WSOP 2014: Fears, tears and cheers as Daniel Negreanu takes his seat
The introductions to the opening day are largely a formality. Jack Effel, a familiar voice on the microphone to anyone who has played a World Series event before, provides a little background, and lays down a few ground rules. Then he hands over to Ty Stewart for the feature presentation.
Today the honours were to be performed by possibly the most familiar face in world poker. For anyone who hadn't seen that face it was pasted onto a ten by ten banner next to the podium.
To watch most players when they arrive in the Amazon Room is to see people walking a tight rope between fear and panic. I've known seasoned players almost lose it in the moments before the start, unable to stand or sit, let alone put a sentence together. Daniel Negreanu on the other hand does things differently.
His was the honour of saying "shuffle up and deal" today, but first he waited in the wings as music from official UFC DJ Albert Lineses did his thing, dancing what I'd like to call a jig to the beat Lineses was trying to tame.
He may have been in the shadows of the stage but that wasn't dark enough to prevent people from spotting him. Someone asked for an autograph and he happily obliged, signing a baseball cap. Encouraged by this a man asked if his wife could have her picture taken with him. Sure, said Negreanu, who wrapped his arm around her. The husband aimed his camera, holding it steady for a period of time slightly longer than comfortable. But Negreanu, ever the pro, held his smile long enough and sent another fan away happy.
Then another woman asked for a photo, managing to get the question out before welling up. Close to tears she got a photo of herself with her hero. Daniel provided the grin and someone for her to lean on. She couldn't speak, but she gestured a thank you instead and Negreanu wished her good luck.
There was still time for a quick "selfie" with a man old enough to know better before The Team Pro edged his way towards the podium, besides which was that giant picture. When called up to say a few words, he leaned forward to look at proudly, the image showing him with his most recent bracelet, and headlined with his 2013 Player of the Year award.
The chances of another title for Negreanu are not at all distant. He lies fourth in the standings so far this year, and thanks to his second place in the Big One for One Drop is now the highest earning player in World Series history.
Stewart made way for Negreanu, who took to the microphone and, reading the minds of the players looking up to him, kept it short.
"Shuffle up and deal," he said, and they did. Nervousness and tension are for everyone else. Negreanu's main event campaign starts now.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.