2008 World Series: Crawling forward in the $50,000 HORSE

The name of this tournament -- $50,000 HORSE -- is something like a reporter's dream. Equine puns abound on media row: saddle up, giddy up, go.

But if we think about it for a moment, the horse-race analogy is not especially appropriate. Far from being a grunting, thunderous sprint to the finish line from scarcely restrained beasts, the structure and the nature of this tournament makes it more akin to a slow race across a desert between heavily-armoured tanks. Occasionally one of them will veer sideways and bump into their neighbour, chipping the paintwork and edging ahead, and eventually the landscape will be strewn with blazing shells, bent and busted and buckled. Only one will trundle on.

At the end of today, day two of what is scheduled to be a five-day event, there will probably be about 50 metallic carcasses laid to waste across the desert of the Amazon Ballroom. Only eight perished on day one, but the heat is greater today and some are already battle-weary from yesterday's travails. In such testing circumstances, being part of a team is undoubtedly a good policy, and it certainly worked for Team PokerStars Pro. Of the eight members that started yesterday -- Isabelle Mercier, Barry Greenstein, Daniel Negreanu, Greg Raymer, Dario Minieri, Katja Thater, Chad Brown and Bill Chen -- all eight return today, all with chips.

The strongest at this point is the latter of those, Bill Chen, who finished the opening day with 182,500, an 82.5 percent profit on his opening stack. Known for the mathematical precision that earned him two bracelets in 2006 and underpins his highly-regarded poker book "The Mathematics of Poker", Chen is something of a walking calculator, knowing just about all there is to know about the economics and the value aspects of the game.


Today, for instance, the tournament director had given the returning players a two-minute and then a one-minute warning to take their seats before play would start without them. With about 30 seconds to go, Chen arrived, ripped open his chip bag, and stacked just in time for the first hand. Why get here any earlier?

"It was pretty good," he told me, referring to yesterday's play. "There was a lot of action on our table. I played a lot of pots, won most of them, lost a few of them. I'm pretty happy."

It sounds like a winning formula.

"There's not much tournament strategy at play yet," he went on. "So this is just like a ring game. I'm pretty happy in all the variants. I think I have a World Series cash in pretty much all of them, so I don't mind what we play.

Understated and focused; calculating yet innovative. Chen is well-equipped to take a long run at this one. Or a gallop.