WSOP Main Event: Fossilman Does His Best

Don't miss: Greg Raymer--Large Field Guru by Dr Pauly and Raymer Plays Like a Champion.

by Wil Wheaton

The tournament director announced that this was the last hand before the break, just as action came to Greg, who was once again on the button.

Greg looked at his cards, raised, and struck that now-familiar pose. It was folded to the big blind in seat two, who thought for a moment, and called.

Phil Gordon was the first player to talk to me about the "artificial bubbles" in tournaments. These are moments that come up just before breaks, when players are anxious to get out of their seats and grab a snack, go to the bathroom, or eat some Keno crayons. Good players know that they can steal on these artificial bubbles, so they're likely to make moves from late position with a very wide range of cards. I know that Greg is a brilliant competitor, and I know that, even though his stack is relatively short, he'll make this move because it's usually the correct thing to do.

When the flop came out T-7-2 rainbow, the first thing I thought was, "Hammer!" The second thing I thought was, "Oh man, I hope Greg has a hand."

The big blind checked, and Greg thought for a moment. He counted out a bunch of pink chips, set them to the side of his stack, and looked at the other guy. Another moment passed, and Greg put a little over 7000 into the pot of almost 8000.

The other guy counted out a call, then picked up his hands and put them over his mouth. Everything about his body language said to me that he had some sort of hand, but he wasn't really crazy about it. He looked like he was trying to determine if Greg was putting a move on him, and my heart began to pound in my chest as if I was in the hand myself.

He stayed in the tank for close to two minutes, and eventually mucked his cards. Greg smiled and flipped up two red kings.

All the other players at the table -- who had stayed around to watch this hand play out while the rest of the room filed out for their break -- came over to Greg, and lined up to shake his hand.

"It's a real pleasure to play with you, sir," one of them said.

"What an honor," said another.

Greg talked to them all, and then helped the guy in the 8 seat count out all his green chips (they were racing off the greens at the end of this level). The guy seemed a little unsure, so Greg counted them all out for him and said, "You have fourteen thousand here. Make sure that's what they give you when you come back from the break." The guy thanked him, and Greg walked over to me.

"How are you feeling today?" I said.

"I'm tired," he said. "That last hand was the first hand I've had all day that really played itself. Everything else has involved a lot of decision-making and extra focus."

We made it about ten feet before he was stopped for a picture and an autograph, and then another picture.

"I had a tough hand where I flopped top pair with a king, checked to give the other guy a free card and induce a bluff on the turn, and he spiked an ace with ace queen. That took about five thousand out of my stack." He said. "It's been a really tough day."

The hallway was filled with fans, and the only thing that took him away from them was the voice of his wife calling out, "Greg!" over the white noise.

He walked over to her, and they talked for a few minutes. I stayed back and left them alone, but when Greg walked down the hallway, I talked with Cheryl for a minute.

"It's been so much harder for him this year," she said. "The year he won, and last year, the cards were really coming his way, but this year he's really had to work hard to get chips."

"That's the difference between him and ninety percent of that room," I said, "Greg doesn't necessarily need cards to win."

"I hope you're right," she said. We talked for a few more minutes, until Greg came back near the end of his break. He posed for more pictures and signed more autographs, and I told him that everyone in blogland was cheering for him to win.

"I bet they'd be happier if I had one hundred twenty-seven, instead of just twenty-seven," he said with a smile.

"Greg," I said, "you have to give the people what they want!"

"I'll do my best," he said, as he headed back into the tournament area.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker