WSOP 2011: Take one before folding

wsop2011-thumb-blog.pngLeo Fernandez looks like something a cartoon artist would doodle on the back of a napkin while waiting for his check at a Thai restaurant, like the artistic product of a spicy curry mixed with too much caffeine. The Argentinean Team PokerStars Pro has no eyes. He's a green hat with a wig of long hair. All of it hangs around a chiseled jaw that supports a perpetual smile. Below the head is a pair of shoulders that move up and down as if on pistons.

On the board in front of him is a flop of 4♦K♥7♥. Fernandez has obviously called a raise out of the big blind and is feigning a complete ignorance about what to do with the flop. His opponent likely has no idea that Fernandez is a keen chess player. He plans most of his moves three or four in advance. The first move was his call of the raise. The second move was the exaggerated shrug. The third move was a tapping of the felt, a check that was at once dismissive and confounding for the older man in the one-seat.

Fernandez's shoulders don't stop pumping. If his elbows were connected to a well, he could draw up a gallon from a hundred yards deep. It's mesmerizing, so much so that his opponent can't help but mimic the move. The raiser, maybe involuntarily, begins shrugging in time with the cartoon character. It's like watching Charlie Chaplin look in a mirror and imitate himself. Fernandez's opponent seems hypnotized and incapable of not checking behind.


Leo Fernandez

The dealer puts out the 7♦. Fernandez's shoulders rise toward the ceiling and bounce the ends of his hair up and down.

"You check," he says through a thick accent, "I bet."

Again, his opponent shrugs in time with Fernandez. Now, however, he doesn't seem so much hypnotized as a man realizing he is in the middle of a fever dream.

The cartoon Leo's smile doesn't go away. It's too friendly. He has a mess in front of him. There is a half-stack of orange 5k chips, a Blackberry, a mini iPod connected to some headphones, and a can of sugar-free Red Bull.

"Ace queen," he says. He points at his man's cards. "Ace king."

Still, the raiser--the man in position with what should be a well of potential, positional power--can't stop shrugging. He seems compelled to confirm Fernandez's suspicion. The only way he can stop shrugging like Leo's marionette is to turn up the A♥ and push the other card toward the muck.

Fernandez doesn't bounce in his seat, but the nod and the smile make it seem as if he is doing so. He turns up the 7♣, turned trips, exactly how the raiser's nightmare should end.

But it doesn't.

Fernandez fiddles with his bounty and stacks it in careless low-rise towers next to his Red Bull. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out...what? A deck of cards? Does he actually have a deck of cards in his pocket?

"Maybe you need one," he tells the man watching his A♥ go uselessly into the dealer's stub. "Long day."

Fernandez isn't offering another ace. It's not a deck of cards. It's a box the size of a deck but illustrated with an almost-sexual wagging tongue.

The older man looks uncomfortable as he looks at the box. The illustration makes it clear that he is supposed to put whatever is in the box on his tongue. He holds it out carefully like he's been handed a hallucinogenic drug. He shakes his head. They may be just be the energy strips being hawked in the hallways, but they look too scary under the circumstances.

There will be nothing on this man's tongue tonight, or at least nothing that comes from the hands of the smiling, shrugging cartoon character in front of him. If all goes well for Mr. Ace of Hearts, he won't have to play a hand with Leo Fernandez again for the rest of the evening, or at least until he falls asleep and replays it all again in his dreams.


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"I'm still in the game. I've lasted four sessions." - Player at the table taking a call from home.

There's usually only one candidate for this, and Carlos Mortensen has done it again with a creative use of chip tower size and colour.

"Might quit poker to become a craps pro. Played 2nd craps session of my life today and whacked the Mandalay bay for 3100." - @JasonMercier.