WSOP Diary Day 34: He ain't heavy... Team Pro's band of brothers arrive
Back in January at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas, a young player approached media row and said: "I've busted. I know I have to tell you."
He was wearing a Team PokerStars Pro patch on his shirt, beside a small Belgian flag. The reporters thanked him, heard the details of his elimination, and offered their condolences. Certainly one of the major downsides to life in the media spotlight is the necessity to report on your own demise, and as a reporter, it's often difficult to know what to say to players when they are fresh from the slaughter.
Something you really don't want to have to say - and something that is probably even harder to hear - is the next question that came from a few of us: "I'm sorry, but what is your name?"
It's not that we didn't know his face. We did. And it's not that we didn't know the main part of his name. We knew that too. It's just that even with that information, we were still facing a coin flip.
Ever since Team PokerStars Pro hired the identical De Meulder twins as the Team's Belgian representatives, our job has become one notch more difficult.
Both Matthias and Christophe de Meulder are great poker players. They are both young and good looking and as friendly as you could possibly want. They are former child television stars, having hosted a celebrity interview show from the age of 10, and now they both play poker as a sideline to their study at the University of Antwerp. They are perfect ambassadors for poker in Belgium - but damn, do they look alike. Without reference to photographs or asking them outright, it's often impossible to know which is which.
One day, one of them might be wearing glasses and the other not. Or one might be wearing a hoodie and the other not. But I remember at Snowfest on the EPT they teased the media coordinator, Mad Harper, that they wouldn't necessarily stick with these identifying motifs; they might mix it up.
The De Meulders arrived in Vegas towards the end of last week, and both played the $1,500 no limit hold 'em event starting on Sunday. Our photographer went off to snap them and came back with one picture. Learning that Christophe had made it into day two with a playable stack, I included the picture and a little blurb about him in yesterday's diary. Problem: the picture was of Matthias (although I didn't notice until later in the day.)
Matthias, who was the first of the twins to take up poker, had been eliminated some time after the picture was taken, which meant that on day two, only Christophe was still in the field. Off the photographer went to get Christophe so we now have a reference point.
Christophe managed to ease into the money in the tournament before losing a critical race with pocket eights against ace-ten in a 700,000 pot. Only three players returning to play out the final four tables have more than that now, so that pot could have sent Christophe in search of his first bracelet.
And that's probably what we all need. If one De Meulder wins a bracelet, we'd always be able to identify him. (Until the other brother wins one, of course. Damn. That won't work either.)
The De Meulders weren't the only brothers appearing at the World Series yesterday. Although Joe Hachem has been in town right from the start this year, his brother Tony, also a member of Team PokerStars Pro Australia, only arrived recently and took to the felt for yesterday's $3,000 triple chance tournament. Joe played too.
The Hachems don't look quite as alike as the De Meulders, but there's something clearly fraternal about their manner, with each a past master at extracting information through their table talk. Yesterday, Tony found himself on a short stack pretty early, but managed to ride it past midnight after finding the right spots to shove and the right to fold.
He quadrupled up at one point when his A♦6♥ rivered a straight, but but he only had 900 chips to start with, and couldn't get anything more going and bust before the close of play.
At least he won't have to take any trash talk from his brother. Joe Hachem also couldn't make it through day one of the triple chance, but will likely be back in the Amazon or Pavilion Rooms today for the $25,000 six max shootout that gets under way.
AROUND THE (OTHER) TABLES
A couple of days ago, the Team PokerStars Pro Gavin Griffin spent some time talking to PokerStars Blog describing his World Series so far as an "absolute disaster". He had played about 17 events and only made day two on two occasions. It wasn't quite the performances we expect from poker's first Triple Crown winner.
The very good news from the Rio yesterday was Griffin's apparent return to form. He was also involved in the $3,000 triple chance hold 'em event and at the end of the day bagged up 134,400, which is fourth overall from the 189 remaining. The bubble will burst sometime today - 90 players from the starting field of 965 will be paid - and Griffin will be hoping to press on into the very deep stages.
Julien Brecard, of France, is also fighting still in that event. He has 42,000 and is in the centre of the pack.
It was also a good day yesterday for another pair of Team Pro thoroughbreds who haven't yet dazzled as they would have liked at the World Series. Jason Mercier, who won a bracelet last year, wins so many tournaments that it's nothing short of baffling that he hasn't yet been on a final table during this renewal.
