WSOP 2011: Start as you mean to go on
The walk through the Rio to the Amazon Room is by now familiar. The banners, shops, and food stalls may be gone but in their place, grouped every twenty paces or so, are the ESPN crews waiting for the remaining 142 players who started today to turn up for work.
Like anyone who has to clock in an hour or so before everyone else, there's a lot of sitting around. But the waiting is interrupted sporadically by an early bird player, with a bag perhaps or clutching a cup of coffee, who is pounced on every step of the way down the Rio corridor to be asked for his name, rank and serial number, or in this case, name, where they live and chip count. While they answer, the camera guy (always a man with big shoulders) walks backwards with expert precision, throwing softballs at them.
Some players answer politely, while at least one gave a little too much, opening up about himself, the quality of his play, his hopes, his dreams. The TV people got it all. They can indulge a player here and there as there's always a spare camera team ready to get the next one if you're stuck in a confessional.
Then there are the players who try their hardest to ignore the cameras. For them this is not just an amazing experience, one where you might get on TV to wave to your family watching back home. This is the next step in what could be a career-defining week. That category would include Tony Hachem and JP Kelly.
While some players were being asked "do you want to be on ESPN?" Hachem gave his status report in the non-verbal way, getting a quiet massage. He said little walking into the Amazon Room, taking his seat, unpacking his chips and getting stuck into work, the poker equivalent of skipping the office water fountain and instead hitting the in-tray hard.
It might be folly to think that the more serious you take things the better your chances, but something worked for Hachem. Within minutes of the start he watched Marius Maciuka from Latvia move all-in. Then he looked down at his own cards and found ace-jack. He called, and then stood up.
"Mate, I'd like to wish you all the best, but..." Hachem paused. It was his first hand but he suddenly looked exhausted. "May the best hand hold up..."
Whether he was talking to Maciuka or to fate in general it was unclear. Either way Maciuka said nothing. "But if you do win, best of luck."
It was a nice gesture from Hachem but perhaps he knew he wouldn't have it in him to say it if Maciuka somehow kneecapped his stack. He needn't have worried, the board making for no change. Hachem shook Maciuka's hand and returned to his seat, the game face back.
As Hachem sat down, a table away JP Kelly was re-raising on the river.
Kelly had been another player to sneak into the Amazon, eating a banana before cracking the seal on a family-sized bag of chips. He was here to work and like it did for Hachem, the focus was paying off, re-raising Mars Callaha on the river, on a board of ace-ten-three-seven-five to another sizable pot, his opponent showing an ace, Kelly stacking 3.2 million.
Sometimes a passion for what you're doing means you turn up for work and dive straight in. Whether it's lugging a camera, knocking out a Latvian or stacking more chips, the payoff is sometimes worth the effort.
POINTS TALLY OF THE HOUR
Ben Lamb has officially overtaken Phil Hellmuth at the top of the Player of the Year standings.
THERE MUST BE SOME MISTAKE OF THE HOUR
While American Brad Willis keeps commenting on the USA v Japan game shown on one TV screen in the press room, Englishman Stephen Bartley is picking winners in the drag racing on another.
DISAPPEARING ROOM OF THE HOUR
Only the orange section of the Amazon Room, plus the main and secondary feature table remain in play. The rest of the vast open space is in relative darkness, aside from a corner used by the media.
LOUDEST CHEER OF THE HOUR
When the USA women's football team scored in the World Cup final against Japan, the cheer was loudest of the day in the Amazon Room.
SLOW DOWN OF THE HOUR
The rate of eliminations has, as expected slowed. After more than an hour's play today, just 13 players have hit the rail
BUST OUT OF THE HOUR
Rupert Elder, winner of EPT San Remo, is out of the Main Event.
GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW OF THE HOUR
How the once four-colored Amazon Room has been rearranged for the final 142 players.
Blue Section: One television featuring the Women's World Cup
Purple Section: Media tower
Tan Section: Secondary feature table and television equipment
Orange Section: 127 people playing poker for $8 million first prize
STATISTIC OF THE HOUR
Number of railbirds currently in Amazon Room: 202
SOCCER COMMENTARY OF THE HOUR
Erick Lindgren: "It's &$%#ing embarrassing how we treat the Premier League in the United States."
OUT OF CONTEXT QUOTE OF THE HOUR
"You were trying to slow play the dealer and he caught a tell on you."
HALLWAY ROCK OF THE HOUR
J. Geils Band's "Love Stinks."
QUIETEST SILENCE OF THE HOUR
When the Japanese team equalised.
VIDEO OF THE HOUR
Here's the video team's take on the start of Day 6...