2007 World Series: Floating with the bubble

When play went hand-for-hand on the bubble, PokerStars' Team Blog floated around the room. These are their impressions the moments leading up to the bubble's pop.

Tight on the bubble

Brad Willis

A man sat crestfallen underneath a row of pay phones in the hallway. He looked like he could cry if he wasn't so dehydrated. It's hard to cry in the desert. The tears nearly dry up in their ducts. Instead, this guy just sat with the face of a man still trying to absorb the fact he'd lost and lost bad. His friends tried to comfort him, but there is no consoling someone who has played their heart out for two days and then busted just short of the money. Barry Johnston ran by and didn't notice. He had to go to the bathroom and each hand was taking more the five minutes to play. I doubt the young man who lost realized he'd just missed a world champion running by. I'm sure the champion didn't notice the man on the floor. These were the moments in battle when soldiers are forced to leave the dead behind and run over the hill into the face of the enemy.

This particular skirmish would last one hour and fifty-six minutes. During that time, only fifteen hands would play out. Players would run to the john or sweat other players after folding hands they might normally play. I watched as one man claimed to fold a set of fives on a 652 board. I laughed, only because it was probably true. His opponent showed him a set of sixes. The war is sick.

Jeff "mrrain" Banghart maintained his cool. He had enough chips that he didn't have a flitter of worry about busting out. In fact, his demeanor at the table made it clear that his opponents shouldn't enter the pot without a monster. I saw him wandering around in between hands and made an educated guess.

"You're abusing the bubble, aren't you?"

His eyes had a glint to them that was both fun and a little evil.

"Yeah," he said. "I am."

He played nearly 2/3 of the hands during hand-for-hand play and picked up around 200,000 chips in the process. It didn't matter what his cards were. It mattered that he could bust anybody at his table. When your goal is to get over the hill, the last thing any solider wants to do is step in front of the biggest gun on the horizon.

There are few things in this world that can make a grown man cry and a retiree jump from his chair with as much joy as he's felt in years. This is a game many people don't understand. It carries with it such joy and pain that no one who hasn't been there won't get it. And if you don't get it, that's fine. Just know this: the bubble of the World Series main event is a threshold that can make even the most hardened, grizzled pros smile for a second. Even if they don't care--maybe they're stuck so bad for the series that $20,000 for bottom pay means nothing--they are at least struck by the guy next to them who satellited in for $200 and now still has a shot at eight million bucks.

From here on out, there is no more pure joy until someone is holding the bracelet. That is, when the bubble popped a few minutes ago, it was the first and last edge of success. Six hundred twenty-one people just succeed. Now, 600 will fail. It sounds sick, but so is poker.

But, there's a sick beauty to it, too. Ask PokerStars qualifier Brian Senie. He was about to be all-in on the next hand when the bubble popped. Instead, he was all-in on the next hand and $20,000 richer.

So, that's the difference between the man under the pay phones and the man who busted out in 621st place. It's a matter of wanting to cry in pain or cry through a smile. It's a matter of feeling like a failure or feeling like a success. It's a matter of at least $20,000.

And it's all decided on the bubble.

Where to get paid

Simon Young

There is a always a good relationship between the foot soldiers of the media who cover these big events, and so when one of our number is playing and doing well, we are genuinely pleased. It is with pleasure, then, that we watched British writer David Flusfeder, here representing PokerStars at the tables, ease into the money.

He had a comfortable 240,000 or so chips in the bubble period, but still felt the same stresses and strains as the next man. As it happens, the man next to him is 2002 World Champion Robert Varkonyi - on about 180,000, who, like everyone else in the room had to endure the painfully slow progress until the magical 621 figure was reached. "This is horribly slow," Varkonyi said. "It's like being constipated."

David, who made it half way through Day 2 of last year's Main Event, was clearly delighted to have cashed. "The bubble period was so long, but I was card dead throughout it. I guess if you are going to be card dead, that's the time to have it. I think when we were down to 622 players I would have folded A-A pre-flop!"

David Flusfeder

As well as writing a poker column for a leading UK newspaper, David is an author and his latest book, The Pagan House, is due to be published in the next few weeks. He now has the chips here to make a real run at a good cash.

But was is it like playing next to a World Champ? "Well, he's a nice guy but he is continually humming to himself. I have been unable to determine what it means - if he's strong or weak - so I may have to stick my iPod on."

On the tables nearby there were several short-stacks in real danger of missing out. One woman, down to 14,000 or so with the blinds at 2,000-4,000 with 500 ante, folded and folded.... and folded. Down to 623 players and she had a couple of rounds of the table to survive - an almost certainty to make the money. Inexplicably, she suddenly pushed the whole lot in the middle. She must have been dealt A-A, but the color visibly drained from her face as she watched her opponents, no doubt thinking to herself: "Fold. Please fold." And they did. She picked up the blinds and antes, and next hand she was $20,320 better off.

Craig Cunningham

As the players waited to return to the Amazon Room to play down to the money, a crew of PokerStars qualifiers talked strategy and past hands. DanGelowitz is here on a freeroll from a PokerStars affiliate with 105k. "I'm planning on folding until the money," he told Ryan Lawrence. "Then we can play poker. Everyone at my new table has 300-400k, so there will be lots of chips in play for me" Ryan is in different shape with 405k. "I'll be short at my table," said Blair Hinkle. "I'm at 180k, and there are some aggressive players at my table." That would be fellow PokerStars qualifer Art Cole among others. Hevad "RaiNKhaN" Khan was in the middle of the crew. "I'm at 810k, and I'm running good. I just won't misplay a hand, I'm
committed to that."

Stars on the bubble

They returned to the room, and RaiNKhaN may have misspoken. He should have said "I just will play every hand!" as he went on a pre-frlop raising spree. He made a call of 49k into a 36k pot with 10s-9s vs. his opponent's pocket queens. "I was getting odds to call," he said, then continued to pick up the blinds and antes with 12k raises.

Sam Simon was at an aggro table during the hand-for-hand play. "I doubled up with aces vs AQo by the 8s to get nice and healthy," he said. The 8s then called John Laurence's all-in with 98o. Laurence had A-Jo to double up to 39k. RaiNKhaN came over to chat with Sam and Norm Macdonald as each hand took up to ten minutes to complete. Two hands later, Gregory Owen raised to 12k, and Laurence moved all-in from the big blind. Owen eventually called with Kh-Qh only to see Laurence flip over pocket aces. 10c-4s-2h-7h-10h gave Laurence the brutal bustout, four short of the money.

Art Cole and Karim Vegas became involved in a huge hand two short of the money. Karim had dropped to 100k, and he made it 16k to go from the cutoff. Art called from the big blind with Ac-8c, and the flop came 6c-4c-2d. Art made it 30k to go, and Blair moved all-in for 100k. "He's been so aggressive," said Karim . "I had to make a stand." Art made the call, and Karim turned over pocket 9's with no club. 7h on the river gave Art more outs, but Ks on the river sent the 200k pot to Karim. "I bet the 30k because he lays it down without a pair," said Art. "It was his tournament life on the line, not mine."

Maria Mayrinck

The WSOP bubble is a very tough moment. I mean, when you really think about it, it's an entire room of anxious, nervous dreamers rooting with ALL THEIR MIGHT against someone, "Plz GOd, one time, bring that Ace on the river, break those Queens!" and those moments start to drag on until it seems like hours and feels like those short stacks will never wilt away already! Well, that's how it feels until it finally and literally does BURST! Yeah, its tough... For some people, BUT NOT FOR ME, because once again, the Brazilians are making history at the WSOP (history for Brazilians, of course!). With 6 horses still in the running, when the bubble burst just a few minutes ago, we were all joined in a semi-hysterical huddle of hugging, kissing, jumping (like a "Goal" in the World Cup or something) and there were literally tears of joy from all of us as we celebrated the first time that 6 - I REPEAT - SIX - Brazilian players make it into the money at a World Series Event. I know it may seem like peanuts to any American, European or Swedish (who as far as poker players go, I put in a whole different category then the Europeans), but for us, it's a huge deal with much reason to be celebrated. In a year where 20 Brazilians were registered to play the ME, to have 6 ITM and still gunning for the big prize, is like a dream already coming true for the Brazilian poker community and they deserve to be saluted with the drink we are famous for, the "Caipirinhas", which literally means "Little Hick Girl" - but that little hick girl has a hell of a kick - and a punch for that matter - she'll knock you out! :) So here's to the Brazilians in the money in the WSOP 2007 ME, Cheers! Saude, Tin-Tin, this is the start of much news we will create in years to come, and now go for the WIN!

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in