WSOP Main Event: The ring

wsop2009_thn.gifFrom the Roman Colosseum, to the old Wild West rodeos, through PT Barnum's circuses and now poker. When it's time for a show, you need a circular arena, a ring, in which to pitch competitor against competitor.

In the Amazon Room today, the tournament officials have got their gladiatorial battlefield. The six outlying tables have been arranged in a tight circle, ringed by two layers of spectators. At the back are the railbirds -- friends, family or just interested observers -- catching a glimpse of the action months before they see it on ESPN. Closer in are the media, herded into something like a moat, or a pit, where it's sometimes possible to catch sight of the colour of a card or the size of a bet, but only if none of the 612 cameramen and TV producers are in the way.

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The Amazon Room, today


This is day seven of the World Series Main Event. Interest has ramped up close to its maximum, but action and access is at its lowest point. Bets now are all huge and flops are few and far between. There's no floating with small suited connectors and peeling off another card for half a percent of your stack. And even if there was, we probably couldn't see it, and neither will we be told. Having previously mingled freely among reporters and spectators, players are now celebrities and have been taken away from us all.

It was ever thus. This is getting very serious indeed. The worst a player can do from this point forward is to walk away with more than $100,000. The best they can do today is to be in the 27 remaining tomorrow, by which point their minimum payday will be more than $350,000.

The eliminations so far have been frequent and regular. Prahlad Friedman busted on the very first hand -- ace-king versus king-queen -- and the PokerStars qualifiers George Saca and Mark Ader have also perished. Ader doubled up James Akenhead, another qualifier, on the feature table, when Akenhead's pocket nines flopped a set to give his opponent's ace-king little chance of catching up. Ader was done soon after.

But Dennis Phillips is still alive, and we will follow him closely. My colleague Brad Willis has also found a PokerStars player from his home state of North Carolina, and is catching up with Nick Maimone as I type, preparing to bring you all the information about him very soon. Stay tuned.

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HAND OF THE HOUR

Crowd favorite Joe Sebok came in short and needed an early double. His first real hand, jacks, went down to PokerStars player Nick Maimone's ace-ten. A few minutes later, it was Sebok's button-push with ace-nine to Maimone's ace-queen. Sebok got no help and is out. Maimone, meanwhile, is among the chip leaders.

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SNACK OF THE HOUR

Half-eaten banana sticking out of the portabrace pack on an ESPN sound engineer's belt.

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OUT OF CONTEXT QUOTE OF THE HOUR I

"Here for 18 hours baby."

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OUT OF CONTEXT QUOTE OF THE HOUR II

"This isn't Wimbledon, you know." -- Loud railbird

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DEFECTION OF THE HOUR

One of Dennis Phillip's red cap clones getting a picture taken with Barry Greenstein.

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ACCESSORY OF THE HOUR

The bullhorn, yet to be set off, which someone has brought into the Amazon Room.

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STATISTIC OF THE HOUR

Number of photographs posed by Barry Greenstein in his attempt to walk out of the Amazon Room: 4

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JOE GIRON'S PHOTO HOUR

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Joe Sebok and his father, Barry Greenstein