WSOP Main Event Day 4: History of the bubble
"I had a lot of chips this time last year, too," said Kia Hamadani.
The man from Los Angeles sits in the red section of the Amazon Room behind a better-than-average stack of chips. His black wrap-around shades hide his eyes, his earphones might be more for show, because he can hear the players next to him, and he can hear me kneeling cautiously on his left.
From the one-seat, Hamadani concedes that his name carries a dubious fame. It was around this time last year that he stood from his chair to a raucous round of applause that was less for him than for the fact that he'd been eliminated.
In 2009, Hamadani finished in 649th place. For that, he was paid exactly nothing out of the prize pool. Instead, he was given an entry to this year's Main Event. With that entry ticket, he looks to make the money, proving that a prize delayed is not necessarily a prize denied.
Hamadani is among an unfortunate guild of poker players who are famous for exactly one day each year at the WSOP. They are affectionately referred to as "bubble boys," a phrase that hardly captures the pure pain and long-lasting angst that goes along with making it so deep into a Series, only to leave with nothing but a story and dubious honor.
It will not be much longer today before we reach the bubble of the 2010 Main Event. Of the 7,310 starters, around 900 players remain. The 748th place finisher will have to face that ugly duty of standing from his or her chair, listening to a crowd of happy people cheering, and watching as everyone else around him celebrates the fact that they are $19,263 richer than they were sixty seconds before.
The PokerStars Blog has been covering the WSOP since it moved to the Rio in 2005. We've watched all five previous bubbles and felt the pain of all of them. It happened first to Carl Ygborn, a Swede who left the 2005 WSOP with nothing for his 561st place finish but a ticket to the next Main Event. He came back the next year to min-cash for $19,000. He's not cashed in a World Series event since.
2006's bubbler, Hoa Nguyen, finished in 874th place. It earned him a year's supply of Milwaukee's Best beer and a freeroll for a WSOP seat. It turned out better for him. He came back the next year and finished in 34th for $285,678.
In 2007, John Sigan crashed pocket queens into a straight and finished in 621st place. Obscure before he got here, Sigan remained in the shadows. We've not heard from him since.
The next year was a spooky year for the bubble. In 2008, 666 players walked away with money. Among those hoping to make the cash was Steve Chung. He arrived here after winning a live satellite in the PokerStars Macau poker room. He ran pocket eights into pocket queens and finished in 667th place. He came back the next year to cash for $23,196.
And finally, we came to Hamadani in 2009, the man who could sniff the money last year and then watched it all go to hell. In a bubble that lasted for 13 hands (hand for hand for nearly two hours), Hamadani finished in 649th place.
And now we have reached 2010 and the sixth bubble since the World Series of Poker moved onto Flamingo Road. Hamadani looks ripe for the money. When asked how this year's run has gone, Hamadani offers the hint of a smile.
"Much better," he said. "Looking good."
Good luck to Hamadani and everyone else who remains in. May you not be one of the next 250 players on the rail.
TOURNAMENT HOUSEKEEPING OF THE HOUR
We have now entered level 15, with 900 players remaining. Blinds are 2,000-4,000 (500 ante) and the black 100 chip will be coloured up at the next break.
DOUBLE UP OF THE HOUR
Humberto Brenes is still on course to become the second most cashing-est player in World Series of Poker Main Event history (get that embroidered on your shirt) after he doubled up. He was all in from the small blind with A♥2♠ against pocket fives and rivered an ace.
ELIMINATION OF THE HOUR
Barry Greenstein is out. He tweeted: "Completed my world series of bubbling. AdQd lost to AK. 900 left." That 900 was in soon after and Greenstein departed short of the money.
TENUOUS POKERSTARS BLOG REPORTERS BOASTS RELATED TO THE WORLD SERIES MAIN EVENT OF THE HOUR (IN ORDER OF TENUOUSNESS)
Brad Willis: "The guy I chopped last week's Caesar's Palace tournament with is still in the World Series Main Event."
Stephen Bartley: "I once outlasted double bracelet winning Praz Bansi in a £250 pot limit hold 'em tournament in London. I was also the first person to interview him after he won his bracelet." (Praz Bansi is still in the Main Event.)
Howard Swains: "I once played at Priyan de Mel's home game." (Priyan de Mel is a PokerStars qualifier still in the Main Event.)
Joe Giron: "I once roamed the corridors of Foxwoods with Gavin Smith looking for people to high-five." (Gavin Smith is still in the Main Event).
ATOMIC FIREBALL FACT OF THE HOUR
After being sucked on for 10 minutes, an Atomic Fireball (the official candy of the PokerStars Blog) will shatter if thrown at the tarmac of a parking lot from shoulder height.