Day 2 breaks
It would seem a bit tacky to call this "The Longest Day." To liken this grueling three days to a 1962 film about the D-Day invasion is beyond the pale of good taste. Nonetheless, this 72-hour "first day" of poker has seen more than 5600 people, each with $10,000 in chips, storm into a Sam's Club-esque warehouse of poker. Fewer than 2000 of those players remain now. Three days have worn down the thickest of skins and destroyed the firmest of chip stacks. It might not be the longest day, but it's been long enough to thin this contest to a point at which getting paid seems a very real possibility.
Avoiding eye contact
As is my personal custom, I set out for a walk when the final level of the night began. Some players are near comatose. Others are drunk. Others are mugging for the TV cameras. And then there are those players that refuse to make eye contact. When approached, they speak in one word answers and claim to have not counted their chips. They are reluctant to give their name. They are reluctant to do anything to spoil the good fortune they've seen over the past fifteen hours.
Mark "MightyCanes" Graves seemed to be one of those people. His chip-stack caught my attention. It was big and immobile. Graves sat as still as his stack, only turning to briefly give his name to me. When I asked how many chips he had (I could tell it was well more than 60,000) he looked at his chips and said, "Haven't counted them."
I wasn't sure whether to believe him. Kenny Rogers advice notwithstanding, I'd be willing to be bet Graves, like most other players, knew how much he had down to the last green chip. I think, rather, Graves didn't want anyone else noticing he had them out-chipped. No need for anyone to start feeling like a David to Graves' Goliath.
Scary what a double-shift of poker can do some friendly folks.
Knowing, telling, smiling
And then there are those folks like Rick Tribble.
Moments after I met him, his wife called me over from the rail. "Are you taking pictures for PokerStars?" I indicated I was. "Could you..." she said and pointed in the direction of a Goliath in the middle of the room.
"Already done, ma'am."
I mean, Tribble was hard to miss. With his red PokerStars shirt, "fugitive" visor, and late-night double-up, he was hard to miss. Plus, he is a pretty noticeable guy.
Todd Manzi doesn't know off hand, but he counted it down for me while the table watched. With a PokerStars cap perched atop his cowboy hat, Manzi counted out more than $57,000 in chips and accpeted my good luck wishes.
It feels good to be ahead of where you started. It feels better to have almost sextupled up.
Rocco Mediate is a golfer more than he is a poker player. When I found him in the front of the room, he was stretched out over his chair with a pained look on his face.
"I thought you were supposed to be an athlete," I said to the man who just finished in the top ten of the U.S. Open. "You know, walk 18 holes a day and all?"
"It's the sitting," he said and stretched one more time.
Seated with world class player Huck Seed, Mediate had nearly finished his first full day of big-stakes poker. He had nearly 30,000 in chips and was still a bit giddy about being in the room.
Giving it one more stretch, he said, "I might be having the best time of my entire life. I've had aces three times and they've held up every time."
Within moments, he was sitting down again, knowing he's outlasted some of the world's best poker players.
Rocco Mediate, earlier in the day
Day will begin here in a few hours with the potential to make the money before bedtime. Thirty percent of the field that starts on Sunday will make at least $12,500. One lucky member of the field will advance, advance, and advance and finally grab the bracelet and a first prize of $7.5 million.
After this three-day long day, the end seems, still, far away. But now it all speeds up.
And it's going to be quite a ride.