WSOP Main Event: Max Shapiro on the bubble

by Max Shapiro

Some time back, I wrote one of my routinely hilarious columns for Card Player magazine called "Don't Break the Bubble." In it, I pointed out that "I finished on the bubble" is one of poker's most lugubrious expressions, ranking with "I got my aces cracked," and "They moved me from the button into the big blind." I noted that as a tournament gets close to the money, one player will often suggest that cash be taken off the top to pay the player who would otherwise end up a frustrating one out of the money. This touching, compassionate gesture, I noted, is usually made by the player with the lowest stack, or by someone who staked him.

All players still left have to agree, and I explained how anyone casting a veto (almost invariably a big chip leader) runs the risk of being booed, hissed, and maybe even lynched. Anyway, I went on to question what paying the bubble boy accomplishes. If a tournament pays 27 spots, for example, and number 28 now gets to cash out, this makes a player finishing 29th the bubble finisher. Why not pay him off too, and number 30, and then just go down the line, pay everybody, and that way all the entrants will get their money back and be happy.

I concluded by suggesting:: "On the contrary, let's help the bubble boy celebrate and commemorate his tragic finish. Give him a t-shirt reading, 'I Finished on the Bubble at the (name of tournament).' Now he can parade around and advertise his misfortune to the world without having to say a word. Or, if he wants to draw even more attention, give him one of those bubble wands and a jar of soap water so he can stroll through the tournament room blowing bubbles while everybody cheers."
Guess what? I just got an email from Lou Hernandez, who is with Miller Light's PR agency, Dig Communications, complimenting me on my "great" story (he got that right), and informing me that "The "Bubble Boy" at the WSOP this year will be selected in a different way, a single table event on Saturday. The press release read in part: Milwaukee's Best Light announced today it will host the World Series of Poker Main Event's first "Bubble playoff, a single-table poker event for the
final nine players eliminated out of the money in this year's Main Event.

On Saturday, Aug. 5, at 1:30 p.m., these nine players will be given a second chance at a payday, this time in the form of a seat at the 2007 WSOP Main Event, valued at $10,000, and a year's supply of Milwaukee's Best Light beer. "We recognize how hard it is to finish in the money at the Main Event," said Chad Dern, brand manager, Milwaukee's Best Light. "To us, players who fell just short are still champions, and we'd like to give them another shot by letting them play in the Milwaukee's Best Light Bubble Playoff for a seat at next year's event.

"Milwaukee's Best Light, which recently became the presenting sponsor of the
World Series of Poker, expects the Bubble Playoff to become a yearly event.
"Milwaukee's Best Light is not only a great brand partner, but they also
have a tremendous understanding of today's poker player," said Ty Stewart,
director of sponsorship and licensing at the World Series of Poker. "Through the
Bubble Playoff, Milwaukee's Best Light is having a positive impact on both
the players and the tournament."

The "Bubble" players will be determined Friday evening, when the field is
expected to be pared down to its final 10." Although Hernandez invited me to the event and said my t-shirt was "really a great idea," the press release didn't indicate if my Card Player column was the inspiration for the Bubble Playoff. No matter; I'll take credit for it.

Wow! Just think. Now, instead of players fighting to avoid being the bubble,
they'll maneuver to finish just out of the money. Every poker book will have
to be re-written. You know: "Super System 3; How to End Up on the Bubble,"
by Doyle Brunson. Players will be moving in with 7-2 and complaining about
their bad beat when they flop trip deuces.

The press release made no mention of a Bubble bracelet. But instead of a bracelet, why not design a one-of-a-kind gold Bubble pendant to be worn around the neck? After all, the WSOP will be handing out about 40 bracelets. Like giving out candy. But there will be only one Bubble winner. It might pay about $10 million less than the championship event winner takes home, but it's still unique.

I'm a little worried about the year's supply of beer they're throwing in,
though. If Men the Master ever becomes a Bubble Boy, Milwaukee's Best Light
will go bankrupt.

Anyway, go for broke and go for the Bubble, ladies and gentlemen. (And don't
forget to insist on your t-shirt as well.)

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker