2007 WSOP: The Sickest Tournament

It's 100 degrees in Las Vegas today. And windy. Outside the Rio, giant umbrellas have been erected over giant fans. The fans blow cool mist, which evaporates almost as quickly as it leaves the fans' blades. The desert winds push back against the fans, and one has to be careful where they stand. Loiter in the wrong place and an eight foot umbrella will catch the wind and fly into your head. The poker gods won't even be able to help you of you're caught between one of the umbrellas and one of the fans. It may not kill you, but it will hurt badly enough that you wish it had.

I was just escaping the capricious flight of the shade umbrellas when I ran into a guy I play with in my hometown. He goes by HardLuckHank on PokerStars, although I rarely see his luck run bad.

"I'm playing the event at 5pm," he said. I was just getting my feet wet on the ground after enduring a bumpy cross-country flight. I wasn't sure which event he was talking about.

"Pot-limit Omaha," he explained. "Unlimited rebuys for the first three hours."

"That should be fun," I said. "What's the buy-in again?"

"Five thousand," he said with a smile.

If I could raise a single eyebrow, I would've done it at that moment. Further investigation showed that not only could players buy in for $5,000, re-buy as many times as they want for $5,000, the could also take a single or double add-on at the end of the re-buy period.

I struggled through some quick math and decided my hometown hero must be mistaken. That was no small chunk of change to be dropping on a gambler's game. In the end, I discovered he was right. He ended up sitting right next to Doyle Brunson when the tournament kicked off an hour and half ago.

I looked around and there was barely an unfamiliar face in the crowd. Name a big name pro, and there they were. I turned in circles snapping pictures.

Greg Raymer checks his four cards during a hand with Andy Black

Vanessa Rousso

Barry Greenstein

Humberto Brenes beseeches the dealer

The Team PokerStars players all seemed a little intent on playing the tournament rather than taking a break to soothe my worried mind. I'm mean, I'm not worried about their bankrolls, but I have to think competing in this particular event can be tough on the psyche. Certainly more damaging than American Airlines wanting to charge me $3 for an in-flight bag of chips.

In search of something less frightening, I wandered the newly re-modeled tournament room. It is more than impressive. Banners of all past champions hang around the room. And the final table area is like a sporting event, with bucket seating on risers, HDTV monitors of the action, and a Milwaukee's Best lounge overlooking the final table.

I shudder to consider what the final table players of the $5,000 PLO re-buy event will be fighting for. But I'll tell you this, I'm excited to find out.

After all...it ain't my money.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in