PCA 2012: Going, going, but nowhere near gone

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It look about 45 minutes to burst the bubble this afternoon and as we approach the half way stage of the scheduled six levels some 79 players have been eliminated. They now clutch pay-out tickets and wait in line for their reward; some happy, some disappointed, but at least not empty-handed.

Meanwhile the survivors plough on. Every few minutes another of their number gets up to leave, eliminated (unless you're Galen Hall sprinting to the bathroom again) another personal story coming to an end here but about to be born back home, albeit edited, tweaked a little and bigged-up when trying to impress a date.

But while they're departure moves the tournament gradually closer to its dramatic climax, a strange paradox begins to make itself apparent. As the stage of the tournament grows more serious the main event as a spectacle loses some of its appeal.

Hang on, come back. Let's qualify that a little.

I'm not suggesting that there's little point in reading anymore, actually the opposite. How could one of the world's richest poker tournaments not be? But as players are eliminated their grieving periods is short, and while the big money is in the main event, the big draw for most is now the $2,000 side event which began today, and which dwarfs the main event. Main event? What main event?

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The shrinking tournament area...

It's in the odd nature of poker that as a tournament gets nearer its conclusion, fewer players seem interested is picking out the winner. A player stuck nursing a short stack in a side event will not particularly care for the goings on at the main event feature table, where eight players feel like kings right now.

Then there's the visual element. Aside from the main stage, where two tables play under the lights, the main event area continues to get smaller and smaller, disappearing behind crash barriers that are growing increasingly irrelevant as busted players, leaving the room for good, take their railing sweethearts with them.

But this phenomenon will take one more twist before week's end. The final eight suddenly re-ignite a passion in the crowds that will flock here, dash for seats (often with a limited view) and watch enthralled as a new champion emerges from one of the highlights of the poker calendar.

For now the main event is down to less than 100 players. It looks like it's fading away, but it's only just getting started.