WSOP 2011: Eyes on the bubble

wsop2011-thumb-blog.pngThe World Series of Poker bubble looks different through every set of eyes. Between the media , the dealers, the players, and the TV crews, more than a thousands pairs of peepers looked out across the Amazon Room cavern and watched and hour and fifteen minutes of bottled tension that even Hollywood couldn't create. This is how those 75 minutes looked through one pair of eyes.

1:31 minutes left in Level 16--711 players remaining
The buzz hit Twitter five minutes before. Phil Hellmuth, one of three Main Event champions left in the field had been knocked out just short of the money. His pair of threes had been bested by king-queen. The man who had racked up a series of runner-up finishes this year would fail to make the money in the Main Event. Jean-Robert Bellande couldn't be bothered with it. He looked as if he might fall asleep. Everyone else seemed to wake up. The decibel level in the Amazon Room crept up a couple of notches.

1:27 minutes left in Level 16--707 players remaining
"You can sort of feel it now," said Bluff Magazine writer Tim Fiorvanti. "The buzz just picked up a little bit." As if to punctuate Fiorvanti's cue, Nolan Dalla took the mic and announced Phil Hellmuth had just been eliminated. The crowd cheered. Dalla announced former champion Barry Johnston had also been eliminated. The crowd said, "Awwwwww." And then everyone laughed.

1:24 minutes left in Level 16--705 players remaining
Robert Varkonyi sat with a stack just about 100,000 in chips. Out of all the Main Event champions who entered, he was the only one who had a chance to make the money. Meanwhile, LAPT regular Nico Fierro's beard seemed to be growing by the minute. It's nearly as big as his chip stack.

Outside in the hallway, the Scorpions' "Rock You Like a Hurricane" screamed through the speakers. In the men's restroom, an attendant stomped with the beat. His back beat didn't stop as a player sprinted through the door. His junk was already out of his pants by the time he hit the urinal. The attendant continued to stop with the Scorpions. The player was bald with a tattoo on the back of his head. He wasn't fully in his pants before sprinting back out the door. The attendant never stopped stomping.

1:18 minutes left in Level 16--701 players remaining
The urinator made it back to his seat at Table 338. "There is a trick to it," he explained. "The trick is you loosen your bladder before you start to run." "That works until there is a line," said another player. "That works until I pee myself," said the sprinting urinator. All around him were faces of fear. Eight more people had to bust before the money. It was no time for pee-pee jokes.

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1:15 minutes left in Level 16--699 players remaining
In the back of the Orange section, a man opened the betting in early position to 540,000. The big blind at the time? 5,000. He showed ace-king when everybody folded.

1:12 minutes left in Level 16--698 players remaining
The WSOP has been Jack Effel's show for many years. The bubble is the time he has to shine. The sound of his voice on the overhead speakers meant something important was about to happen. Effel directed all players to sit down.

1:11 minutes left in Level 16--697 players remaining
Half the field seemed to have their phones out of their pocket. They were all texting somebody. It doesn't take a genius to figure out most texts read something like, "OMG, I'm on the bubble. If I bust here, FML!"

1:24 minutes left in Level 16--696 players remaining
With three players remaining, it seemed liked Effel was letting it get too close. People had been busting out so quickly, there was the chance they could just barrel right through the money bubble. There was no reason to worry, after all. Effel took to the mic and instructed all dealers to stand when they finished their hand. Any players who chose to stand, Effel said, "can just go outside, get on WiFi, and check the updates." Bryan Micon, psychologically unable to sit down, sat on his knees.

1:06 minutes left in Level 16--695 players remaining
It became clear hand-for-hand play was about to begin. Some players understood the instructions. Others, like the bumfuzzled man on his phone, seemed like they had never played played poker before.

1:01 minutes left in Level 16--695 players remaining
Hand-for-hand play began and immediately became boring for the people at Table 333. They took to a game of Famous Marks. The first player led with "Marky Mark." His opponent shoved with "Mark Twain." A few people over-called with the likes of "Mark McGwire" and "Marco Polo," but everyone knew "Mark Twain" was the nuts.

Across the room, Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu shoved his hands in the air. Kid Poker had put himself in a position to go bust on the bubble. Instead, he doubled up with the best hand (More on this from Simon Young in our next post).

Hand #1 went by with no bust-out.

52 minutes left in Level 16--695 players remaining
"Players, please do not jump up and run to other tables," Jack Effel demanded. He threatened a one-round penalty for the first person to do it and a three-round penalty for the third person to do it. Table 333 called the clock. They didn't know or care who they were calling it on. They just wanted hand-for-hand to move faster. As if to appease them, Effel announced, "We are down to 694."

45 minutes left in Level 16--694 players remaining
Some sort of scrum appeared on table 325. Surrounding the table were seven members of the TV crew, four WSOP interns, and two floor reporters. The result: nothing. Hand #3 went by with no bust-outs.

35 minutes left in Level 16--694 players remaining
"Can I get cocktails on table 342?" a dealer yelled. Somebody needed a drink. Sebastian Ruthenberg did not. He took the hand to run to the bathroom. Meanwhile, Table 338 was betting $20 apiece on how many more hands it would take to bust the next player. It would not be Hand #4.

29 minutes left in Level 16--694 players remaining
The players at Table 342 began applauding madly...for no reason other than to make everyone else think they were in the money. They were not. Hand #5 went by quickly with no bust-out.

23 minutes left in Level 16--694 players remaining
In the press box, the reporters grew bored. The started to discuss how a cocktail of Zofran and Vicodin would treat the human body. Minutes ticked by. That's when everyone started to notice Jack Effel on the stage. Beside him stood Reza Kashani. Everyone knew the fate with which he'd collided. Effel made it official. "You are all in the money!"

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Reza Kashani

For his pain, Keshani was awarded a seat in near year's Main Event. Everyone else will have their bust-out soothed by at least $19,359.

Less than one hour later, eighty players had already busted out and headed for the door.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker