9:30 am, it’s the morning of the big one, and the record has been shattered. 657 runners so far, leaving no doubt that over 700 will kick off the largest poker tournament in the history of the world. The tournament area and satellite room are mostly empty, as anybody who wants to kick off by playing a satellite must either be very crazy, or still trying to get in. Day One will begin with five levels, five levels of two hours each with 15 minute breaks in between and a one hour dinner break after level number three, so 1am will be the earliest that we break for the night. Mark Seif is playing in a one table downstairs, ten souls who will take a last shot at a win before ponying up the 10,000 USD themselves. Brad Daugherty is restlessly pacing between the poker room and the sportsbook. The seating draw is scheduled to kick off at noon, so players will theoretically know their seats an hour before the tournament starts, but the logistics of starting a 700 runner tournament are so nightmarish so that Matt Savage must be waking up with six aspirin if he has any nerves at all.
Last night was time to relax, if you’re already in. Mad Marty Wilson was holding court in the tournament area, the Wolverhampton storyteller of unparalleled famed. It seems that when Marty arrived into town three weeks ago, he walked into the satellite room clutching his twenty-five dollar bankroll just as a supersatellite was about to begin. Mad Marty leaned over a table to ask David Colclough if he could spare 200 USD, and as Dave reached over to comply, the 225 USD was snatched out of Marty’s hand as the last player seated. Several hours later Mad Marty had won the satellite and a 10,000 USD seat for the World Series of Poker. If he wins it should be the greatest parlay in the history of the game. The best news, Marty said, was that he never had to resort to his tried and true method of gathering acorns from a Las Vegas park, and selling them in the poker room as genuine souvenirs from Sherwood Forest.
Players in the know think the favorite is clear. If Layne Flack makes it to Day 2, they say, he’ll be near impossible to stop. Never has a player been so feared in no limit Hold’em since the days of Stuey Ungar. There’s lots and lots of good players, and many great ones. But Layne is playing a different game on a different level. He can’t be imitated and can’t be figured out. Yes, if Flack makes it past Day 1, his skill will make him a favorite. But as I’ve argued along and will shout till I’m hoarse, I don’t care who’s the best. I want to know who’s the freshest.
And they’re off! Matt Savage should find a hefty bonus in his paycheck for starting the WSOP right on the button at 1pm. Many players had not even been seated. The official count will be in later today, but unofficially I’ve seen the number 810. That’s mindboggling. An 8,000,000 USD tournament prize pool for the most prestigious title in poker. Good luck to everyone.
Monday, 3pm. 1st Break. If you’re out already, you’ll need to reconsider your strategy. The first two hours of play, with blinds of only 25 USD and 50 USD are not the times to make the pots too big. Learn about your table first, and direct how they learn about you. That can make you a lot more money later on.
As the players come spilling from tournament areas upstairs and downstairs, the tension hasn’t started. Everybody is just happy to still be here. The Luma Kid already laid down pocket aces before the flop, he says it was the biggest laydown of his life. I say, I guess I’d be sitting on the rail. Irishman Aidan Bennet, who’s lost two stone this year while living in Vegas, looks to be in fine form. He’s talking to another Irishman, Mike Magee, who’s telling anybody who wants to here and a few people who don’t about the call he made when Marcel Luske bet out on the river after betting all the way into a 5-6-7-7-A board that flopped two clubs. Magee called Luske with the K-Q of clubs, and it was good. Marcel is just smiling, saying, keep calling me with king high, please. Magee has always been one tough guy to bluff on the river.
The big news so far is that ESPN is choosing one table every day as the TV table, with fourteen cameras and all in lights. It’s a fearsome lineup for Day 1. Doyle Brunson, George Hardy, defending world champion Robert Varkonyi, and Yosh Nakano, among others. Irishman Padraig Parkinson is in the middle of them all, having the time of his life and proudly wearing his crisply ironed BETDAQ dress shirt. BETDAQ will be betting outright markets in running for the duration of the tournament, with unmatched bets cancelled at the start of play each day and the markets turned in running. At the conclusion of each day’s play, markets will be fully funded with a tight slate of offers.
ESPN is producing 7 shows about this tournament, a different one for each day of play and at least two for the final. When there were still four minutes left on the clock, the producer turned all the table spotlights out and brought a ladder out next to the table. Robert Varkonyi politely asked if they could turn the lights back on until the round was over, as none of the players could see. „Sorry,“ said the producer, „but we have to change the lights. This is television.“ „Deal me out!“ yelled Padraig Parkinson, laughing. „I ain’t getting cheated in the dark!“
written by Jesse May