PCA 2013: Classy Santos heads for the rail as bubble burst in main event

When play goes hand for hand players instinctively ask about the clock, specifically what time will be added on to account for tankers (there is in fact a formula used). At EPT Prague last month the tanking was staggering, deliberate and obstinate, with one player in particularly slowing the tournament single-handedly and marking himself out as an irksome limpet.

In contrast to that it was hard to find any tanking prior to the clock stopping for the bubble. In fact the only delays were those between an all-in being called and the time it took all other hands to finish and they could show their hand.

This procedure, of pausing before revealing the cards, is standard (preventing others from gaining an advantage) and was explained by tournament director Mike Ward. His job is a difficult one. For a start the microphone he used was set at too low a volume. Secondly, being positioned on the stage, he was too far away to see all the tables and relies on staff using elaborate hand signals to keep him up to speed. All this was besides the fact that controlling a roped off area of 146 poker players is impossible.

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A bubble hand in the main event

Ward then instructs the press not to swarm the tables because TV crews need access. This "rhythm method" of withdraw at the point of climax, is a last ditch attempt to keep the cameramen happy, hardworking guys who have to operate in cramped conditions and usually with one eye closed. But they're instructions that will soon prove hopeless, in the same way that asking players to remain in their seats during an all-in hand is reduced to wishful thinking.

Ward asks the dealers to stand as they finish each hand, but whatever else he says is lost amid the general hum which only quiets when the dealer starts dealing again. An all-in soon follows, this one from behind a raise. Attention turned to the initial raiser but he suddenly looks sheepish. An obvious fold quickly follows.

Michael Lipman doubled-up when his king-queen bettered the pocket nines of Shawn Buchanan, with a queen on the turn and a king on the river. This, it seems, was an exact scenario he'd been discussing a few minutes earlier, for when this hand played out he yelled "that's what I'm talking about." An amazing coincidence.

Then came a proper hand, with an all-in and a call, plus the inevitable wait. This ends with a double up, the jacks of Stefano Rossomando against the ace-king of Lisa Hamilton (Ward asked each of their names before calling the hand, like a children's magician would after calling two volunteers from the audience).

Then another all-in, timed at 18 minutes and 55 seconds past two o'clock. At 24 minutes and 50 seconds past the players were asked to show their cards. Pocket sixes for Ashley Cheung being good for a double up, and a groan from 145 disappointed peers.

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The three players who would contest the bubble hand

This is the nature of the bubble. Camaraderie, friendship and comportment are often jettisoned. It's unnecessary luggage for those hanging on by their finger nails for the money, and the cash to pay the hotel and banana bill. There's no time for sympathy or best wishes, it's poker at its most solitary.

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Joao Santos (green t-shirt and sunglasses), stands to leave

But spirits would be lifted seconds later when Robert Mizrachi, a giant of a player, despatched two players at once on the secondary feature tables; aces against ace-queen and queens. It burst the bubble in dramatic style, with a loud cheer and applause filling the room, none of which was for Mizrachi himself who just done them a massive favour.

Lost in this were the two players to go: Vegard Froshaug and Joao Santos.

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Vegard Froshaug out of main event

Froshaug looked devastated, as is his wont, but Santos, who we wrote about earlier this week and who features in the PCA10 magazine, took it with admirable pragmatism, telling reporters that he'd played well, that he'd lost the bulk of his stack on Day 2 and that now he was simply going enjoy the Bahamas.

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Joao Santos

We also wrote about the pain of elimination earlier in the week, speculating on what might be the best way to bust a poker tournament. We got it wrong. Joao Santos just demonstrated how to go out in style.

Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter