WSOP Main Event Day 1B: World stars unite in Vegas
A Brit in Berlin, another in Barcelona, an American in Austria, a Vietnamese in the Bahamas.
Travelling the circuit following PokerStars tours around the world introduces some disparate characters in some far-flung districts. And then you meet them all again in Las Vegas.
Laurence "rivermanl" Houghton is playing day 1B of the World Series this afternoon. Likewise his British compatriot Stephen Chidwick. Zach "Umbrella Man" Hall is in the field. As is Kenny Nguyen. At one time or another over the past couple of years, we've run into all of those folk across the globe. Today, they're all PokerStars qualifiers to the World Series Main Event.
Houghton, from London, has never quite managed to translate his online form to the live arena - but that's only because he's so damn good with a mouse in his hands. rivermanl has been near the top of the online tournament charts for years, and travels places like the EPT seemingly just to get out of the house.
I remember meeting him in Berlin on the EPT, enjoying the post-tournament nightlife of the German capital. He's still searching for his first EPT main event cash, but it's only going to be a matter of time before the live world learns more of rivermanl.
Chidwick is also an absolute dynamo in the online cardrooms. Best known as "stevie444", he qualifies for pretty much every major live event at PokerStars. And then he qualifies again. And again. Over the past three years, he's won something like 200 World Series packages, plus the same number for EPTs and LAPTs.
I've seen him going deep in Barcelona, picking up a side event at the PCA and cashing on the LAPT. This is his first World Series - he only just turned 21 - and he already has three cashes. Watch Chidwick.
I bumped into Hall in Salzburg airport, en route to Snowfest earlier this year. "I was the guy who had an umbrella on his hat," he said as he remembered his debut on the LAPT, where his distinctive headgear earned him the attentions of the press pack.
He was at Snowfest primarily to ski, but paid his way via the PokerStars satellites, and also worked a big stack through the first couple of days. He cashed in 60th that time out, for about $8,000. But it cost him far less to play the World Series this summer.
Everyone seems to know Kenny Nguyen. He has made a final table on the WPT, and is always prominent at the World Series, where he's racked up a good few cashes down the years.
He really burst into our consciousness at the PCA this year, however, when he was the shortest stack in the room approaching the end of day four, but managed to scrape through into the final three tables.
Eventually he got his short stack in on day five. And busted. But by that point he had earned himself $75,000 - and the taste for PokerStars action. Although he is primarily a live player (at least that's what's suggested by his string of results) he's qualified here on PokerStars and is chatting his way characteristically through the early stages.
HAND OF THE HOUR/READ OF THE HOUR/PLAYING AGAINST TYPE OF THE HOUR
When Darus Suharto made the final table of the 2008 World Series Main Event, the common consensus was that he had done so by playing solid ABC poker. He did it very well, but by his own admission he didn't have the widest range of tricks.
But as if freed by his big score, he's opened up his game over the past couple of years and now he's a tricky customer for sure. He's changed his game sufficiently that someone like Chidwick will call him down with an eight-high flush (on a four-spade board) and be right about it.
There was about 6,000 in the pot already and these five cards showing: 5♣3♠9♠4♠7♠. Suharto bet 3,500 and Chidwick made a crying call. Suharto tapped the table and showed A♣4♦ for fourth pair, no spade.
Chidwick had 8♠9♣ and was good. Suharto can clearly mix it up a little.
MISCALCULATION OF THE HOUR
"Man, this Batman costume is great. I'm going to wear it when I play in the World Series of Poker. The cameras will be all over me. My opponents will be so distracted by my Batman-ness, I will run over the table. This is going to be legendary. Wait...how am I supposed to urinate?" -- The thoughts we imagine the dude in the bathroom was having when trying to free himself from his costume.
QUOTE OF THE HOUR
"You're at 332." -- Floorman to guy in ten seat who has been sitting at table 322 for almost the entire first level.
IDIOT ORDERING COFFEE OF THE HOUR
"If I asked for two Splendours would you know what I mean?"