WSOP Main Event: In the far far reaches of the Rio


Day two. No free jerky now. This is serious. Close to 3,000 players meaning every last table, every last inch of space, every dealer pulled out of retirement, is in the employ of the main event.

The sign outside the Rio pool reads "No Lifeguard on duty. No Diving." This afternoon that pool, complete with waterfalls and towels, is no more than a couple of first downs away from the dozen or so tables currently packed full of main event players in an area designated "Buzio's", after the seafood restaurant nearby. There are few benefits to this exposed playing area that straddles the main route from the casino to the Amazon Room, so the opportunity to run towards the pool and dive headlong into the deep end after a last fatal shortage of luck, seemed the only ready perk. But a lifeguard shortage put end to that.

But it's a seat, and that means you're still in contention, which on day 2b is good enough. Among the most notable players here is Team PokerStars Germany's Ben Kang, who becomes even more noticeable when he stands up. The six-foot-plus ShootingStar sits at a table of the anonymous kind ready to start the day with a stack measuring 91,850 which should prove sturdy to last until that coveted table change.

Main Event_Day 1D_IJG_5781_IMPDI.jpg
Benjamin Kang - photo taken on day 1d

Like the kids table at Christmas, put together from old garden furniture, a chair from the attic and a makeshift bench created from garage boxes lugged inside by Dad, players seated in the Rio card room today are the forgotten bunch, set away from where the main action is and told not to get ketchup on their shirts. Kids may be seen and not heard but these guys aren't even seen. Not unless you take a ten minute walk (time doesn't include rests) back up the Rio corridors, past Buzios, past the Sports book and into the far corner of the casino.

These players truly are the frontiersmen, cast out to find new World Series territory and plant the Main Event flag armed with nothing more than the chips they have with them from day one. Isolated and alone they've been left to fend for themselves. But what doesn't eliminate them only makes them stronger.

There are benefits of course. You're guaranteed front place in the buffet queue and a "get me out of here" taxi is just around the corner, as is, as one player quipped, a taxi back to the Amazon Room. It's by no means a lawless frontier, but three feet away, across the temporary barricade, is a place you can smoke.

This is where Team PokerStars Pro Noah Boeken starts his day, ready for a run on day three with 94,175. There's only half a rail, no clock, a permanent tingle-ding-aling noise from the one cent Diamond Supreme slot machines, and a few people on the rail waiting for a cash table to open.

Main Event_Day 1D_IJG_5767_IMPDI.jpg
Noah Boeken on day 1d - he wears the same hoodie today though

Boeken took the first pot uncontested when play finally began and a couple more before I had to call time and set off back to the Amazon Room before it got dark.

* * * * *


"I'm going to get blinded down. Every hand takes 15 minutes." --Maria Mayrinck on a very slow secondary ESPN feature table.

* * * * *


Kids seem to be getting sponsorship earlier and earlier. Spotted in the hallways of the Rio--a very pregnant woman with an online poker patch firmly affixed to her baby bump.

* * * * *


"It will be one of the largest green-chip colour-ups in history!" -- Tournament director Jack Effel in his introductory speech to day 2b.

* * * * *


"I was all in on the flop, drawing dead. As usual."

* * * * *


Despite vulturing* Vanessa Rousso and Victor Ramdin for the first two orbits, there was no carcass to pick over. Rousso doubled up with tens against eights on the third hand, and Ramdin ground his short stack up to about 15,000, before losing a big chunk on the following hand. The player in the cut off opened to 1,500, Ramdin reraised to 4,650 on the button. Call. The flop came 3♣8♣A♥ which both players checked. The turn was 5♥ and after his opponent checked, Ramdin bet 4,200. Call. The river was 2♦ and Ramdin's opponent tossed in four orange 5,000 chips, asking Ramdin to call all in. Ramdin declined after a long dwell and was left with about 5,000. (Note: until that last hand, this segment was due to be called "SHORT-STACK MANAGEMENT MASTERCLASS OF THE HOUR"

* * * * *


vulture (vb) -- practice adopted by poker reporters of standing beside short-stacked players in the hope that their elimination generates copy for blogs. (Example usage: "I vultured him for eight hands and he never once got his chips in.")

* * * * *


The German Team Pro Sebastian Ruthenberg is no more. Isabelle Mercier joins him on the rail, her pocket jacks beaten by kings.

* * * * *


Main Event_Day 2B_IJG_6200_IMPDI.jpg

Dealer Deb Stillman un-bags Victor Ramdin's chips at the start of play