WSOP Main Event: You go your way, I'll go mine
by Howard Swains
Approximately nine of every ten articles written about poker in the mainstream press includes the word "boom". I know, because I am responsible for a number of them myself and am familiar with the tortuous struggle to find sufficiently incendiary word to explain what's gone on in the past five years. "Explosion", "eruption" and "boom". That's about it.
The evidence is easier to come by - and is right outside the door, right now. Not only are more than 8,000 players anxious to part with $10,000 to play a game of cards, but there is a poker exhibition at the Rio where there is enough free crap on offer from heavily branded dollies to fill the Grand Canyon. Twice.
However, while these are the obvious markers that bear witness to this, erm, boom, everyone who played the game during the pre-Moneymaker era has their own stories to tell from back in the day when a full house meant no more than simply folding out the sofa-bed in the spare room.
For me, I realised something was up when I first began hearing tales of success on the wider poker scene of players I had not only seen in the flesh but actually crossed swords with around the low-stakes tables. I usually lost (that much is given), but I have vivid memories of hearing that the chancers who frequented the same pub basements or South London kitchens as myself were now fully accepted as "poker players".
All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I used to play poker in small clubs in London with Dan Samson, David Flusfeder and Akshay Kumar, all of whom are now mixing it in the World Series of Poker, having qualified on PokerStars. We heard all about Akshay yesterday, but today we have both Dan and David, lost somewhere in the melee that is the day one dinner break; the usual ambling railbirds tripping over a swarm of players desperate to reach the buffet queue.
David spent the first few hours sitting to the right of John Gale, whose freshly acquired WSOP bracelet is dazzling from his left wrist. "You know, he also won the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in 2005," I told David. "Yes. Thank you. I get the point," he replied. But something Gale hasn't got that David has is the Avery Cardoza trophy, won at a hard-fought tournament in London a couple of years ago - and never given back. It now sits proudly in the Flusfeder bathroom as a defiant challenge to anyone brave enough to join his home game and take a leak.
Samson is equally tough. Known as "The Muscle", he has had 16 cashes in major tournaments over the past three years, all worthy of note on the major poker databases. He has made Luton, north London, his tournament venue of choice, but made the money in the Caribbean this year and has plenty of pedigree to go deep here.
Chip counts and progress reports will be here when we know them, brought to you by the person who sat around those tables once but was forced to admit: "I make more money writing about poker than playing it." "Wow, you must be a really bad player," came the retort.
They're not wrong.