2007 World Series: Personality and poker

We call it "The Moat"

It's an aisle around the tables designated for we media reps who don't have an ESPN camera. It's a crowded place, but in fortunate circumstances, provides us with a so-close-you-can-smell-the-fear view of the action.

Nicolas Atlan sat closest to me, his lucky Italia sweatshirt a good disguise for his French heritage. The board read AcQs2h and Atlan led into the pot for a little more than 150,000. Daniel Alaei sat at the other end of the table. To strangers, they could be brothers. Both have olive complexions, a slight stubble on their face, and a demeanor that gives nothing away at the table. Alaei called.

The turn was a six of spades. It was a card that was likely meaningless. It seemed Atlan read it the same way. He pushed out more than 200,000. Again Alaei called.

I got jostled to the left by a swinging ESPN camera and ducked almost too late. As I tried to get a better look, a fellow member of the media said, "What a horrible card."

I ducked my head under a cameraman's armpit. There was the card. A queen of clubs. If Atlan held AK, he had to be scared. Alaei is an aggressive player and could've been playing KQ, QJ, QT. Anything of them were possibilities. As Atlan checked, I could the fear (that might've been the ESPN guy, but who knows). Alaei considered his move for a little more than a minute before counting out 450,000 in chips and putting them in front of him.

Atlan didn't shiver, but I could see his problem. It was a big bet and would eat heavily into his stack. However, it seemed like he was calling. Was it ace-king? Was it? I had no idea. All I know is that I sat Atlan count out the 450,000 and...put it in ffront of him.

The crowd ooooh-ed, the cameras, swung, I ducked again, and suddenly I heard the normally quiet Frenchman exploded. "Allez!" He jumped from his chair, pumped his fist, walked in three circles and screamed again, "Allez!"

Someone on the rail mistook him for saying, "All in," but it didn't matter. The hand was over. I stole a look down the table. Alaei had tabled KT, a busted gutshot draw and a big bluff.

Atlan had called...with a pocket pair...of sevens. With two queens and and an ace on board, Atlan called with a middling little pair and the kind of couer that Day 5 of the World Series requires.

"On the river, I checked and he bet too much," Atlan said. "I knew he the had the straight draw. That's the best hand of my life."

Nicolas Atlan

While Atlan may be playing the best poker of his life, others in the field are having a rougher day of it. 2007 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure runner-up Isaac Haxton went out in the first level of the day. So did Mr. Porsche, Dario Minieri.

Isaac Haxton

Scotty Nguyen bids Dario goodbye

Over at the TV table (more coming on that in an upcoming post), RaiNKhaN is Mr. Personality. Once again, he's hopped up on Red Bull and poker energy. At one point, his drink found the floor. Not a second passed before he yelled, "Janitor to the feature table! And cocktails! Red Bull"

His tablemates smiled.

"That's part of my plan," he said. "I don't want to just drink the Red Bull. I want the smell all around me."

Red Bull!

Fewer than 90 players remain in this year's World Series and between the personality and the poker, I think we might have a very fun final table.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in