WSOP 2011: A half hour in hell

wsop2011-thumb-blog.pngLas Vegas is a different place this year. For days on end, dark clouds formed on the mountain tops at the valley's edge. Humidity almost never felt in this city dripped from the walls and foretold afternoon thunderstorms that sent torrents of rain across rock-hard desert floors. At night and early in the morning, the smell of sulphur drifted from water pipes. If the WSOP was ever a place for rotten eggs to go hollow, it finally smelled like it.

Now it's Day 2B. The air has finally given up its moisture. The rank sulphur hasn't gone, though, and if hell's earthly edge had a smell, it would be just like what hung on the periphery of the Pavilion Room this morning.

Inside the Pavilion sat the overflow crowd from the Amazon Room. Hundreds of people who looked to make Day 3 unbagged their chips as the WSOP Dealer of the Year told her fellow card-slingers to "shuffle up and deal." It was there we found Team PokerStars Pros Barry Greenstein, Liv Boeree, and Richard Toth in their own personal hell.

None of the three started Day 2B with more than 20,000 in chips. Having started their Day 1 flights with 30,000, they now barely had enough to make it it through a few orbits at their respective tables. A vulture--or vulturous blogger--would have felt fine circling the air above what would soon be carrion.

Greenstein looked no different than he ever does. Gray slacks. Checked shirt. Light beard. A little tired. Glasses on his head. A copy of "Ace on the River" under his chair. If there was ever a prototype for "grizzled veteran," Greenstein was it.

Boeree wore no makeup. She rarely need any, anyway, but today she showed up in a conservative blue sweater, slightly less conservative tight pants, and boots that gave away her true hellbender nature. If she had any chips, she might be just scary enough to shoo away the dreamy eyed guy in the six-seat. He wants to ask her about how she spent her day off. She wants to double up.


Liv Boeree during happier times on Day 1D

Richard Toth was missing. It's was as if he knew sitting in purgatory was of no use. Why get the connecting flight to hell when there is a non-stop available? By the time the cards were in the air, Toth's bag was open without anyone to stack his chips.

Meanwhile, Greenstein found himself in the big blind. He folded to an early-position raise. He didn't have long to wait, but whatever hand he peeled up wasn't the one to risk on damnation.

Boeree's cards did nothing either. She fell silent, mucked hand after hand, and watched her lustful, hopeful opponent lose with jacks to a flopped set of sevens. She didn't look sad to see him go.

With six minutes gone off the clock, Toth walked in looking the part of a sporting goods catalog model--chiseled jaw, hat backward, seemingly no care about the fact he was about to be pulled into the brimstone-pounded hallways of hell. As far as he was concerned, the biggest matter at hand was replacing his chair with one he thought looked more comfortable. Who replaces a chair he is about to vacate? Richard Toth, that's who.

Perhaps, though, he knew something the vultures did not. When an early position raiser came in for a raise, Toth three-bet from the small blind, leaving himself just a few chips to put in with the four-bet call. He turned up A♠K♥, well ahead of his man's A♣Q♦.

"I was hoping you had a lot bigger range," Mr. Ace-Queen said.

The board did the right thing and Toth's 8,800 chips turned into double that. Toth sat back in his chair. If his eyes had middle fingers, they would've been raised at the vultures above.

Ten tables and a lifetime away, Greenstein came in for a raise to 1,200 and got a call from the big blind. On a king-high flop, Greenstein watched the big-blind check. The Team Pro put out 1,600 and got a fold. He quietly said something that got a chuckle out of his table. The laughs ended a few minutes later when somebody cracked Greenstein's kings and knocked him down to 7,000 in chips.

Boeree could do no better. She began to look as if she was actually in hell. She folded her blinds. She folded her button. She folded her cutoff. It wouldn't be long before she was folding her laundry.

But like Toth, Boeree might have had more in his soul than she projected for the crowd. She open shoved and picked up the blinds. After that, she got ace-jack in against king-queen and doubled up to 18,000.

If these people ever appear near the top of the leaderboard today, it won't happen for a very long time. They have all somehow managed to survive this long without succumbing to the hell of another gone-by WSOP. Nevertheless, they remain on the edge and the vultures' wings haven't grown tired yet.

Stop Press: Just as we pressed publish on this post, Greenstein doubled with jacks versus ace-queen and is up to 15,000.


The three members of Team PokerStars Blog ran an impressive combined distance of four miles this morning in preparation for the day. Here's how the figures shaped up:

Stephen "burger" Bartley: 0 miles
Simon "yummy food" Young: 0 miles
Brad "waif" Willis: 4 miles

The player who called the floor to moan about his dealer. A player had accidentally overbet and went on to lose the hand. Afterwards, the dealer made a comment on the situation, and was wrong to do so. He apologised, but the complainer called the floor to come and tick him off anyway.

You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet - Bachman Turner Overdrive. Rock on!

"I'd like to order a fat-free sugar-free hazelnut latte please. (Pause) It's not for me, it's for a friend."

@ tchanpoker: I want my day 1 table back.

No one by the name Larry, Gene or Chuck has ever won the WSOP main event.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker