Barry Greenstein and Justin Bonomo were in step together as they walked the long hallway that leads to the Amazon Room. I stepped in beside them. Last we spoke, neither was in a good mood. Both had chips at the dinner break last night. Both had a rough go of it in the two hours following.
"You get any sleep?" Barry asked me.
I must look bad, I thought. "A little. You?"
"You play all night?" I asked.
"Nah, my daughter is in town," he said. "I got up early with her."
I made an assumption. "So, you feel better today?"
This is where I expected Greenstein to say, "Sure, I got a little sleep, saw my family, and am now ready to take on the day."
"No," he said. "I'm still frustrated."
It was irritating for Greenstein to lose every pot he player after dinner last night. Today, he didn't look much in a winning mood.
In truth, it was Daniel Negreanu who had reason to be sour. At one point yesterday, he had more than a million chips. At the end of the day, he had less than 200,000. It was basically enough to play one big hand and hope.
There were 21 players who started the day. Five of them would finish four days of play with no money. The rest were guaranteed $88,000. Negreanu and Greg Raymer sat on the TV table, while Greenstein say off on another riser with a rail crowding in behind him.
At the TV table, the mood was still light, despite Negreanu's tenuous hold on his place in the event. When Bruno Fitoussi came in for a raise in the Stud round with an ace showing, Daniel re-raised. It was pretty clear this was going to be Daniel's hand. Daniel held J8/J to Fitoussi's A3/A. Negreanu made two pair on the turn and his chips were all in the middle.
"Hold," he muttered.
The dealer tossed out all the cards. With the river dealt down, Negreanu still looked to be ahead. Then Fitoussi flipped up his card. It was a three--a better two pair. He was out of his seat in less than a second. ESPN snagged him for an interview. When it was over, Negreanu called back to the table, "Wasn't that a mis-deal?"
He chuckled to himself as he left the room.
Had Negreanu had chips, that hand might have played out differently. Perhaps Negreanu could've pushed Fitoussi off the hand before seventh street. All-in, though, Negreanu just had to hope. So, instead of being able to play strong or get ticked at Fitoussi for chasing with one pair to the river, he could only walk out disappointed. In short, there wasn't much else he could do.
There are two men watch the TV table with religious shirts. One reads "Thank you, Jesus." The other reads "Is it poker or poker-dolotry?" Despite the fact they seem to carry an anti-poker message on their shirts, they seemed rapt with attention as the action plays out. And frankly, it's hard not to enjoy.
Fellow poker writer Jay Greenspan turned to me at one point and said, "This got good."
And he was right. Despite the limit-nature of the HORSE event, the action is tense. Nearly every person left in the event is on the edge between cashing and being out. One bad hand could send them to the rail and an event with not nearly as much importance.
I'd been watching the TV table, but peeked over to see if Greenstein's mood had improved. Though his face and demeanor didn't show it, I can't help but think he was happier. He's turned his 650,000 into more than a million.
On my way back to the TV table, a French journalist warned me "Don't you say anything bad about my Frenchman just because he busted Negreanu.
I didn't have time to worry about Negreanu anymore. With him gone and Barry back on a million, Raymer was my focus. He was down to 300,000 and fading fast. In the Stud-8 round, he lost another hand and fell down to 200,000.
There were 19 players left when we hit the Limit Hold'em round. Amnon Filippi was running over the TV table and had worked his stack up to 2.5 million. He couldn't lose a hand he played. He also happened to be immediately on Greg's left. There couldn't have been a much worse situation for the one-time World Champion.
And so it happened that Bonomo came in for a raise and Greg three-bet from the button. Bonomo put in another bet and Greg called. The flop came down Ad2c4h. Bonomo bet out and Greg put in the cal. The turn was the Td. This time Bonomo checked and Greg bet. Bonomo thought for an age before mucking kings face-up.
A couple of hands later, Greg made quad fives in another hand with Bonomo got away. On the very next hand, Greg flopped a set of sevenes and got Amnon to pay him off in a huge pot. With a smile, Greg muttered something about being a cardrack.
Bonomo busted off the TV table a few hands later and suddenly we sat on the bubble. In my earlier walk with Barry, I remember him saying he planned to exploit the bubble and pick up some chips.
He didn't have long to exploit it. It was just a few minutes before the bubble burst and the remaining 16 players were in the money. As if to cap off his run, Raymer made Broadway in an Omaha/8 hand and added some more chips to his stack.
As the players consolidated to two tables, Greenstein held 1,090,000 in chips. Raymer had 760,000.
Now in the money, the players and I turn our attention to the real focus of the day: The biggest final table of this year's World Series.