2007 World Series: Un-tilt

I was in a bad mood from the moment I opened my eyes this morning. The guy in the neighboring room had set his alarm for the ungodly hour of 10am and left long before that. For the next 120 minutes, the alarm buzzed in a fashion that not only kept me from sleeping, but made me want to break through the wall and find a way to dunk his toothbrush in a jar of habaneros.

From then on, I was on a form of World Series tilt that long-haul Series reporters experience once or twice a trip. Everything seemed soulless and empty. The stories seemed few and the players seemed too surly. And, honestly, I was missing my family quite a bit.

After watching a disputed hand that drew seemingly every member of the media in the building, I walked back to upload some pictures. On my way, I strolled by the cash game area where I saw a $2/$5 cash game player stand up, yell at his opponent, whip off his ball cap, sling it across the table, and smack a lady in the side of the head.

I hope he loses his roll tonight, I thought, and stalked off in search of something to make me happy.

I didn't find it for a while. When I did, it had nothing to do with PokerStars...which is sad, really, because that's what I'm paid to write about here. In fact, I was off taking pictures for a Craig Cunningham post (still to come here) when I saw a familiar face stand up.

Everybody here knew American talk show host Montel Williams was playing here today, but most expected him to go the way of the Ray Romano. Now nearing midnight, Montel was still in. What's more, as I walked up, Montel had his opponent all-in. Montel held KK to his opponent's AQ on a queen-high flop. His kings held. What's more, as I stood in front of Montel and tried to count his pile of chips, I realized something.

He had to be today's chip leader.

Montel stood for the next three hands and looked down at his chips. I kneeled in front of him and took the above picture. Why? I dunno. I guess because in his eyes I saw something that made me happy. It was an almost confused joy. This is a guy who--at least at one point in his life--enjoyed a lot of celebrity. He still has a following here in a America. However, unlike Ray Romano who used the World Series to riff on marriage and his acting partner Brad Garrett, Williams seemed as determined as the hundreds of PokerStars qualifiers here. He seemed like taking over the chip lead was more than the equivalent of winning the May ratings book. It seemed like a mission.

Now, maybe I'm reading too much into all this. I do that sometimes on Day 1. There will be no winner here until I'm a week older and grayer. However, there was a sudden energy that overtook the room. A media friend got 100-1 that Montel would win the whole thing while privately wishing it was Jerry Springer instead. ESPN jumped into gear and stopped covering loudmouth brats.

I don't know Montel Williams, but I'm happy he's doing well today. And to be happy about anything is a welcome experience.


It's opened my eyes a bit, I guess. There's a lot here to enjoy. The back and forth energy and despair of the Brazilian crew makes me smile. They compare PokerStars' signing of their countryman Andre Akkari as the Brazillian poker's equivalent to the first moonwalk. If one Brazilian loses a pot, they collectively rub their heads like they all just took the worst beat in the world. If one doubles up, they treat it like winning the World Cup.

Brazilian Igor Federal

Despite the crushing bad beats, victimization by donkeys, and general foul underbelly of this kind of culture, there are people here who are genuinely happy to have this kind of opportunity. There are hundreds of PokerStars qualifiers in the field and their smiles are far more frequent than their frowns. These people remind me that this lifestyle is at the same time less than the universe it's made out to be and more than the game itself.

© Neil Stoddart

© Neil Stoddart

© Neil Stoddart

© Neil Stoddart

© Neil Stoddart

© Neil Stoddart

Day 1B is almost in the books. In less than 12 hours, another field full of hopefuls will come in the room and find new hope in a room that others found hopeless.

This is the World Series. For all its blemishes, it's one handsome event.

And it can still make folks happy.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in