2007 World Series: When a HORSE is not a horse

The American flag on top of the Rio is being blown flat by the desert winds that pressed in this morning. The palms around the hotel are shaking like they are ready to face a hurricane. Inside the Rio, the Amazon room is as quiet as it is at 4am. This is not the scene of a $1,500 no-limit hold'em tournament. This is the $50,000 World Championship of HORSE and there is nothing bigger here at the World Series.

The beginning of the $50,000 HORSE event

It is an event so big that fewer than 200 people have entered. It is an event so big that nearly everyone in the event knows each other, and most of them know each other's secrets, tells, and styles. These are people who have played against each other for years and now are sitting down for what most of them considered to be the test of power dominance.

To ask who is here is less instructive than to ask who is not. Still, it's the people in the seats who will make up this week's stories. They are the world's top professionals and they will spend the next five days fighting to make it to the most prestigious tournament in the world.

When the $1,500 no-limit field was relatively void of these people yesterday, there was little surprise why. The HORSE event will be a marathon. Instead of a Pony Express run across the desert, this event and its structure are a sturdy-backed pack mule with saddle bags made for chip-hauling. They are starting with 100,000 of those chips a piece. There will be no no-limit cooler to send somebody packing in one hand. As Greg Raymer said the other night, sometimes these games are like death by a thousand cuts.

Team PokerStars is well represented here and among the players are the names you will expect. Greenstein, Negreanu, Raymer, Chen, Ramdin, Mercier, Duthie. They are six men and one keen-eyed lady who trust their game enough to lay down $50,000. It's the kind of money that could afford them five main events. In their eyes it's clear that this is the main event, at least for now.

At the beginning of something this big, it's tempting to throw out every superlative in one's vocabulary. It's best, I think, to save a few for later. Because even as the field shrinks, this event will be bigger than anything we see this year.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in