WSOP 2016: Welcome to reality
The man in the elevator with me this morning seemed nervous, jittery, and ready to come out of his skin. He spied my media badge on my chest, but didn't recognize it as the Scarlet Letter for people who are definitely not playing in the Main Event.
"You still playing?
I explained my only role was to observe and report.
"Long days, huh?" he said.
It was clear: the guy needed to make some smalltalk. It was the only way to deal with the silence. Finally, he admitted he was suffering a little.
"My blood pressure has been up all morning," he said.
He can be forgiven his nervousness. This is Day 4, the day after the money bubble broke, and the first day of reality at the WSOP. Up to this point, anyone who busted walked away with no more than a story, a fairytale, an anecdote about that time they played in the biggest tournament in the world.
As we begin today, there are 800 people left in the Main Event. By the time they bag up at 12:45am, that number will have been reduced to 300. Along the way, they will see the Amazon Room transformed as the TV stage and feature tables fire up their cameras and turn their spotlights on reality.
How real is all of this? Well, anyone who busts right now gets $16,007. Surviving until the end of the day means a guarantee of $32,130 and a chance at competing for the $8 million first prize.
Among these final 800 are five people who are trying to bring another WSOP championship to PokerStars. It's an eclectic bunch: A French Canadian Team Online member, the PokerStars Mind Sports Ambassador, a Team Pro with and EPT title, a Twitch superstar, and Team Pro's only member from India.
Here's how they stack up as this day begins.
Marc-Andre Ladouceur: 1,302,000
Jennifer Shahade: 573,000
Liv Boeree: 554,000
Jason Somerville: 431,000
Aditya Agarwal: 125,000
Meanwhile, Louis Hillman made his way to his seat in the Amazon Room. Hillman is notable at this hour only because he has one of the smallest stacks in the room: 58,000. He joked about how long it was going to take him to stack them all up. But he also wanted to admit something.
"It feels good walking in for a Day 4," he said. "I could get used to this."
Put another way: it's good to wake up from a dream and find it is your reality for as long as you can make your chips last.
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Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging. Follow him on Twitter: @BradWillis. WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.