A man with an unlimited supply of throat-closing phlegm was hacking without stop as though approaching a final death rattle, aggressively grabbing the attention in between the construction-related cacophony.
A doorway to the Amazon room was open and music poured in, flooding the space with still more noise.
It was a few minutes past three o’clock in the morning. The last final table of the summer at the 2013 World Series of Poker was down to four players, all vying for a bracelet and a cash prize worth more than $850,000. I was there along with my blogging partner Rich and photographer Joe as part of a small team tasked with reporting every hand of pot-limit Omaha being played.
The noise added somewhat to the challenge. Fatigue was another obstacle to overcome, as we’d been at it for more than 13 hours as Event No. 61 ($10,000 PLO) had raced down from 32 players to the final four, all of us likewise having been working at least several long days in a row (it was my fifth).
But there was an even bigger obstacle to our getting the news out about what has happening as the remaining players continued to be dealt hand after hand, to make bet after bet, to inch ever closer either to finding a winner or reaching the end of the day’s 11th level at which point -- according to the announced plan -- the tourney would be stopped and resumed again on Tuesday.
The friggin’ internet, man. It was down. Again.
For the most part this summer, connectivity hasn’t been too big of a problem for me when reporting from the Rio. While some of my colleagues have been having issues now and then, for whatever reason I’ve mostly steered clear of the difficulties and have remained online without too many interruptions, either using a wireless network or plugging into a hard line (both provided by the WSOP).
Maybe I’ve just been lucky in terms of where I’ve been stationed over the last three-plus weeks. Another meaning for “picking good spots” in poker, I guess.
But last night we all lost connectivity for over an hour, just as the event had reached its most frantic and meaningful moments. And the longer we were offline, the more we felt ourselves losing connectivity in other ways, such as with the ability to think rationally.
At one point an exasperated Rich looked up from his computer at the banner of 1975 Main Event champion Sailor Roberts hanging over our heads. For some reason the picture shows Roberts not playing poker, but talking on a telephone while smoking a cigarette, his face mostly obscured by smoke and the brim of his visor.
Rich surprised us into laughter as he had a comment to offer.
“What year is this?!? 2013?!? Sailor Roberts had better internet with his friggin’ dial-up than this!”
About a half-hour into our struggles, I managed to get back online by tethering with my iPhone and became the sole conduit to the outside world among us for the next stretch. I madly entered hands we’d been recording and saving, uploaded a photo or two, and tried to keep everything straight as the tourney continued to march on rapidly before us. For several minutes I was simultaneously in the recent past, the maddening present, and bracing for an uncertain future.
I felt like a computer running too programs at once. If it were possible to check my brain’s “Activity Monitor,” all meters would have been in the red, my processor’s usage either nearing or at 100%. If someone asked me at that moment my birthdate, my social security number, my name... I could have frozen up completely.
As the tournament reached heads-up between Daniel Alaei and Jared Bleznick, internet connectivity was suddenly, inexplicably restored. Even more surprising, heads-up lasted just a single hand, with Alaei winning and the problem of having to delay the event’s conclusion an extra day to accommodate players playing today’s last Day 1 flight of the Main Event suddenly evaporating.
It’d take some time longer for us to tie all the loose ends and finish out the live blog, and I’d be up more than a hour more after that as my brain finally cooled down enough to permit sleep to come some time after five.
With the Main Event in full swing, the amount of media now reporting on the WSOP has swelled to probably four or five times the size it had been before, which I assume will increase the chances the plaintive wail of “internet’s down” will be heard many more times over the coming week. And despite the hyperbole I employ above, I ain’t really all that stressed over it, knowing from having gone through similar trials before while reporting that there’s really not much reason to be.
Meanwhile for those who remain connected, check over at PokerNews to see how today’s final Day 1 Main Event flight goes.