2008 World Series: The Departed

Fresh water is always the first thing to go.

It’s easy to predict the downfall of a society, no matter if it’s a perfect Democracy or ragtag anarchy like the World Series. When the water goes, so goes convention, and with convention goes all good sense and reason.

This morning, upon trying to buy my 32-ounce bottle of Aquafina, I found the entire cooler missing from the poker lounge. Where once was enough water to keep a small army hydrated for several days, now sat an empty and rather moldy carpet. Whether relocated or merely looted, it was a signal to me that this society in the Amazon Room is about to fail. Where once there was an orderly progression of Day 1s and 2s, we now sit firmly in Day 3, where today we no longer consider player’s chip power, but rather whether he or she is still alive in a seat.

Looking across a landscape of badly-trod carpet, it’s clear now that more from today will have died than lived. Among death’s number are one-time EPT winner and PokerStars qualifier Brandon Schaefer. At the day’s beginning, he looked like a strong candidate for a deep finish. Three river suckouts later and he was struggling to find a way to avoid telling a bad beat story. He chose the bar, his dazed face no comfort for those of us who have seen too many die already. Now, our friend is gone.

The man who helped make Schaefer, a sort benevolent Dr. Frankenstein, has followed his creation toward the door. EPT creator John Duthie, also a Team PokerStars Player, came in planning for several double ups and turned out to be one of the people who were carted out before the money bubble.


So, too goes longtime serial qualifier and a man playing like half his age, Jim Hamburger. Buoyed by the birth of his sixth grandchild and a pair of new sneakers, Hamburger became yet another casualty and reason for us to believe that nothing good can come of the bubble.

In the far corner of the room, we found hope. Swedish qualifier Ronnie Gustafsson stood above his cards with tears in his eyes. It was joy, pure and unadulterated. His big slick had just help up, giving him 20,000 chips (barely three trips around the table) to fondle as he eyed the bubble. He exhaled, wiped his eyes, and sat back down. For the rest of the table, his death seemed imminent, like the infirm in the time of plague. In Ronnie’s eyes, though, we saw hope mixed with the tears.


Hope springs eternal in the hearts of men with queens, and well it should’ve for Ronnie as he picked up two ladies to fight AQ, all-in pre-flop. He didn’t see the ace coming. He didn’t even see it once it happened. Like the still-open eyes of war casualty, Ronnie stared at the board with a slight smile. Then, light a bright light at the end of a long tunnel, he saw it.

“Oh, God,” he said quietly. His eyes welled, and he disappeared.

These are our departed in the final hours of this crumbling society. Only a few more will die before this practice in masochism is a matter of history.

We pin our dreams now on the new culture that will rise from the ruin. Everyone who survives the pending money bubble (appropriate scheduled for player 666) will have $22,000 in their pocket and a reason to look toward a new life. Everyone else, those lot and forgotten souls, will be forgotten. A cheer will rise, the weak will fall, and everyone will look for their new leader.

For now, though, we can only picture Ronnie Gustafsson as he stood from the table. He opened his mouth in a silent death scream, and poured the remainder of his water bottle into his mouth.

When the water’s gone, so go we.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker