PCA 2014: Character gives way to reputation in High Roller

During play yesterday Antonio Esfandiari had an idea and presented it to his tablemates. It went something like: "How long could Steve O'Dwyer and Chino Rheem live while having to keep within 50 yards of each other at all times?" The tournament room would be fine, said Esfandiari, but trips to the store and holidays would have to be spent together. It had the table in stitches.

You sense Esfandiari likes these fantasies for that very reason, a sublime enjoyment of the absurd, which in many ways neatly sums up poker and the High Roller event itself.
Looking around yesterday it was quite a line-up, even before the field stopped growing at 220, a new record. In particular it has attracted a diverse selection of people who at least look like characters, regardless of whether or not they actually are.

The high rollers play on

It's been a while since we've seen poker players chewing toothpicks, and yet there are two in the field. It's also been a while since a man's open necked shirt has revealed a medallion, and his wrists big chunks of gold jewellery, and yet we have one here today also. Then there are the rich business men, the poor businessmen, movie stars, men in trilbies, veterans of poker's pre-internet days, EPT winner and World Champions. We even have Greeks and men named Johnny.

There's more absurdity in the nature of the event. Being a re-entry event a curious thing happened to the player total. Rather than reducing the field by one, each elimination actually added a number to the field, as the defeated player marched immediately to the registration desk to buy-in again and re-join his friends. Esfandiari's prop-bet idea was already a reality. For day one at least none of these players can bear to be apart for long.

In this sense it's this that separates the high stakes poker world from the real one. Each takes a leave of absence from our everyday rules for however many levels they can survive, and the atmosphere is heady and jovial.

But then follows the hangover, or Day 2 as it's known, when pride gives way to the serious business of making some money. All of a sudden the talk fades, and while the medallion remains the face becomes serious. This isn't a party after all and character is good but still needs to make a living.

Some 67 players remain and only 31 will get paid. The rest can stay within 50 yards if they want to, but it'll be from the rail.

Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.