WSOP Event #20: $50K HORSE

by Wil Wheaton

"We are accepting buy-ins for the next thirty-two minutes for the $50,000 HORSE event, so if you have $50,000 laying around, you still have time to get in." -Random Tournament Director

"Hahahahaha" - Everyone in the Amazon room.

Though there are fewer than 150 players in today's HORSE event -- significantly less than the 2800 who started the $1000 No-Limit Hold'Em event two days ago -- it's harder to get through the Amazon room today, because those 150 players are the very best in the world, and people have turned out to watch them play.

Greg Raymer at a powerful table in the $50K HORSE tournament

The mass of bodies at the rail is four and five people deep, and it took me some serious wriggling and patience to get close enough to pick out some of the more recognizable pros.

I saw Andy Bloch, Chris Ferguson, Mike Sexton, Mike Matusow, and Team PokerStars' Barry Greenstein. Holy crap that's a tough table.

Barry Greenstein, watched carefully by the rail

I glanced to the left and saw Doyle Brunson, Devilfish, Johnny World, and Paul Phillips (who is my favorite to win the whole thing, because he's my closest friend in the field.) Seats one and eight were empty (they're playing eight handed) and I couldn't help but wonder, Who in the world puts up 50K and misses the first hour? Is Hellmuth in this event? I found out later that he was. In true Hellmuthian fashion, he showed up late. With 50K and a bracelet on the line. Incredible.

As I scribbled down in my notebook, a guy shoved past me on my right, excitedly pointed into the tournament area, and turned around to shout at someone, "There's Phil Ivey! He's right there with Fossilman!" I winced, partially because he was so loud, but mostly to lessen the impact of beer and partially digested meat that was blown into my face.

Well, at least I know where Greg is, now. I thought, as I spotted his table: Phil Ivey was there, and so was John Juanda and Cindy Violette. A guy in the four seat casually read today's Cardplayer Daily. Again, I marveled at how anyone could be so cavalier and so relaxed with so much money and such a coveted bracelet on the line. Indeed, this is the one that all the pros want to win. If you ask them, they'll tell you that even though first and second place pay over a million dollars, this bracelet is a very big deal, and will determine who is the best overall player. Sure, everyone wants to win the main event, but navigating their way through this field of sharks will be just as difficult as running blindfolded through the minefield that will surely show up for that event. This is the one that carries some very important and coveted bragging rights with it, and that reality hung heavy in the air above their tables.

Two men conversed in French in front of me, and one of them left, opening up a prime spot right on the rail, putting Sammy Farha just a few feet to my left. On my right sat Eric Seidel, Gavin Smith, and Annie Duke, who wore a green jacket and a Fidel Castro-style Ultimate Bet cap.

While I wrote all these names down in my notebook, the remaining French-speaking guy turned to me and said, "Which table do you think is the hardest?"

"All of them?" I thought, then remembered that I'm a representative for PokerStars whenever I'm in a poker room, and figured I'd try to give him an honest answer. I consulted my notes, looked up into the room, and saw a table I'd missed: Gabe Kaplan, Mike Caro (who is much taller in person than I expected), Robert Williamson III, Dewey Tomko, and Johnny Chan.


I looked down at my notes again, and said, "Uh, I think it's all of them." We laughed a little bit, because it was true.

"Who do you think is going to win this?" He said.

"Well, I hope that it's Paul Phillips," I said, "but I'm also pulling for Greg Raymer and Barry Greenstein. To be honest, I think the players from the big game at Bellagio have the best chance to take this down, because they're used to the stakes and this particular game, so I'll have to put a dollar down on Barry."

We talked for a few more minutes, and I continued to make notes on the play unfolding right in front of us.

Victor Ramdin in the $50K HORSE event

Tuan Le in the HORSE event

"Dealers, you should all be dealing razz now. Razz is the game," the tournament director said.

The dealer to my left started his deal, and nobody opened a pot for a couple of hands. "You guys are making this game very easy for me to deal," he said, and laughed. Alone.

On the very next hand, it was raised and re-raised pre-flop, and I watched Sammy Farha and Patrick Antonius in action. I don't know too much about razz (other than I really suck at it) but I know that turning a pair isn't particularly good for your hand, especially when your opponent has all little unsuited cards and jack-high, so this random stranger and I muttered quietly to each other.

"Sammy has got to be beat here with his eights," I said.

"Maybe he's counting on Antonius having a jack underneath," he said.

Sammy bet fifth street, Antonius raised, and Sammy called. Antonius turned up A2X, and made A2358. Sammy lost with his eights, and we congratulated ourselves on being brilliant, genius players.

Uh, yeah. It's so easy when you're on the rail, isn't it?

I went back to the PokerStars suite to write this up, just before the players went on a break. I sat down on the couch, and began to write just about five minutes before Barry Greenstein came in.

I looked up as he crossed into the room, and he caught my eye. I smiled, and waved. He smiled and walked over to me.

Though Barry and I are both Team PokerStars players, he knows me as a blogger, and commented on meeting me at the WPBT Winter Classic last December. I was shocked that he remembered me, but apparently I shouldn't have been; that's the kind of guy Barry is.

"Hi Wil," he said. "Good to see you."

Wow. Barry Greenstein remembers my name? Crazy. Say something intelligent!

"How are you running?" I said.

"I'm sitting about 47ish," he said, "but it's nothing some cards can't cure," Barry said.

"Well, good luck," I said, pleased that I was able to keep myself from completely geeking out.

"Thanks," he said. He grabbed something off one of our tables -- a soda, I think -- and headed back out into the hallway, and toward the tournament area.

I sat back down on the couch, grabbed my Powerbook, and got back to work.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker