WSOP 2011: Shark thrashes around for his life, ends badly
Humberto Brenes is out of his seat, unraveling headphones from around his iPod when a player from the next table walks over. "You got a spare piece of chewing gum?" This was a no brainer: Brenes is a man who has a personal gum mountain whenever he's playing. "Yes, I have lots of chewing gum... but not lots of chips." Brenes is perilously low, starting the day with 65,000, good for around 15 big blinds only. That makes his strategy for the pre-bubble period a simple one: fold or push. The fact that one of the tournament chip leaders, Chris Bonita, sits to his left with 860,000 is now less relevant than it would have been had the Costa Rican had, say, 250,000.
He's in the big blind and watches, chewing heavily, as first Bonita and then others fold in turn. Brenes, known as The Shark, seemed like he was picking up a free walk - an unexpected bonus at this crucial period. But Chamath Palihapitiya, in the small blind, looked down at his cards and liked what he saw. He raised to 9,000. Brenes feigned horror, and turned to look at his own hand. Chewing stronger than ever, the muscles in his jaw jutted out with every bite. Slowly, he stood up, gesturing with both arms that he was "aaaaallll iiiiiiiinnnnnn". He moved his chips in the middle, then placed his two trademark plastic sharks to either side of the meager pile, setting red lights flashing on each.
Palihapitiya looked amused by this, perhaps because folding was an easy option. He had around 200,000 and there was no need to risk nearly a third of that so soon. "I wiiiiinn," Brenes said, showing the table his A♥. "See, I never bluff. I only bluff my wife."
Brenes had inched up to 70,000, but his mission to stay in the tournament and reach the money, set to fall at 693rd place, remains undeniably difficult. He can't fold his way there; with 80 players still needing to bust, he would be in great peril of blinding out. It's all or nothing.
Not soon after, it was nothing. An early-position limper faced an all-in shove from the small blind. Brenes looked down, found K♦K♥ and shoved as well. The limper got out of the way, and Brenes found to his horror he was up against A♦A♥, a hand that improved to a set on the river. The Team PokerStars Pro's battle for survival was over in the first level of the day.
Many are in the same boat as he was, of course. And a lot of those are falling overboard. Within 45 minutes of the restart, we had lost 63 players. For a short while we thought another short-stacked Team PokerStars Pro, Sandra Naujoks, had come up with a cunning plan to avoid bubble misery. She had 105,000 left over from yesterday's work, and those remained in a messy pile in front of her empty seat at the start of play. She was late. Ten minutes later, she breezed in, looking like she had no care in the world. She's better off than Brenes, but not by much.
Of the PokerStars players still in the field, only really Sebastian Ruthenberg (890,000) and JP Kelly (490,000) can feel comfortable. For them, the build up to the bubble is about bullying and stealing pots from players terrified of making a mistake with $19,359 in the prize money, the first payout, getting closer by the minute. Ruthenberg, with black top and wearing shades, looks menacing, just in case his stack was not scary enough.
Elsewhere, Dennis Phillips hovers on 130,000. Another who can not be sitting easy right now. He's not getting involved, watching every bet in every hand intently. The ESPN camera crews hover around his table.
And what of those in the mid positions - not big enough in chips to bully, but with enough to ride out potential storms to come? Here you'll find the likes of Daniel Negreanu, Martin Hruby and Vanessa Rousso. Once the bubble bursts, they will be up and running for sure.
With every bust out, the 'Players Left' on the tournament clocks around the Amazon room ticks down. All eyes are on that figure, and there is a genuinely charged atmosphere in the air for the first time since the main event begun.
We are rapidly approaching the bubble, ladies and gentlemen. Strap in, and enjoy the ride.
* * * *
CHIP-MOVER OF THE HOUR
PokerStars Main Event Passport winner Per Linde who started the day with 131,000 in chips and is now sitting on more than 500,000.
SEAT-MOVER OF THE HOUR
Team PokerSTars Pro Tony Hachem, who started the day in the Orange section of the Amazon Room and had his table broken during the first hour of the day. He now sits in the Purple section where he can feel assured of keeping the same seat for the rest of the day.
STATISTIC OF THE HOUR
Number of television personnel required to tape a hand that didn't go past the flop between Dennis Phillips and Ronnie Bardah: 6
QUOTE OF THE HOUR
"I was promised Care Bears." --Bluff Magazine's Jessica Welman
CROSS-PROMOTION OF THE HOUR
Player of wearing a TornadoVideos. net hat
BEVERAGE CHOICE OF THE HOUR
Diet Mt. Dew (Team PokerStars Pro Dennis Phillips)
FEATURE TABLE PLAYER OF THE HOUR
Nikolai Senninger. While ESPN might have picked its feature table to focus on Phil Hellmuth today, it might do well to keep an eye on Senninger, a PokerStars Main Event Passport winner who has final tabled events on both the LAPT and EPT.
OVERHEARD ONE-SIDED PHONE CONVERSATION OF THE HOUR
"Well I'm going to start another business! This time in management!"
BEARD OBSERVATION OF THE HOUR
Player: "With a beard like that..."
Lief Force: "... you've gotta be going places."