WSOP Event #38 No-Limit 2-7 Lowball: Fossilman Takes a Break

For the last couple of weeks, I haven't had to work too hard to find a story. In fact, I told my wife, "I have to work to not find a story, and when I work on a story in the suite, it's common for several new stories to come in and find me!"

For the first six hours of my day today, I couldn't find a story, and none came into the suite to find me, so I picked up my stuff, and went out to the Amazon room to find one.

Phil Hellmuth is currently three players away from winning his tenth World Series Bracelet and has a huge chiplead over second place, so ESPN hurriedly pulled together a skeleton crew to film his final table. I walked over to the Bluff Radio table, and watched him play for a little bit.

"Nobody wants this bracelet at this table more than he does," a guy said to me.

"Nobody in this room wants a bracelet as much as he wants this one," I said. "If he doesn't get it, we will witness a Hellmuth Meltdown that makes the Manhattan Project look like an Alka-Seltzer in a bathtub."

I will now openly admit that I'm rooting for everyone else at the table, for the entertainment value, if nothing else. It's a very packed room in there today, and I've always wondered what it would be like to hear over two thousand people suddenly fall silent.

"Well, I thought, "this is okay, but it's not really a PokerStars story, so I'll keep looking."

I turned around and scanned the room. The no-limit 2-7 lowball rebuy (yeah, you read all of that right) has a very small field of just around eighty players, and I knew that Greg Raymer was one of them because he told me on our way to lunch today that he would be playing. I scanned the tables, and saw him. They were on a break, so I made my way over to his table.

"Hey," I said, "do you have a minute to talk to me for the blog?"

"Sure," he said. "Come walk with me for a bit."

He picked up his stuff, and before he could take a single step, two people came up and asked him for autographs. Greg graciously obliged, smiled and shook their hands, and we started to make our way out of the room.

Ten feet later, someone stopped Greg for an autograph and a picture. He graciously obliged, and we continued on our way, single file with me following behind. This happened every ten to twenty feet for the next several minutes, until we got to the center of the room and a guy held out a signature-covered T-shirt and a Sharpie pen to me.

I took it, and turned to hand it to Greg when he said, "Oh, I wanted your autograph."

"Really?" I said.

"Yeah!"

"Oh, I thought you wanted Greg's."

"I already have it." He said.

"Ah, now this makes sense," I said. I took his pen and signed my name as best I could on a T-shirt, which is something I've never been particularly good at.

I caught up to Greg, who had managed to make it about twenty-five feet before he was stopped this time, and waited while an older man in a tan cowboy hat told him how much he loved watching him play.

Aside: I've been around a lot of celebrities in my life -- hell, I was even one of them a long time ago -- and it's rare to see someone handle himself with the grace, poise, kindness and generosity that Greg has. There are a lot of very young self-professed professional players here, many of them in their early twenties, and with rare exception they are arrogant, immature, entitled, and entirely without honor or respect for the history of the game. It was so refreshing to walk with Greg through a writhing mass of his fans, and see him treat every single one of them with kindness and respect. Some of these "professionals" would be well-served to take a break from "investing" in Dolce & Gabbana and listen to him.

"It's kind of hard to talk in single-file," Greg said, once we made our way outside. "So what can I tell you?"

"Well, I was looking for a story, and I think I just found one," I said. "But can you tell me a little bit about this event, anyway?"

"Sure," he said. "It's a very tough field -- maybe even tougher than HORSE because so few people know how to play this game correctly, and the people who do know how to play it can play it very well."

"Do you have a tough table?" I said.

"They are all tough tables," he said, "but I've got . . . " he trailed off and looked up, as he poked his finger into the air at an imaginary poker table. "Scott Fischman, Patrick Antonius, Hassan Habib, Mickey Appleman - who is probably the most experienced deuce to seven player in the tournament -- Max Pescatori, and a Swedish guy I don't know."

"That's the guy who will be called 'His Opponent' by Cardplayer," I said.

Greg probably doesn't have time to read the live updates like we do, so I didn't expect him to get the joke. He didn't disappoint me.

We stood out there near the Poker Kitchen, while I tried not to be distracted by the Milwaukee's Best Light girls, and Greg explained to me how complicated this particular game is.

Now, here's the thing: I would get my ass handed to me in one of these games, because I know absolutely nothing about the strategy, but Greg gave me a basic understanding of the game -- and how to play it in a no-limit tournament -- in about five minutes, because that's just how he rolls.

We slowly made our way back into the tournament room, stopping every ten feet or so, until we got back to his table. Hassan Habib and Scott Fischman stood next to their seats.

"I have to get back into my seat," Greg said. "But come back whenever you want, as long as I'm in the event. If I'm not in a hand, I'll tell you whatever I can."

"Thanks," I said. "Good luck, sir. Oh! I forgot to ask you: how are you doing in this event?"

He smiled. "I'm in for ten thousand, and I have over fifteen, so I have more than I started with."

"Awesome." I said.

I walked out of the tournament area, and passed Chris Ferguson on my way. He was surrounded by about fifteen people, who held out cards, books, scraps of paper, and anything else that he could sign. The tournament director announced that play was resuming in his event, and he continued to sign, right until the clock flashed down to zero.

"Sorry guys," he said to the few who still stood around him, "but I have to get back into my seat because I'm in this event."

As I walked down the hall and back to the suite, it occurred to me that Greg and Chris and pros like them have to focus and play the best poker they possibly can, but they also have to be rockstars and ambassadors, too. Not everyone can do it, and the ones who do are just extraordinary.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker