WSOP 2013: Is it wrong to start making friends?

Something didn't sit well with me as I passed the lobster pool outside Buzio's restaurant on the Rio Casino floor. I was on my way back from the sports book where my $2 favourite had just cantered in last, so I was sensitive to such scenes, including this one: two little girls peering through glass at what I imagine they saw as a tank for a Disney characters.

The older one, no more than six years old, delighted in telling her younger sister that two of the lobsters were fighting. She thought it was sweet. Her father, eyeing the lobsters for altogether different reasons, wisely chose not to tell her that at best they were in a Kirk Douglas/ Tony Curtis Spartacus struggle, locked in a fight to the death, each trying to spare the other the horror of the boiling lobster pot.

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The lobster tank at Buzios: Kirk Douglas (centre)

I walked on, leaving the kids to give names to their new short-term friends, and arrived back at the Amazon Room as the break was taking place. Again, there was a sense that something wasn't quite right.

There was a bustle in the hallway as usual, players waiting to re-enter after the first break since the bubble burst. But rather than it being a tense, strained place, the atmosphere had turned light, friendly even. This wasn't the gathering of people who were about to take on the biggest challenge of their lives, this was a crowd of people who had just survived an ordeal and, minus the space blankets, were happy to see each other still standing.

This is far removed from the inherent isolationist nature of poker, in which every man stands only for himself, and any pleasantries exchanged mask a deep seated desire that everyone but they suffer great misfortune.

Now though poker had become a team game. Players found themselves surrounded by their own cheering section, friends and family appearing to provide words of support and encouragement in the breaks. The nature of the break time crowd has changed at the Rio, who are now eager to return to their seats and find out just how real their dream is. Like the lobsters, most will have just one more day in this toughest of environments before being set free. But unlike for the lobsters, it'll be fun to find out what happens next.

Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter. Pictures courtesy of Poker Photo Archive.