PCA 2014: Ease and anxieties on the High Roller bubble
High Roller tournaments play out differently from other events, and it is never more notable than on the bubble. Whereas a Main Event field approaching the money is an anxiety-addled place, often scattered with qualifiers or lower-stakes players praying desperately to avoid catastrophic elimination, High Rollers tend to take it more in their stride.
It's tense. Make no mistake about that. But these players have been here before and know how to act. When Chris Oliver went out in 34th place in the PCA $25,000 High Roller tonight -- his A♦[10s] outdrawn by Tommy Vedes' K♠J♥ -- he closed his eyes and rocked his head back in silent disappointment. It felt like he should have earned a penalty for excessive commiseration.
No one shook his hand. No one whooped their delight at his passing. He took a last sip from a beer can, wound his headphones around his iPad and wandered away. The quashing of a $1.3m dream was never dealt with with so much dispassion.
When the field went down to the last 31, ie, the stone bubble, the volume did raise somewhat. Olivier Busquet and Chris Klodnicki whiled away hand-for-hand play by talking about hotels at the World Series of Poker Europe, Philipp Gruissem wondered aloud how many chips Ole Schemion had, and one of the floor staff watched Jon Voigt and then Amy Adams accept Golden Globes on the TV screen that had until recently been showing the NFL game.
Schemion, incidentally, was now using his orange skateboard as a coffee table and had two glasses of beer positioned on it. The front of his baseball cap bore the embroidered words, "Easy Livin'" and there really is no phrase in any language that describes Schemion's outlook more perfectly.
On Daniel Negreanu's table, livin' wasn't quite so easy. Negreanu had a short stack and was caught bluffing when he made a small raise from the small blind. Byron Kaverman, also with a short stack, announced that he was all in and Negreanu was forced to fold.
"I had nine six off-suit," Negreanu said.
Negreanu has often stated his complete disregard for the fears of the bubble. He is in every tournament to win it and has no fears at all about going out one spot before the cash kicks in. The approach could not, however, be further from that of his neighbour tonight, Paul Newey, who is fresh from bubbling the Super High Roller event.
"If I go all in, I've got king or aces," Newey said. "I just want everyone to to know. I bubbled the Super High Roller. I don't want to do it again."
Newey wasn't joking. After learning poker by playing only the most expensive tournaments in the world (he made his debut at the One Drop), Newey is desperate to earn his first tournament cash after several near misses. Each seems to scar a separate section of his heart.
He turned to Fabian Quoss. "You knocked me out in Monte Carlo. You technically knocked me out with your queen in the Super High Roller. I want to avoid you."
"That's good to know," Quoss said.
Negreanu tried to offer Newey a glimmer of hope. "You could be the guy who bubbled the Super High Roller and the High Roller. You could be that guy. They'd be talking about it forever."
Newey didn't seem keen on the notoriety. "It's not the money," he said. "It's the principal."
"I understand," Negreanu said. "You just want a cash."
What a difference an indefinite article makes. Newey certainly doesn't need "cash" -- he sold his finance company for £200m in 2006 -- but he desperately wants "a" cash. He has only one on his resume and it's tiny.
Vanessa Selbst, the tournament chip leader (of course), got up from the table to take a tour of the stacks. She alighted on that of Anthony Zinno, who had a matter of a few big blinds. But never one to wait for someone else to do the dirty work, she soon took her seat again and got this thing finished.
Selbst, with the medium stack of Ana Marquez and the shortie of Kyle Julius to her left, open shoved for millions. Marquez folded but, perhaps to the surprise of some, Julius called.
After being given permission to turn their hands over, Julius tabled A♥K♥ to Selbst's 7♣8♠. This was just about perfect for Selbst, and the 7♠ on the turn sealed it. Julius departed.
It left a relieved 30 to plough on towards $1.3m -- and a delighted Brit among them, vindicated at his seventh attempt.
Follow full coverage of the $25,000 High Roller event on the High Roller page.