WSOP 2011: Almost famous
"You're famous," the dealer said on Day 4 when a blogger stood behind Julian Stuer to record his chip count. Stuer looked embarrassed and buried his head in his iPad.
At the time, he was no more famous than most of the nearly 900 people who had come back to the 2011 World Series of Poker just short of the money. His hair was coifed in the perfectly messy style of most of his contemporaries. His hoodie could've belonged to anyone in the field. In this crowd, he wasn't famous. He was just a guy about to make the money in the WSOP Main Event. Tell him he's famous, or tell him anything else that might embarrass him, and watch his skin flush from the neck up.
Today, Stuer sat down among the final 142 people left in the Main Event. Television cameras were everywhere. Two people were waiting at his seat to talk to him before he even sat down. Asked first about his PokerStars screen name, Stuer looked around the room as if people might be listening.
"Do I have to tell you?" he asked. He shook his head as if considering the implications. "I mean, people are going to figure it out eventually, but do I have to tell you?"
These kinds of questions were all new for the man from Germany. In fact, Las Vegas is all new for Stuer. He only turned 21 years old in January. Until this year, he wasn't old enough to play in the Main Event. Now he's guaranteed more than $40,000 in winnings and has a very good chance of making it into the big money by the end of the day. He has about five hours to bust out or he's going to be that famous guy the dealer talked about on Day 4.
Until today, Stuer has been content to hide in the shadows, play obsessively online, and make the kind of living a 21-year-old would love to have.
"I play all the big tournaments online," he said.
That's where the bulk of his income comes from. He's cashed for a combined $12,000 in two live tournaments within the last year. All of it could easily be dwarfed by the money he could make today. When the tournament breaks for the night, there is a good chances everyone remaining will be guaranteed a six-figure payday. It's one he needed.
"I was sort of stuck," he said as he unbagged his chips this afternoon. "This gives me a chance to make some money."
It's not been too long ago that Stuer was just a simple student. He studied math and economics for half a year.
"I started playing poker and it went pretty well," he said. He didn't go back to school.
Stuer was among the first people at PokerStars to win a Main Event Passport. The $33-rebuy qualifier earned him a chance to enter any Main Event on the EPT, APPT, LAPT, PCA, or WSOP. He made his choice quickly and booked a flight for Las Vegas.
For all the potential money and fame in the offing, Stuer is quick to point out what he really wants, as odd as it may sound.
"I want to get back to studying," he said. "I promised my parents."
Is that something a famous person would say?
I guess we'll find out in a couple of days
* * *
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING OF THE HOUR
The PokerStars Blog's Brad Willis -- who in previous years has asked how many players there are in a soccer team with no shortage of ambivalence -- instinctively cheered when USA scored their second goal against Japan.
OLD FACE OF THE HOUR
The Monkey used by Vladimir Geshkenbein as a card protector, last seen at EPT Snowfest, and known by the name "Lucky Monkey".
INCREDULITY OF THE HOUR
"It's a women's soccer game..." --Media Co-ordinator Seth Palansky after noticing the bulk of his staff watching soccer on TV.
GUESS WHERE I'M FROM OF THE HOUR
A spectator roams the Amazon Room with a Brazil flag draped around his shoulders so large it reaches down to the floor.
INSUFFICIENT FUNDS OF THE HOUR
A gentleman banging the top of the ATM machine in the hallway after finding he is unable to draw out any cash
CROWD OF THE HOUR
While the remaining players began first break of the day, a crowd of 50 huddled around the TV in the Amazon Room to watch the climax of the climax of the women's World Cup Final.