WSOP Main Event: Sweatin' to the Aussie

by Wil Wheaton

Pauly and I left the media room and headed out toward the tournament floor. We got separated in a huge crush of spectators, and planned to meet "over there" when we worked our way through.

It was the last time I saw him for the next hour. That happens frequently around here.

The Amazon room had been cleared out, in advance of a player's break, so the walkways were clear, the room was quiet, and the only people up and walking around were a few media and bustouts. The media were easily identified by our badges, the bustouts were easily identified by their slumped shoulders or furious gait as they walked toward the door.

The big story today, of course, is Joe Hachem, and though Ali has been doing an outstanding job covering him, I made my way up to the featured table to watch.

Hey, if you had a chance to sit ten feet from a world champion as he begins defending his title, wouldn't you take it?

The featured table is also the final table, so there are aluminum bleachers and plasma screen televisions creating a sort of arena around it, and everyone wants to have a seat.

I walked up to the rail -- which is actually a velvet rope -- and contemplated standing outside and watching from afar, or unhooking it and taking a seat, as Andrew Black talked with Joe about . . . well, what final tablers from last year's Main Event talk about while one of them is playing, I guess. While I waited, a man came up to me and said, in a thick Australian accent, "How's he doing?"

I knew who he was, and told him that I only knew what I'd read in Ali's post earlier today: Joe busted a guy and took about 5,000 off of him, and we figured he had about sixteen or seventeen thousand chips.

He shook my hand and said, "Joe's my mate from back home, and I've been watching him with Tony [Joe's brother] and Billy [Joe's cousin], but they kicked us all out -- even his brother! So I snuck back in to see what I could see."

Just then, Andrew Black walked away, and I saw Joe get up from the table to talk with Courtney, a PokerStars representative. "I'll see what I can find out right now," I said.

An armed guard stood next to the velvet rope, presumably to defend against the wily spectator who figures out how to defeat its otherwise impregnable defenses. When I unhooked the rail, his lightning-quick reflexes sprung into action, as he tossed a bored glance at me. I held up my press badge, thought about quoting the classic Beavis and Butthead line, "Screw you, asswipe, we've got a pass," but I thought better of it. I am a PokerStars representative, after all.

"Excuse me," I said, quietly. When the Amazon room isn't filled with spectators, it has this Cathedral-like quality, and I involuntarily suppressed my inner Beavis and lowered my voice. (Actually, that's probably a good thing to keep in mind for future events, poker-related or not.)

I walked over to Joe and Courtney, and when he saw me, he smiled and said, "Hey, Wil! Where've you been, mate? I haven't seen you the entire World Series!"

"I've been hiding out in the media room for the last week or so," I said, "and before that you were playing in some poker tournament or something."

He laughed.

"Hey," I said, "How's your table?"

The dealer began to shuffle.

"There's one guy here who's tough, but the rest of the players are pretty weak. They're all nice people, but they're just a little weak." He smiled again and added, "I'm staying in line, of course."

"Good luck," I said. Joe was back in his seat in time to play his hand.

I sat on the bleachers with Mad and Ali for a bit, but nothing much happened. It was still the early levels, of course, so smart players -- like Joe -- are staying in line. Plenty of players must have been falling in love with top pair, though, as the only sound that frequently broke the constant din of shuffling chips was the cry of "seat open!" every few minutes.

Mad and Ali went to check on some other players, and asked me if I'd hold down the featured table until they got back.

"Sure," I said, and secretly hoped that I'd get to watch Joe bust another player . . . but the action stayed the same, with a raise usually ending the hand.

Five minutes before the break was scheduled to start, Joe got up from the table and headed out of the room. The other players visibly relaxed when he walked away. Can you blame them?

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker