WSOP Main Event Day 1B: Figure heads in disguise
Two figure heads of European poker are playing today. One is partly responsible for creating the largest and most prestigious poker tour anywhere in the world, the other for officiating it.
EPT creator John Duthie comes into bloom when released to play a major poker tournament, rather than being obliged to oversee it. Duthie, who prowls the floors of EPT tournament like a small zoo's feature tiger, opts out of playing his own tour as a matter of principle, but here he has the bounce of a man in comfortable shoes, arriving in the Amazon Room this afternoon trailed by a television camera looking for some stock footage and a massage therapist looking for a profitable shift.
In what could easily be known as the "Duthie position" - chair reversed, body forward, face muscles informal - the Team PokerStars Pro prefers not to risk any degree of muscle discomfort at the table, and has set the massage therapist to work on a tricky area towards the top of the right calf, an essential component when standing up and walking away from the table after elimination.
It's not something Duthie usually has to do early in events like this. At the World Series last year Duthie finished second in the heads-up championship for $386,636. Then, playing his first PokerStars Caribbean Adventure last January, Duthie was staring down the barrel of the chip lead when he ran his aces into pocket queens, and a flop that brought a third queen. That led to him busting in 12th, worth $130,000.
It's an impressive record that looks to be based around a solid formula - the scarcity of a main event to play focuses the Duthie mind. The three full Marlboros in the 20 minute break calms the Duthie nerves, and the massage therapist sorts out the rest.
No need for any of those for Thomas Kremser. The Austrian tournament director is widely regarded as one of the best in the game, steering players through EPT events and more with formidable authority and unwavering impartiality. He's here with his wife Marina, who is watching him on the rail. Sensibly she'd found a chair.
"Where's Thomas?" I asked after formalities.
"There, in the white," said Marina.
I couldn't see him. I looked off into the distance and worked my way back from the horizon. I couldn't see him. Marina had spotted by problem.
"There, in the white, right here."
Ah, there he was, on the nearest table to me.
In my defence it's not easy to spot a man who usually arrives at a poker tournament in a tailored suit, tie and pocket square. In Las Vegas Kremser ditches the rigid seams and psychological bolster some feel when wearing double cuffs and wingtips, in favour of a loose fitting white track top.
Usually spiked in one direction, his hair is leaning in all directions now and his eyes are hidden behind mirrored sunglasses. It's like seeing Fred Astaire in a Phoenix Suns uniform or James Bond in dungarees. This is not the Thomas I know.
But Kremser is entitled to the recreational look, enjoying the precious down time between working at events by playing one, wife Marina (a mean limit player) never far away. He's moving up from his initial 30,000 chips while Duthie has nearly doubled his starting stack.
Good starts. And neither is in any rush to get back to the day job.
TAT IN THE SERVICE CORRIDOR OF THE HOUR
Between the media room and the bathroom, using the service corridor, you see many things, including:
1 x plastic bucket of ladles
1 x plastic bucket of tongs
15 x empty bread trays from "Great Buns Bakery"
1 x metal table decoration shaped like a cactus
1 x 5'-high cage of salt and pepper shakers
1 x pallet holding 69 boxes of July 2010 "Souvenir Edition, Australasian Special" of well-known poker magazine (45 units per box)
CONVERSATION OF THE HOUR
Random player: "Is this Palma Room D?"
Brad Willis, PokerStars Blogger: "No, this is Palma Room H."
RP: "Do you know where Palma Room D is?"
BW: "Right there."
RP: "That's Tropical Room D."
BW: "So it is. Um, listen, what are you looking for?"
RP: "Jack's Links."
RP: "I got four jacks. I want my beef jerky.*"
BW: "Congratulations. You deserve it."
*Jack's Links provides a year's supply of beef jerky who any player who gets quad jacks. We still don't know where Palma Room D is.
THOUSAND YARD STARE OF THE HOUR
"Instead of salivating I want to cry." - A reporter doing the rounds explaining the Pavlov's Dog effect of the sound of riffling chips.
OPTIMISTIC FALACY OF THE HOUR
"This is Vegas, man. Anything is possible." --player trying to find his seat on Day 1B
REALISTIC ASSESSMENT OF THE HOUR
Agent: "Are they good players?"
Client: "Well, they are better than me, but that is saying nothing."
"JUST SHUT UP" MOMENT OF THE HOUR
"I feel bad for him." --player who just cracked aces with kings when a king hit the river.