2008 World Series: The outer fringe of the Amazon

Wearing a tracksuit of yellow top and purple trousers that literally only an Italian of distinctive panache could take out of the wardrobe in the morning, Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano is still in the $1,500 No Limit Hold’em despite initial fears of his demise. Comfortable clothes and a cash a week ago, playing just six events this year so far...

“This year I’m taking it easy in Vegas!”

It’s been a light brigade first few levels in the $1,500 Hold’em. 2,718 started in whatever space tournament organisers could find and four hours later over 1,500 have been dispatched. We’re still short of room.

Noah Boeken saw me before I saw him. I’d spotted him earlier during an initial sweep of the vast tournament area – that’s about a ten minute walk. But when I returned he’d gone. Out like many others including Isabelle Mercier and Bill Chen? There was no choice but to start the sweep again, six minutes in I found him.

Plugged into headphones and wearing the familiar uniform of the young poker player –hooded top with elaborate gold decoration (I suspect the more gold the more successful the wearer) he sits on a table of little distinction in the outer reaches of the room. If you ever had a science class at school where the teacher used a golf ball to represent the earth and then walked half way across the sports field to represent the distance to the sun – well that’s about how far Noah is situated form the press gantry.


Noah Boeken

His head is down not in prayer but in the oft seen “iPod scan position”, adopted by many seeking out a tune to put some fire into their game, or to take some fire out. Noah’s chips are about a shade under the average which, as the end of level four approaches, is somewhere close to 7k.

A new player arrives in the shape of Greg Mueller carrying two racks of chips. He also arrives with a massage team – one to work the muscles in his back, the other to do the paperwork. Play goes on, Noah passing a few hands, losing one and winning one. About average – the same as his World Series...

“I started alright; I won in the $1,500 shoot-out and was doing well. Then I went into the pits. I had ace-queen on a queen high board – he had kings when we were five handed. If I’d won that I’d have made the final table for sure. Then in the $5,000 No-Limit I came 29th.”

And the World Series in general?

“It’s been a frustrating month. It gets to be more of the same, especially these little events!”

Any tactical changes to deal with the slaughter?

“I try to change a little. I try to play tight because there’s a lot of weaker players. But they do these crazy things! Actually I won my first coin flip today – ace-queen against jacks. So I got a bit of luck. But that’s all you need... still there’s the main event, win that and...”

Win that and who cares about everything else?