Saturday, December 15, 2012

Travel Report: Sands Bethlehem DeepStack Extravaganza Main Event, Day 1a

On Thursday I was writing from an airport and talking about those spaces we sometimes occupy where we find ourselves momentarily isolated from our usual networks of connectivity. There I was referring to the couple of hours I had to wait for my plane, during which time I was mostly free to read or write or think whatever I liked without feeling obligated to do much at all beyond keeping track of what time my flight departed.

I made a comparison to sitting at a poker table and how that, too, can provide a similar kind of respite. A momentary escape, so to speak, from the so-called “real” world and into a separate sphere where there exists an option to shut out everything beyond poker’s all-consuming perpetuum mobile.

Covering a poker tournament can be similar, insofar as it will often happen that I’ll be engaged in the work of reporting from, say, noon to midnight -- as was the schedule for yesterday’s Day 1a here at the Sands DeepStack Extravaganza Main Event in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania -- and be essentially shut off from whatever else might be going on in the world. Sometimes when at the World Series of Poker during the summer, days or even weeks will go by without my having watched television or heard the first thing about headlines or current events.

Such was obviously not the case yesterday, though, especially early on, as we passed back and forth whatever we’d heard regarding the horrific news of the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. Eventually the discussions stopped and we all -- players, staff, and those of us reporting -- focused our attention on the tournament. But I imagine most continued to feel a kind of vague dread regarding what had happened, and I know I could sense the sadness creeping in to affect me off and on during unguarded moments.

Yesterday’s events are causing people to point back to another shooting in April 2007 that occurred on a college campus and also left an unfathomable number dead. I wrote something here then, a post titled “Lament,” where I noted my grief at the senseless violence, and how the feeling was perhaps increased (for me) by its having occurred in a place of learning. That yesterday’s shooting happened at an elementary school and children were victims makes it all the more ghastly.

When play concluded last night and I got back to my room, I watched some of the coverage and read some more online to gather further details. Then I went to bed, had a somewhat restless sleep, and woke up again with thoughts directed toward the unimaginable suffering happening just a few hours up the road in Newtown.

To tell about the tourney, a relatively small group showed for Day 1a, with just 70 entries being bought (for $2,500 each). But those who came clearly seemed to appreciate the quiet atmosphere (we’re in a conference room far away from the noisy casino) and amenities (free snacks and drinks), and also appeared happy with the staff, dealers, and structure, too. We’ll definitely see more come out to play today’s Day 1b, although the prospect remains for a possible overlay given the event’s $500,000 guarantee.

There were several fun hands to report, and some personalities emerged as the day wore on, too, which made the chronicling all the more interesting. And having Joe Giron here taking pictures adds even more to the blog, with Joe several times grabbing action shots during hands that were used to illustrate the reports. Speaking of personalities, that shot to the left -- taken by Joe -- was of the player David Hill who had a supply of different-colored pipe-cleaner glasses he’d pull out and wear during hands.

The overall atmosphere was quite positive, actually, with compliments for good play, grins and even laughter shared, and wishes of good luck delivered by the defeated to those who remained. And working with Mickey and Joe is always a pleasure. All of which is to say, it was a good place to be, in a community (of sorts) and enjoying the company and mutual support of others.

Here’s hoping everyone else finds such community and support today, wherever you happen to be. And going forward as well.

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