WSOP 2011: Getting it quietly as poker grows up
If there's been one thing missing from the Main Event this year, it's the whooping, hollering and altogether unpleasant over-celebration and self-promotion from a type of player that can generally be packaged up and labeled: "Annoying". Even Phil Hellmuth turned up to play today with the minimum of fuss; there was no PR-stunt arrival for the cameras, he just walked right in to play (albeit five hours late and with film crews in tow). And that is a good thing as it means everyone can concentrate on the real point of being here: to make as much money as possible, or at least have fun trying.
But why had it happened? At first many feared low turnouts on Day 1A and 1B signaled a general malaise sweeping poker. But for Day 1C today, the halls at the Rio were packed again, vendors did a brisk trade, and the tournament spilled over from the Amazon Room to the Pavilion. We got 2,181 registrations, and the word on the street is that tomorrow's Day 1D will be even bigger. It's very possible the Main Event will top 6,000 players.
It seems, then, that poker may simply have grown up. It's easy to forget that as numbers for the Main Event blew up over the past decade, it was all very new and exciting for many of those taking part. A significant number had flown in to Vegas for the first time and, frankly, some of them could not really contain themselves. Their exuberance got the better of them, and that's putting it mildly. In their defense, they did not know anything different.
But that was then, and this is now. This year there appears to be a healthy respect between players, something that has not been seen since the game exploded in popularity. Poker's big stage has regained its place as a sporting occasion just at the time when it needed to most: when the industry is under scrutiny like never before.
With that off my chest, what about the stories that emerged today? Team PokerStars Pro put out a strong field including no less than four world champions. Tom McEvoy, Chris Moneymaker, Joe Cada and the defending title holder Jonathan Duhamel all took to the felt. So, too, heavyweights in the shape of Daniel Negreanu, Jason Mercier and Chad Brown. With them a swathe of Europeans, from Holland's Marcel Luske to France's Arnaud Mattern, And from Singapore, Bryan Huang flew the flag for Team PokerStars Pro: Asia.
We began coverage with news that Ben Lamb had topped the Day 1B field, a feat made more noteworthy by the fact he was the second foodstuff to lead following Fred Berger's table-topping performance on Day 1A.
Continuing the foody theme, cupcakes were strangely in evidence for the shuffle up and deal, and then we were introduced to PokerStars Supernova Elite Kevin Bryniczka who was playing today and trying to wipe the memory of his one-outered exit last year.
We learned that Jason Mercier likes taking Popeye Chicken on road trips, and that Jonathan Duhamel would love to beat the best day of his life by winning another Main Event title. Daniel Negreanu had a weird dream, analysed expertly by Team PokerStars Blog, and we examined the uniqueness of the WSOP Main Event as a sporting occasion that anyone can try.
Next the news of those numbers - a big official Day 1C field of 2,181 confirmed the WSOP is alive and well. We tracked down Tom McEvoy, with slippers tucked under his seat, and also JP Kelly, an example of the new breed of successful British tournament players. Finally, the De Meulder twins from Belgium were the focus of our attention, once we'd worked out we were not seeing double (although we were, if you see what I mean).
That, then, was your packed and calm Day 1C. We'll be back tomorrow to do it all again.
Until then, it's goodnight from the Rio in Las Vegas.