Wednesday, July 17, 2013

2013 WSOP, Postlude: Unfinished Business

I am home again after a thankfully uneventful voyage back across the continent yesterday. Got to sleep around 11 last night and didn’t wake until just a couple of hours ago.

I admit the first few minutes of consciousness this morning were filled with confused thoughts regarding my whereabouts and duties for the day. I wasn’t completely sure at first that I wasn’t still in my room in Vegas, and that I didn’t have another day’s worth of reporting ahead of me.

“Am I really done?” I asked myself. Couldn’t help it.

In 2008 I was first recruited to go out to Las Vegas to help cover the WSOP for PokerNews. I’d signed on in the spring, then a couple of weeks later the announcement came regarding the whole “November Nine” idea. I remember then being disappointed I wouldn’t be there to see the Main Event final table finish and a winner emerge, and as I wrote here at the time, I thought delaying the final table four months was mostly a lousy idea, even if I understood some of the potential benefits of doing so.

Like most, I’ve more or less come around to accepting the delayed final table now. Do anything six years running and it’s hard not for folks to get used to it. As I was saying last week about the Rio having become the WSOP’s new home, what was once novel became custom, and now what was custom has edged over into a kind of tradition.

Thus for those of us who are in Las Vegas every July for the Main Event’s play down to nine, we’ve come to accept the moment when the 10th-place finisher gets eliminated as a kind of climax of the summer. For reporters, that’s the moment when the “end” of the story can finally be chronicled, even if the last tournament of the Series hasn’t really concluded. There’s always some more to do after that last hand plays out, but soon the WSOP fades from view as other business comes to occupy us.

I’ve actually never gone back out for the final table, having always followed it from home. I had a desire to do so those first couple of years, but that’s waned over time. It would still be fun to witness the spectacle in person once, I think, but having seen and experienced so much else at the WSOP over the years, I don’t feel so much like I’m missing out on something I absolutely need to see.

That said, each year when I have come home from the WSOP and finally woken up in my own bed again every mid-July, I do so with a sense of incompleteness. Part of that feeling stems from the Main Event being artificially paused as it is, but there are other factors, too, that increase the sense of work left undone.

I’ve written here before about tournament reporting and how in the end no matter how comprehensive one is -- or a team of reporters are -- there’s always so much left unsaid. Even doing the hand-for-hand reporting as we did that last day leaves out a lot. All of the bets and raises and folds and cards are there, but as anyone who’s ever played a hand of poker knows, there’s a lot more happening every single hand than can be seen and passed along.

I was chatting with Mickey after all was over early Monday morning (around 3:30 a.m.), and he was still thinking about the night and wanting to go back over everything to make sure all was finished. So was I.

Mickey likes to be as accurate and exact as possible, his famously precise chip counts being just one example of this trait. During the short break before the start of the 10-handed final table night before last, he took on the task of counting Carlos Mortensen’s creatively stacked chips and I wasn’t the only one taking a picture of him doing so. His work ethic has inspired many of us over the years, but I think a lot of us also share his same wish to be as complete as possible with what we do.

There happens to be a construction company based in Las Vegas the name of which coincides with mine. One sees the name around here and there, and in fact on a few occasions when introduced to Vegas-based folks I’ve had them react by mentioning the company. It’s not the only time I’ve experienced such coincidences with my name.

For the last several years, those going to the WSOP have been seeing a building going up near the Rio on Twain Avenue. Construction on Wyndham Vacation Resorts Desert Blue (a 19-story, 281-unit timeshare) began about five years ago and was originally scheduled to be completed by 2010. But they’d only really gotten started on the project when construction was shutdown. Some recession-related reason, I think.

So the building has been standing there within view of the parking lot for years now, and the fact that my name has been emblazoned on a large banner attached to the side of the edifice has inspired a long-running gag. “When are you going to finish your building?” I’m asked, and I usually respond that I’ve been so busy at the Rio I haven’t been able to find the time.

After something like three years of no movement on the project, construction finally resumed a couple of months ago, and so this summer some have commented to me about perhaps my building being completed sometime soon.

The last few times people mentioned the building and my name hanging on it, I’ve responded by saying that by now it had evolved into a kind of symbol to me. For weeks I’d park my car and walk into work, and every time I did I’d glance over to see this large, conspicuous reminder of the many unfinished projects in my life.

In his piece about Doyle Brunson last week, Brad “Otis” Willis touched on the problem of getting older and this feeling that increases with each year that we aren’t accomplishing what we should. “I look at what I’ve done and know it’s not enough,” writes Brad. “I look at what I’m doing and know it’s not enough.” I’m probably not the only one who reads such lines and thinks “I know what you mean.”

And so another summer in Vegas ends, and once again things still aren’t finished. There was so much more to write about this summer than I was able to do here on the blog. There always is. In fact, I still intend to write one last post here about Carlos Mortensen’s amazing run that also ended with him not quite finishing what he set out to do.

I’ll get to that eventually. But I’ll post this today as a kind of final postlude to the summer’s reporting, realizing again that this sense of incompleteness is just something I have to accept, just as we never really get to finish all that we set out to do.

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