WSOP Main Event: A Pause in the Action

by Wil Wheaton

Now that the bubble has burst, there are money jumps pretty frequently, and each time that happens, they have to pause the tournament to make sure players are paid correctly, and tables can be balanced.

I walked into the Amazon room during one of these pauses, and found an atmosphere more like a convention than a poker tournament. Players were mostly out of their seats, wandering around the room, visiting with friends and family on the rail, and in some cases, curled up against the wall or resting their head on an empty table. I imagine that, once the stress of getting to the bubble and its ensuing euphoria has passed, the adrenaline high wears off, and the reality of the distance to the real goal settles in: if this were a marathon, we wouldn't even be to the half, yet.

My first stop was at Humberto's table, where I was horrified to see that, in front of his empty seat, was not a stack of close to 400K, but one much shorter and closer to 90K. I noticed that there was a huge stack in the three seat (one to his left) and hoped I could see him and find out what went wrong . . . until I realized that I was looking at seat two of table 143, not seat two of table 142.

I laughed at myself, and moved one table deeper into the room, where I saw Humberto's stack, sitting safely at about 375,000. Humberto came walking over, and the look on his face when he walked up to the empty seat at table 143 was absolutely priceless. It only took him a second to realize he'd walked to the wrong table, but before he could leave, the guy who is in that seat came back. He saw Humberto, put two and two together, and said, "Hey, do you want to trade?" There was much rejoicing.

I worked my way deeper into the room, past players who were on their sidekicks, or their cell phones, and down to Joe Hachem's table, against the wall near the back of the room. I was going to ask Joe how he was enjoying his massage, until I realized that he wasn't with a massage therapist, but was actually getting a hug and a bit of nuzzling from his wife. "That's cool," I thought, "He deserves that."

The tournament director instructed players to return to their seats so play could resume. I recorded all of these observations in my new notebook (the one with a Sleestack sticker on the front) and turned around to head out of the room. Right after I passed the center, the tournament director gave the order to shuffle up and deal, and the mood in the room instantly shifted from relaxation to intense focus.

These players have a long way to go, yet, and they all know it. It's going to be a long night.

Aside: The players went on a break just as I was finishing writing this. On my way down the hallway, I bumped into Rob "boilingfish" Berryman and his dad.

"How are you doing?" I asked him.

"I have about 130K," He said.

"You have just about 10K under average," I said, "you're doing great, man."

"What do you think I should do?" He asked.

"Dude," I thought, "I played like a moron and busted before level 2. You don't want my advice on anything."

"You should just keep doing what you've been doing," I said, "because it's really working well for you."

"Okay," he said, "I think I have some respect at my table."

"Use that, man," I said, "but don't forget that you have enough chips to go deep. How are you feeling?"

"I'm really tired." He said. I could see the exhaustion in his body, but there was also a big tell that, as a parent, I recognized from times my own kids have been sick: his pupils were pretty dilated.

"Right after the money bubble, he told me, 'I don't think I can go on, dad,'" His dad told me, "and I told him, 'you got to! you got to keep going!'"

They both smiled, and Rob said, "Yeah, when we got past the twenty thousand mark, I felt a little extra motivation."

"That's entirely understandable," I said.

"Yeah, I think we're making something like three thousand an hour now, but I just want to finish the day and go to bed."

"That's a great plan," I said, "whatever happens, we're all really proud of you."

He looked at the clock on his phone. "Oh! I have to get back in there," he said.

"Just keep doing what you're doing!" I said as he joined the stream of players moving back into the tournament area.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker