2007 WSOP: Scenes from re-buy madness (Updated)
I'd been sweating Barry Greenstein in the $5,000 PLO re-buy event for about half an hour before he noticed me standing on the other side of Ram Vaswani. For the past couple of hours, he'd been writing on the back of tournament entry ticket. I suspected what was up, but it would take Barry's confirmation before I was sure. He called me over to the one-seat where he'd been sitting since five o'clock.
"The bad news," he said, "I'm in this thing for thirty or thirty-five thousand."
I felt that twinge in my pocket where I had my cash wrapped around my credit cards. What I had trapped in the rubber band would not have even covered the first buy-in to the tournament.
"The good news," he said with a smile, "is that I'm up 120,000 on Eli in props."
Sure enough, the chicken scratch on the back of the card was the props scorecard vs. Eli Elezra.
So far, Barry was up about $90,000 in the tournament without being anywhere near the chip lead.
"Oh," he said. "And take a picture of this, because it's the last day I'm allowed to wear it."
The chest of his shirt was emblazoned with a huge PokerStars.net embroidery patch.
I knew the rules around here regarding logos were strict.
"Too big?" I asked.
In fact, the total size had little to do with it.
"The dot-net is too small," he said. "It has to be the same size as the PokerStars."
It's hard to comprehend in this tournament's environment. Rules are rules, after all, but this tournament is the Wild West of poker tournaments. Every player seems to have an endless supply of Bellagio $5,000 chips in their pocket. Those who don't have chips have $10,000 bricks of cash or more. I saw Brian Townsend casually push $20,0000 in loose cash into the leg pocket of his cargo shorts, like it was a cell phone or a candy bar.
But, indeed, this Series is governed by rules, as is this event. The first thing any poker player learns about Omaha is that you can only play two cards from the four cards you're dealt.
Ben Grundy, one time EPT final table player at the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo, stepped up to me and said with conspiratorial whisper that the one-seat at his table had just tried to play the three kings he was dealt.
"Nobody has told hime yet that he can't use three cards," Grundy said as he hurried back to his table. Later I heard Grundy calmly explaining the add-on rules to his opponent.
"You can take a double add-on if you want," he said, his face giving away nothing.
It was probably a foregone conclusion, but ESPN didn't make the call on it until mid-evening. Indeed, the networld would televise this $5,000 event. How could they not. Consider Greg Raymer's story.
"I got knocked out of $2,500 Omaha/Stud Hi-lo event at 5:15. So, I went to my box, got my chips, went over there and registered, and got to this table."
This table happened to be one of the 15 tables that was so packed with familiar faces, you'd think it was a Tournament of Champions.
Raymer's table? Everybody on it had been on a televised final table of a main event. Among them, were John D'Agastino, Erick Lindgren, Andy Black, Ted Lawson, Burt Boutain,and Daniel Negreanu.
Raymer got to his table late and sat down to find a playable hand.
"First hand I got AA25 one suit," he said. "Raised the pot and get three callers. Flop is A98 rainbow. Get it all in three ways. Ted Lawson has KQJT. Queen on the river, he scoops. Andy Black had a set of tens witha backdoor flush draw."
Just like that, Raymer was in need of a re-buy. Before long, he was in the event for $25,000. When I caught him at a break, he seemed ever-so-slightly dispirited.
"I may not put in anymore at all," he said.
"With $25,000 already invested?" I said, my face and stomach both scrunching up.
"Protecting what you've got in is meaningless," Greg said. "If I go broke, rebuying for $5,000 or $10,000 is no different than if I registered late. That $25,000 is gone."
Still, his wife had been following along from their North Carolina home and was texting words of encouragement. At point, she read online that Greg was up to 40,000 chips.
"She didn't know I'd bought 50,000 worth," Greg said.
By the end of the re-buy period, the 145 players had all bought in once and re-bought collectively 450 times. The prize pool was a whopping $2.89 million...most of which had been paid in cash or chips across the tournament tables in the three-hour rebuy period.
Those who figure to make the final table should plan on a late night. Tournament directors had planned to have these 145 players play down to the final nine before breaking for the night. That changed late in the evening when they decided to play until 3am, regardless of how many are left.
One person who can go to bed when he wants is Greg Raymer. Right after he got back from the break, Greg sat in the big blind. Ted Lawson came in for a raise and Daniel Negreanu re-raised.
"My sense is, he doesn't have aces," Greg said later. "Obviously, he has a hand, but he knows he's not going to shake Ted Lawson."
Greg looked down at QQ88 double suited and made a decision. "I decided to make a play at the pot because I don't think he has much."
So, Greg potted it. Lawson went away and Negreanu called. Greg bet his remaining chips in the dark, knowing full well they had to go in regardless of what came on the flop.
"What flop am I going to fold to?" he said.
The flop came 46Q all hearts. Negreanu called instantly with the king-high flush. The board didn't pair and Raymer was out.
And so now, at 11pm, Raymer and Greenstein have made their exit. Vanessa Rousso is very close. Team PokerStars' shining hope in the $5,000 event is none other than Humberto Brenes. During one break, he broke out what we've taken to calling Chark 2 (with the "c" being intentional). His shark card capper is serving him well so far today and at the dinner break he sat in the top ten in chips.
And so goes the sickest tournament so far in this year's World Series.
Update: Humberto Brenes has finished Day 1 of the $5,000 PLO rebuy event third in chips. Play resumes in this event at 3pm PT.