WSOP 2011: An hour in the Amazon Room
The tournament clock has been stuck on 30 players for a long time.
JP Kelly takes a sip of hotel water, then holds the bottle against his face. It's hot under the lights of the secondary feature table, and his forehead shines a little. He looks around at the railbirds. Someone once told me that Americans don't do irony. That illusion was shattered a few moments ago when fuelled by economy lager, they began cheering every fold.
It's a similar story on the feature table, where two blond girls had just arrived diverting two cameras from the action on the table to their action off it. Here the spectators, well some of them, use every last ounce of action to get things off their chests. Friends of Eric Moutinho use the excuse of a all-in with pocket sevens, called by their man who also had pocket sevens, to go nuts. Robbie Thompson, on the mike, presses on, ignoring it, but it takes a while for the vocalists to re-take their seats.
The feature table
Five members of the ESPN staff are taking a break in a roped off rest area, while one of their colleagues struggles to attach a radio receiver to a dealer about to replace the existing one on the main stage.
A middle aged woman walks up to the outer table rope line to take pictures, of what though it's not clear. But she's made the effort to walk all this way from the Rio casino floor and is welcome to take what pictures she wants, as long as she doesn't film anything or spill beer on anyone that minds.
On the way to the rail
From somewhere else comes the noise of wild clapping. The security guard at the top of some stairs, wearing a Paris badge on his sleeve, turns around to see what it is, but can't find anything specific. He's a big guy with big arms and an admirable love of his work. He was there to keep people in their seats or on the floor. He's warned a few drinkers, who pretend not to hear, but they do as they are told anyway.
"Han Him Ball!" This noise came from the floor but no one understands it. The urge to be on TV it seems is only surpassed by the urge to look stupid on TV.
On an outer table one player is out of his seat.
"I don't want to know," said Bounarah Badih. "I don't want to see, just let me know what happens."
Badih was all-in but didn't want to see how things progressed, the natural urge to keep the dream alive as long as possible being as strong as surviving in a street brawl. His friends on the rail, 20 or so crammed into an area marked "reserved for media", are tuned into this. He is their beer ticket, their story to take home. Besides, the camera is following him and they might be on television.
A few feet away Kara Scott practices her lines, whispering to herself, before talking them into the camera for real. Five of her ESPN colleagues are homed in on the all-in table, waiting for something to happen.
"Yes! Yes!" Another noise coming from the rail.
"What happened?" screamed Badih. Something about a five-four, or a straight maybe. Badih neither knew or cared. He is still alive, and that means his friends are too. Somewhere, some poor guy has just dropped 700 grand in Badih's direction.
"Hommon Henday!" I've no idea what this means.
A few feet away, three guys in their twenties, at least a decade past physical exercise, sit on chairs formerly used by dealers before the tables were taken away. They are chugging beers and discussing hands.
Brian Devonshire fans with buckets on their heads
Over by the secondary table a red bucket falls off a girl's head. A man, also wearing a red bucket on his head, replaces it and puts his arm around the girl's shoulder. She has a Corona in one hand and carries four more in a little cardboard basket in the other.
This is just the small area between the main stage and the three roped-off outer tables. It's the Shed End at Chelsea, the infield at Churchill Downs or a Nascar afternoon. It's a lawless cheap-booze paradise, kettled by bright coloured security guards who will let you do what you like as long as you don't cross the rope line or try to make them look foolish.
Some civilians wander in to see what the fuss is about. A man dressed heads to toe in forest camouflage disappears into the carpeting. Two girls, who look 16 get carded by a security guard who looks 18. The girls pull out ID from their bags. Their paperwork seems in order and a man in his fifties, wearing a purple bowling shirt, appears to vouch for them. Their father? Nope. He moves on.
More noise from somewhere, a player screaming, or something. The tournament clock has been stuck on 30 players for a long time.
LIGHTS, CAMERAS, ACTION OF THE HOUR
There are currently nine cameras being used to film the feature table, plus a jib camera and an overhead table camera.
LAST-MINUTE BARGAIN HUNTER OF THE HOUR
Gentleman in the hallway bagging up as many free magazines and money-off coupons he can find.
CHAMP IN THE HOUSE OF THE HOUR
Johnny Chan is chatting in the hallway outside the Amazon Room. For a man with $8.5 million in lifetime winnings, the $24,000 he has managed to win so far in 2011 is a bit of a disappointment.
VIDEO OF THE HOUR
YOU GOT THE WRONG GUY OF THE HOUR
"Are you ElkY's uncle?" -- Railbird to PokerNews reporter (and sometimes PokerStars Blogger) Martin Harris
MISLEADING HEADLINE OF THE HOUR
"Obama to Honor World Series Champs at White House on Monday"
RANDOM STATISTIC OF THE HOUR
Average number of letters in the surnames of the final 30 players: 7.16
ONE TIME CHIP PLAY OF THE HOUR
Samuel Holden, who got it all in, flopped a gutshot, played his One Time Chip™, and spiked his gutty on the turn.