PCA 2012: Stranger in a stranger land
Dan Shak is reading Facebook on his iPad, and the graphics on the screen are red. Something about this disturbs me, but I can't quite put my finger on why I'm so uncomfortable. My Facebook graphics are blue. Everybody I know who uses Facebook has blue graphics. But not Dan Shak. Because Shak lives in a world I will never really understand. The rules are different for his people. They have earned a spot in society where, apparently, a red Facebook exists. Nothing makes sense anymore.
Something happened at the PCA today when the $25,000 High Roller started. It's akin to walking into a room and finding more than a hundred hyper-intelligent extraterrestrials looking at you in silence. It forces on you that niggling sense that there has been a paradigm shift, but nobody will explain or even admit anything has changed. If you don't have an advanced brain, it will be impossible to process. It's like plugging iPod ear buds into an eight-track tape.
Understand, there was a time when a $25,000 buy-in seemed big even to big players. Now, a $25,000 event is quaint, and four hours of re-entry time finds some people re-buying with abandon. It seems every one of them is running without the ball, and every call is preceded by the word, "hero." In the first couple of levels, it takes six bets to get king-queen all-in pre-flop for 160 bigs against pocket tens. The king-queen wins, and this seems almost reasonable to most of the people in the tournament.
But I cannot criticize or analyze, because I don't understand. I have no frame of reference. In the world of Red Facebook and $25,000 re-entry tournaments, I am a cocker spaniel trying to understand trigonometry.
When one player busts out, his pocket sixes losing to ace king, he slumps away casually, barely bothering to look at the river. He touches the back of his chair like a talisman, and then he walks away with the same "oh, well" look on his face as I have when I can't find my favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry's at the grocery store. He had just paid $25,000 to enter a tournament he played for five hours. Though I have no way of knowing it to be true, I'd bet almost anything else in the world you pay $5,000 an hour to do is a lot more enjoyable. But, oh, well. We'll just get the Cherry Garcia tonight.
The differences are everywhere. The same kids wearing a $5 t-shirts are wearing a watches worth $20,000. The players' hotel room keys are from the exclusive enclave at the end of the island where the hoi polloi like us would be turned away with prejudice. When a discussion evolves to how best to get from the Promised Land all the way to the tournament room, one player says he eschews the free shuttle in favor of a taxi. That's when these words are actually spoken: "Why don't you just walk? You know the common people way? One time." If there's irony in the question, it's buried under bricks and bricks of $100 bills and completely unrecognizable.
This should be familiar ground by now. After all, we watched a $100,000 buy-in re-entry tournament last week, and it seemed almost normal. It didn't feel so big, probably because there were only 30 people in the room. Today, however, there is more than four times that number of people in play. They're all drinking the most expensive water, getting the longest massages, and most likely breathing different air than everyone else in the room.
This is the land of the Red Facebook. This is Thunderdome. This is the $25,000 High Roller event.