WSOP Main Event: Lights, Bryan Kerr, action...

wsop2009_thn.gifThere's a long-standing belief among cynical poker observers that any player seated at their table longer than about 15 minutes before play starts is unlikely to be the tournament winner. The kind of anxiety and anticipation that sends a player to their seat so early usually indicates a newbie to the live tournament scene, and the more seasoned pros might fancy their chances of feasting on the fresh prey.

For the PokerStars qualifier Bryan Kerr, this kind of faux pas was not even an option. When he arrived to the Amazon Room today -- comfortably in the middle of the pack, incidentally -- he thought he heard his table number being called over the loudspeaker, but figured he had misheard. So he went off in search of table Orange 78 anyway, only to find it completely empty on his arrival. Instead of nine stacks of chips, a pack of cards and a dealer, there was a sheet of A4 paper with some words printed on it: "PLEASE REPORT TO THE ESPN FEATURE TABLE".

"I was kinda hoping to be on TV," Kerr said happily a few minutes later, minutes during which he had trudged from one corner of the Amazon Ballroom all the way to the far opposite one, had been introduced to the ESPN television crew, had been wired up with a radio mic, had filled out a release form and questionnaire providing biographical details for a television commentary team, and had prepared for his time under the studio lights. He has also met Mike "The Mouth" Matusow, seated two seats to his right, with whom he would do battle for the coming day.

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Bryan Kerr

Kerr, from Barrington, Illinois, is playing in his first World Series, so this is truly a baptism of fire. He qualified on PokerStars last year, but the Main Event came two weeks before his 21st birthday, meaning he had to reinvest the satellite funds in honing his game throughout the intervening 11 months in preparation for his shot at the title this time around. Now, at two weeks shy of his 22nd birthday, he has been able to take his place at the biggest game in town.

The opening exchanges have been fun. "I thought I might be nervous, but I actually really like it a lot," said Kerr on his return from the dinner break. He had marshaled his starting stack of 30,000 up to about 47,000 by the interval, with no major skirmishes and no major frights. "I play mainly cash games online and playing cash is good practice for deep stack tournaments."

Kerr usually plays eight to ten tables at a time online, but hasn't missed the breakneck action. Instead he said he's been focusing on solid tournament strategy here, switching gears at the optimum moments, picking the times to stay tight and then seizing on the opportunities to steal. And as for Matusow: "He's been great," Kerr said. "I've never met him before but he seems like the nicest guy. He's signed a copy of his new book for all of us."

Perhaps Kerr is busy writing himself into the sequel.

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On a board of 2♦K♠9♠ the attention is on Eric Seidel. By attention we mean the TV boom and their accompanying cameras. There's also the rail, about three thick and three feet away. Seidel had bet 7,500 but Kenneth Hicks in seat nine had bumped it up by moving all in, 16,675 more.

Seidel sucked in some air, reconfirmed the count, smiled and said he'd call, although that process took several minutes. Hicks turned over 2♠2♣ while Seidel showed T♠J♠. The 8♣ turn did nothing but the 3♠ on the river had everyone making that "ahhh, hiss" noise - the one you make when you bang your toe. Seidel up to 72,000.

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Introducing the PokerStars qualifier Jonathan Lewis:

Watch WSOP 2009: Jonathan Lewis an online qualifier on