WSOP 2015: The other "bubble boy"


When the bubble is on the way, floor staff walk around more quickly. They plan for this moment, and go through their roles meticulously. But these things can't be taken for granted, so the stage is organised, people are in position in good time, and they walk around faster in a state of readiness. Then there's the panel.

This panel will process the first 991 players to depart, ensuring they get the money they've earned after what has so far been three days of poker (the last nine will wait for November). They're lined up, eight of them, like the cast of a new Vegas show ready to take questions. "World Series: The Musical!", with a chorus line dressed as dealers.

If that was true it would make Charlie Ciresi the man in charge.

"Bryce!" This is Ciresi, in charge of administering this part of the tournament and making sure the right people get paid, assisted by a team of lieutenants. He needs his people in place, and while he knows most of them there are some still new to the whole deal. "Guys, come up here!"

Charlie Ciresi_WSOP_d3_copy.jpgCharlie Ciresi at work

You'd think that in a moment like this, tempers might flare. Or maybe the niceties of being in charge might be ditched in favour of simple efficiency. But that's not really Ciresi's style.

In a grey suit and spotted tie, he keeps calm, and keeps his staff calm too, mixing seriousness with good cheer. "Phenomenal" was how one dealer described him, and probably the reason she kept coming back to work for him each summer.

Tournament_Staff_WSOP_d3.jpg"The Panel"

So when Bryce heard his name he came running.

Ciresi then ran though the procedures to his fresh dealers. Keep players in the right order, don't talk when close to the officials' desk, avoid confusion. Stay quiet. They were silent and hung on every word.

"That's all I got," he added. "You can talk now though."

His people now in place Ciresi gulped down water from small bottles which disappeared into his hand. There are nervous faces, but excited ones too. They want to get it right, but they also know the Series is drawing to a close.


Stalling becomes an issue. Floor man Shawn Lyttle is getting a work out with regular calls to one particular table where it's blatant and often. But then, as Lyttle made clear, it's the same at a lot of tables. There is no honour among people doing what they can to avoid leaving empty handed, just necessity.


Lots of eyes on the clock now and not just those of the players. Ciresi needs to land on 1002 players without over shooting and creating an administrative nightmare. To make matters a little harder play is divided between both the Amazon and Brasilia Rooms - a first two room bubble in Main Event history.


"Verify 1003," says Ciresi on the radio to colleagues in Brasilia. He stares up at the screen, urging it to land where he wants it. This is the tricky bit. They get 1003 verified. But they want 1002. It's a game of chicken. Serious yes, but the staff are grinning too. They've got this.

"Are we at two?" asks Ciresi into the radio. "Are we two? Come on I need a number right now!"

It's confirmed at 1002. We're hand for hand.

"Stop it Jack!"


The panel had been watching all along, and now with the clock stopped they were ready. Well almost. Ciresi starred up at the screen, not prepared to budge until someone somewhere pressed the button to make the number say "1002". It was a formality, but it would feel better to see it.


"I'm about to be a walker rather than a sitter."

This was Lacey, one of the dealers waiting escort players to the pay-out desk. This was a good time to do the job she said, given that most people are happy to have made the money. That would change a little later though. "They always think they could have got more."

Jack Effel gave the hand-for-hand instructions, familiar now to anyone who has witnessed a Main Event bubble: Stay in seats. Dealers stand when they complete one hand. All-ins to remain face down. Good luck.

The first hand did nothing. But then came the second.

"Players in your seats!" yelled Ciresi. He might be built like a TV detective who gets results, but on this occasion nobody listens. There's too much going on and too much at stake.

Then came the all-ins called. That nudged the volume up.

Hand_for_Hand_WSOP_d3.jpgDealers stand during hand for hand play

Effel was on the mike. With an elimination in the Amazon he was hotfooting it to Brasilia. He gets got there out of breath (Ciresi admitted he let Effel beat him there), which players in the Amazon couldn't see, but could hear. Sure enough there's no mistaking the message in what he said next.

"Another elimination."

A cheer went up, hearty, full of relief and pride. Somewhere there was a Tarzan call. Relief was on the faces of tournament staff, job done. Well almost.

The three players who busted in the final moments were brought before the cameras for a high card draw, with a seat in next year's main event to the winner. Effel, still working at full speed and now back in the Amazon Room, was hot, and looked it under the lights.

Roy_Daoud_WSOP_d4.JPGRoy Daoud

"We need to wipe his brow or something," said Ciresi. One of his staff produced a towel of some kind. "Is this clean?" he asked. Given the circumstances it was clean enough. He passed it to Effel who wiped his face, and took to the stage.

"Congratulations, you're all in the money!!"

And that was that. There were "lucky hats" for players, more applause, and of course the high card draw, won by Roy Doud wearing a Matt Sundin PokerStars shirt. Ciresi returned to his panel on the stage, took another drink of water, and allowed his boss Effel to wrap up this part of the day. Then he smiled, took a breath and looked around.

"Mamma mia."


Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.Photography by