, Nolan, and the rest of the WSOP folks, many of whom I’m starting to get to know after having done a couple of Circuit events already this year. I’ll be doing two more east coast WSOP-C tourneys in April, too, and so expect to see them and probably a lot of the same players again as well.
Am glad now, though, to be heading home where I’ll stay put for the next month or so. Still consider myself part-time when it comes to this traveling reporter thing, which is how I like it. Kind of like being a “recreational player,” you might say, which kind of makes it easier to keep enjoying doing these things and get some pleasure out of the work involved.