There were a few times during the tournament when the players at my table felt more like comrades than opponents. The final half hour of the interminable day one was one such time, and so was this. Everyone was congratulating one another, having shared in the experience of playing twenty-something hours of poker and outlasting 5000 of 5600 players. The ovation from players and spectators alike was startling in its duration, it must have lasted at least two full minutes. I felt both a sense of accomplishment and also relief, because if the bubble had lasted for another orbit, I wouldn’t have enough chips to make anyone fold by moving all in. As it stood, I was in bad shape, but with enough chips to pick up the blinds with an all-in raise.
I looked over to the bleachers and smiled at my mother, who was excitedly clapping along with the rest of the room. Then I walked over to her, and she stepped forward into the little studio area to give me a hug. I wasn’t crazy about this idea, hugging my mother while television cameras and a microphone were recording everything, but I was grateful that she cared so much and happy to share the moment with her. Then I noticed that she was getting all blubbery, like she does at weddings. Good Lord, no. I did my best to keep her at bay. “Thanks, Mom. And relax, all I did was make the money. I have more poker to play,” I said, making our on-film embrace as brief as possible. She responded with more blubbering. As I made my way back to the table, somebody began to interview her. Oh no
I returned to my seat. Everyone at the table was all smiles. Lederer and I looked at one another, and almost simultaneously uttered the same exact phrase: “Let’s play some poker.” Granted, we said it for different reasons. He was tired of waiting fifteen minutes between hands, and I was happy that I could finally put my chips into play. But it was an unforgettable moment. 560 left, 19.3k.
With serious disparity in stack sizes, and with everyone now unshackled, I expected there would be a tournament-wide rush of activity. I also began to get a feel for the players at the TV table. Besides Lederer and Enright, there were two players worthy of note. The first was the asian guy in Seat 1, a loose/aggressive type who now began to play a lot of pots. The other was the google-eyed, visor-wearing player in Seat 9. His name was Steve Dannenman, and if you watch this year’s WSOP on ESPN, you will learn all about him. That’s because he finished second and won 4.5 million dollars. The reason I am going to devote a couple of paragraphs to him is to illustrate that luck will always be a major part of poker. You see, Steve Dannenman sucks.
The following hand took place right after the bubble burst: Asian guy limped under the gun, and it was folded around to the blinds. The small blind completed the bet and Dannenman checked his option in the big blind. The flop was A A 6 with two hearts. The small blind checked and Dannenman fired 5000. Asian guy flat called and the small blind folded. The turn was the 10 of spades, and now Dannenman fired 14,000. The asian guy considered this bet for awhile and then moved all in, a massive bet of about 50k more. Now Dannenman got even more googly and began to examine his opponent and ponder the situation. Then he began his interrogation. “You’re on a flush draw, aren’t ya?” (err, no. there’s no way he’s on a flush draw) Asian guy did not respond. “Yeah, you’re on a flush draw.” Still no response. “Okay, I call.” And with that, Dannenman turned over the J6 of clubs. Bottom pair. The asian kid showed the A4 of spades. Dannenman was drawing dead, and shipped the kid ?Ǭ� of his stack.
There is an unspoken poker protocol in situations like this. If you are sitting there at the table, you’re not supposed to critique someone’s poor play aloud, for two reasons. First, it’s rude. Second, you don’t want to tip the donkey off; you want him to make the same misplay again. In accordance with this rule, everyone at the table acted as if they had just witnessed a typical hand, nothing out of the ordinary. Except Kimono, who was dramatically shaking his head, and then covering it with both hands. Apparently he was never apprised of that rule of etiquette.
Meanwhile, I was getting cold-decked and hadn’t played any of the eight hands since the bubble burst. I was down to about 15.5k and in the small blind with K6 and the action folded all the way around to me. This was a good enough hand to make a stand with, and I moved all in. Enright folded. 19k, and amazingly, only 20 minutes after the bubble had burst, we were down to about 530 players. The predicted flurry of post-bubble activity was more furious than expected.
I went back to folding trash hands for another orbit, waiting for my next opportunity to shove my chips in. Then, sitting in second position, I picked up a big hand: two red queens. Under the gun, the asian kid raised to 7 or 8k, and I moved all in, sliding my miniscule stack forward. It was folded back to the kid. He didn’t look happy about it, but he was obliged to call, I didn’t have enough chips to make folding mathematically correct. He turned over QJ and I showed my QQ, very bad news for him. As per ESPN requirements, the dealer put our two face-up hands in the middle of the table, so that they would be recorded on the overhead camera along with the flop, turn and river. Possibly emboldened by the fact that I had my opponent dominated, I said “well, I guess I’ll stand up now, cause that’s what you’re supposed to do on TV,” and I got to my feet, leaning on my chair. The board didn’t help the asian kid. I sat back down, and for some unknown reason chose to celebrate my double-up with a faggy little clapping gesture. Hopefully ESPN will not choose to air it. 44k, and out of all in or fold territory.
About to act, Enright to my left
Only 3 hands later, I was down to 41.5k and in the small blind when I was involved in a crucial hand that I probably fucked up. I had KQ offsuit and the action was folded around to me. I decided to try and pick up the pot rather than looking at a flop, so I raised to 8000. The only problem was that Enright would have none of it. After my raise, she quickly tossed six 5000 chips in, reraising to 30k and effectively asking me whether I was ready to put all my chips at risk. Ouch. With the TV cameras trained on me, I did the pot odds analysis. About 13k of dead money in the pot, so Enright’s bet means I’d have to commit 33k to win 46k, fairly close to 3 to 2. Now was my hand better than 40% to win? If the answer was yes, then I should call. It seemed the most likely hands she could hold are some kind of middle pair or a big ace. Both these hands made me a small underdog. Then again, she could be on a complete bluff, which would mean I was favored. The only hands that were big trouble were AA, KK, AK, AQ, and QQ. Still, I suppose because I just wanted to keep playing, I decided to fold this hand. Almost certainly a mistake. I passed up a nice opportunity to double up.
After I folded, Enright quietly collected her chips, but then she got up to talk to her husband/boyfriend over in the bleachers. As she did, I could faintly hear her yapping in a very excited tone. Actually, it sounded an awful lot like she was gloating. When she returned to her seat, I half jokingly said “remember, you’re miked for sound, they can hear everything you’re saying over there.” A look of embarrassment came across her face, and she mustered her most nonchalant “oh, did you hear that conversation?” I assured her I was joking, and play resumed. Maybe ten minutes later, she asked me what I was holding on this hand. I told her. “Oh, good laydown. I had kings.” The last time someone told me I had made a nice laydown, it was Maciek back on day one, and I was sure he was telling me the truth. This time I was positive that Grandma was full of shit. Sometime in October, maybe the editors at ESPN will tell me the answer. If they do, I’m pretty sure I will look foolish, folding KQ to something like 85 offsuit. Fuck off, Barbara. 33k.