WSOP Main Event: Laying in wait, the praying Mathis

wsop2009_thn.gifPlayers have recently returned from their dinner break and made their way back to their tables in the Amazon Room. As previously mentioned, the Brasilia Room is now empty, likewise the Miranda, and today's field is consolidated within the same four walls.

Although it is another three days at least until we see all the remaining players in one place -- the day 2b field is significantly bigger -- this tournament now feels as though it has some cohesion. Strolling around the room and spotting huge towers of orange chips means that the player sitting behind them is very likely to be at or near the chip lead. We know that there aren't similar towers hidden away in the furthest flung districts of the Henderson, NV, Room, or the Utah Room for that matter. Players are now able to glance left, right, back, or forwards and gauge their standing with some accuracy.

One player who would need to look a long way away for a serious challenger at this stage is the PokerStars qualifier Jeffrey Mathis, who has more than 170,000 in chips and is very close to the overall tournament chip lead.

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Jeffrey Mathis

As he took his seat at the end of the dinner break, he modestly described his day so far, insisting that he "must chalk it up to luck". Although there must have been an element of that -- he found aces against ace-king on a king high board (all in, double up) and then successfully faded another two outs when he found kings against king-queen on a queen high board (all in, double up again) -- you really don't get to such a position through fortune alone.

Indeed, pressing Mathis a little further for details revealed that on day 1a he survived an extremely tough table to emerge with his overnight stack of around 34,000. When he arrived for his first-ever appearance at the World Series, he found himself sitting on the same table as the Team PokerStars Pros Greg Raymer and Alex Kravchenko, as well as Billy "The Croc" Argyros. "It was a blast," Mathis said of the massively talkative bunch. "But I was just happy to end the day with anything more than my starting stack."

While Raymer and Kravchenko also survived and are battling still*, neither has yet made the impression of this 22-year-old. "Check his ID!" teased one near-tablemate when Mathis revealed his age. "We could use that dead 160K!"

Mathis gave a polite retort, before filling in a few more biographical details. Having grown up in Atlanta, GA, he is currently a classics student at the University of Florida in Gainsville, studying predominantly Latin. After numerous frustrating attempts to qualify via $33 and $120 satellites on PokerStars, time and again bubbling the WSOP package-winning positions, but picking up some cash, he finally just bought straight in to a $1,000 qualifier with two seats on offer, and won one of those.

Proving that both persistence and patience can pay dividends, Mathis is well set to make a strong run through this field.

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*ELIMINATIONS OF THE HOUR

John Duthie just busted. Time of departure: 1 hour 42 minutes and 51 seconds left in level eight. His exit followed that of Alex Kravchenko, also out as play restarted after the break.

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ARE YOU SURE YOU'RE OLD ENOUGH TO BE IN HERE? OF THE HOUR

The two evidently under 12-year-old girls sliding down the Rio corridors in their sneakers before approaching poker players (and at least one reporter) and tapping them on the arm, gleefully proclaiming: "Shock!" and issuing an almighty static shock to their unsuspecting victims.

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FORMER SIGHTS MISSING FROM THE 2009 WORLD SERIES OF THE HOUR

Rolls of gaffer tape.
(Used between 2005-07 to conceal ".com" appendages to T-shirt and baseball cap slogans advertising online poker sites.)

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JOE GIRON'S PHOTO HOUR

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Vanessa Rousso signs copies of her Sports Illustrated photograph

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POKERSTARS QUALIFIER ON THE BUS OF THE HOUR I

John Ott:


Watch WSOP 2009: John Ott - an online qualifier on PokerStars.tv

POKERSTARS QUALIFIER ON THE BUS OF THE HOUR II

Rohan Bernett:


Watch WSOP 2009: Rohan Bernett an online qualifier on PokerStars.tv