2008 World Series: Looking to go two better...

So we're underway - several hundred people, just one flight of four to play their 'day 1' - in the outer reaches of the Rio hotel.

This is all in stark contrast to the landscape flying into Las Vegas. Whether from Europe or the States; over Canada's lakes, the flat landscapes of the Dakotas and the deserts of Utah and Nevada; for thousands of square miles you fly over some of the least populated places on the planet.

Then you get to Las Vegas and that all changes. Then you get to the Amazon Room and it changes some more. Here, right now, I'd suspect there are enough people standing per square yard to make this the most populated place on the planet.

That makes trying to find one person in these crowds a mighty task...

"How are you?"

Okay, it was easier than I expected.

This was Team PokerStars Pro Raymond Rahme. It's unusual in a poker tournament to engage in these types of pleasantries. Normally your average poker player adopts a professional degree of tunnel vision; ignoring the outside world in favour of confining the world to their seat, their cards, their chips and the faces of the people at their table. But Raymond never really signed on to that club. He's always come across as just a guy who plays cards, and has done all his life. And he plays them well.

IJG_9229.jpg

To anyone who remembers the events that took place here twelve months ago Raymond's record should stand out in much the same ways as his shock of white hair does from the other side of the Amazon Room. Last year he cashed third in the World Series main event, winning a colossal sum of over $3 million, and since then has cashed around the world from Las Vegas to Australia; from Italy to Monte Carlo.

As anyone who has seen or played against Raymond will verify, he's not one to fit into any of the popular moulds of player gracing the game today. No headphones or sunglasses, no attitude or ego. Instead Raymond brings his reading glasses and lighter, his two tournament essentials. Did I mention he's also the All Africa champion?

One player who might not make any such mistake is Richard Fohrenbach, the former PCA final tablist and perpetual PokerStars qualifier is attuned to who's good and who's bad at this level of play, having travelled all over the world to get his poker wings. But as is standard in these early stages the others at the table are a collection of hopefuls that no one can say for sure will remain at the end of the day.

But we're here for the duration, a long day of hope for some, disappointment for others. Already the telltale signs of eliminations - slow walking players on their way from tables, looking dejected and texting someone - have been spotted heading for all doors.

As one tournament official was overheard saying, as one player was thumped in a hand in the cruellest way...

"That's what keeps 'em coming back... those one-outers on the river."

***

Not yet afflicted by one-outers is PokerStars qualifier Shane Wright, who spoke earlier to our video blog team. He got here through the WSOP Steps qualifiers on PokerStars.


Watch WSOP 08: Shane Wright Online Qualifier on PokerStars.tv