PCA 2012: Post bubble ergo proptor bubble
I'm not sure there's a greater change in atmosphere, in any pursuit, than that of the bubble bursting in a high stakes poker tournament.
From one minute to the next the mood changes from nervous tension to relaxed joy. You may not have won, but the pressures of playing for more than two days, with so much at stake, is taken from you. The pressure is off. Let me take your coat, sir/ma'am and can we get you anything to drink?
For some that's actually the preferred approach. After extended bubble play the tendency is to mark the occasion in the traditional way, and the cry of "cocktails!" sometimes within seconds from the bubble, is not unusual.
What was unusual however was the absence of, well, the bubble.
It was difficult to spot the moment it was actually burst, so sudden was the process amid a crowd of expectant players. One minute there were 161, playing hand-for-hand until one more bustee ticked down on the scoreboard. Then, after several all-ins that seemed to go by without incident, tournament staff made the announcement. That was it, we were in the money, and the predictable cheer rang out.
Back to that atmospheric change I was talking about.
Heads lifted, faces came to life, phone calls to loved ones jammed the Paradise Island switchboard (you get the picture).
Players who had nursed the shortest of stacks now swaggered like chip leaders. Those that had looked into the financial abyss realised they'd faced it and won, opening up a whole raft of almighty spin-up stories now so familiar.
Sergio Garcia and Juan Manuel Pastor were among those celebrating
Leif Force all-in
Luis Jaikel awaits his fate
As someone somewhere cried "cocktails!", others hurried away from their seats, phones held to their ears. Patrick Jann, wearing a garish green and white shell suit and green shoes, paced around his table, a conspicuous grin on his face; the music playing through his headphones had suddenly begun to make him dance, and with good reason. He's just turned $33 into at least $15,000.
Predictably the all-ins then started to fly, the short stack suddenly off the leash.
"All in and call on table one..." a player out.
"All in on call on table two..." another player out.
"All in and call on table one..." a double up this time on what was shaping up as an action table.
The pattern went on and on.
If some faces showed the sweet relief of making it this far Peter Eichhardt looked like he'd done this all before. He has done this before, and looked like he was allowing the children their sugar rush.
He calmly called a players all, in his ace-ten no good against 'Viacheslav Igin's queens. Igin was already texting the news before he'd doubled up, prompting a warning from the floor.
"So his hand is dead and I get the chips?" joked Eichhardt.
But if wild abandon had struck some, it missed others, the players to whom a min-cash is just that, the bare minimum. No relief or joy on the face of Shane Schleger, out, no doubt, much sooner than he'd hoped.
We play on from the bubble, with a largely happy and contented field. At least for now.