Perhaps that will change this week. Mercier is 10th out of the remaining 31 players in the $5,000 pot limit Omaha event, which will play down to a winner today. Mercier was all in at one point, with Q♣Q♠6♠3♣ against two other players. And although he rivered trip threes, all he picked up was the side pot, worth 82,000. Still, it was enough to set him up for the day and put him on the road to his third cash of the Series.
To get to the summit, however, Mercier will have to beat his Team Pro colleague Jose "Nacho" Barbero, who is third in the overall standings. Barbero gives Mercier a run for his money as the "form" player in world poker, having won back-to-back LAPT events this season. He has one 12th placed finish in this year's World Series, but with a massive stack in front of him, Nacho is irresistible. Today will be fascinating to see those two giants go head to head.
The latest $1,500 tournament played down to its final table yesterday, and along the way there were three Team PokerStars casualties - in the money, but out before the last nine convened. We have heard about Christophe de Meulder, but George Lind (166th - $3,433) and JP Kelly (208th - $3,089) also troubled the cashiers.
TEAM POKERSTARS PROBE
In an occasional series, we (gently) quiz a Team Pro on their World Series. It's really just an excuse to use the headline Team PokerStars Probe. Today: Martin Hrubý.
Name: Martin Hrubý
Hometown: Čelákovice, Czech Republic
Poker experience: I have been playing poker for more than five years already and I playing the major online MTT tournaments. Live I play EPTs and the biggest tournaments in Czech Republic
Main game (live and online): No-limit hold 'em tournaments
Proudest achievement: In 2009, I won the Czech Championship. My 22nd place at EPT Monte Carlo was my biggest live cash. My biggest online success was 2nd place in the last WCOOP tourney.
Describe your style in one sentence: I´m always trying to vary my game according to the situation and my opponents.
Describe your World Series so far: I've played eight tournaments and made two cashes, I´m quite disappointed, because I ´m always losing with better hand, but that´s a part of poker - it sucks! I have two more tournaments to go, so hopefully I´ll get all my luck during the Main Event.
Ambition for the rest of the Series, and beyond: Bracelet would be cool, but a final table would also make me happy. My general poker ambition is to win a major tournament.
Away from the tables, I like to... spend time with my family, chill out. The most important thing is not to turn my laptop on. I love sports, fishing or to go to the forest to have some fun with my quad bike.
How has life changed since you joined Team PokerStars Pro?: Since I have the PokerStars sign on my avatar, people never fold anything! I got more exposure in the media, more fans, bigger opportunity to reach my goals. And it´s a big satisgfaction that I´m first from my country and second from Central Europe.
What would it mean to become the first Czech winner of a World Series bracelet? It´d be big satisfaction, because that´s why I´m playing poker and it´d be even better if I´d bet he first from my country. I´ve been grinding a lot, so I´d definitely take a short break from poker.
TWEETS OF THE DAY
@MarcinHorecki puts on a brave face despite early setbacks: "Got coolered for 0:2 in 2 WSOP events so far after a good start in both. Great, all the luck will come for Main Event bracelet ;D"
@aakkari prepares for a deluge of people saying "None"?: "How many chips i ll get in the first break of 3k? 30 dolars on Poker Stas for the winner! Just one shot/ follower!!! Go get it!!!"x
@aakkari confounds expectations: "I had 5375 n the first break! End of promotion!!!"
Cryptic caution from @MarcelLuske: "The Road of no return is always taken 1 time 2 many..dont forget that.?"
Previous WSOP Diary entries
WSOP Diary: Day 33: Rio here and Rio there. The World Series Brazil style
WSOP Diary: Day 32: Bracelets only for Tournament of Champions
WSOP Diary: Day 31: Soccer sickness infects the Rio as WSOP pauses for World Cup
WSOP Diary: Day 30: Climbing the cash ladder with Humberto Brenes
WSOP Diary: Day 29: Mandy "roxy24" Thomas mixes it with the big boys
WSOP Diary: Day 28: Barry Greenstein eyes final as shark attacks the Rio
WSOP Diary: Day 27: PokerStars party goes Dogg style
WSOP Diary Day 26: Bill Chen: Poker player, wedding planner, bridesmaid
WSOP Diary Day 25: Cutting through the throngs
WSOP Diary Day 24: Last chance to join us in Las Vegas
WSOP Diary Day 23: Anh Van Nguyen, remember the name