WSOP 2017: Advice to the final 27 for Day 7 -- "Do what you do"
"Look... over there. Michael Ruane."
During last night's dinner break, members of your intrepid reporting team made an excursion to Pasta Mia West, a favorite spot for fans of Italian cuisine located not too far from the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. At the time there were 43 players remaining in the World Series of Poker Main Event, and we had spotted one of them sitting on his own, having a quiet meal by himself.
This was Ruane's second straight year enjoying the dinner break on Day 6 of the WSOP Main Event. He'll be enjoying another Day 7, too, as last year's fourth-place finisher is one of the last 27 players coming back today.
We didn't want to bother Ruane, and so we didn't ask. But immediately we wondered if he'd eaten at Past Mia West on the Day 6 break last July. Or perhaps he had been doing so every dinner break during yet another remarkable Main Event run?
Ruane took fourth out of 6,737 players last year, earning $2,576,003 for doing so. A person could have the excellent linguini with white clam sauce I had last night every night for 175 years with that kind of money.
This year's tournament drew even more players -- 7,221, to be exact -- which means Ruane has outlasted another 7,194 Main Event players so far this year. That's 13,927 altogether (!), a feat which now has people comparing what Ruane is doing to other remarkable Main Event back-to-back showings.
Before the fields first reached 100 players in 1982, there were three back-to-back champions -- Johnny Moss (whose first title came via vote, not tournament), Doyle Brunson, and Stu Ungar. After that watershed moment, other remarkable back-to-backs include...
* Johnny Chan (1st of 152 in 1987; 1st of 167 in 1988; 2nd of 178 in 1989)
* Dan Harrington (3rd of 839 in 2003; 4th of 2,576 in 2004)
* Greg Raymer (1st of 2,576 in 2004; 25th of 5,619 in 2005)
* Mark Newhouse (9th of 6,352 in 2013; 9th of 6,683 in 2014)
Meanwhile Antoine Saout finished third in the Main Event in 2009, then made Day 7 along with Ruane last year before going out in 25th. We don't know where Saout ate dinner last night, but we imagine he's found a Rio routine that works for him, too.
Ben Lamb is a third player in today's field who has made multiple deep Main Event runs, getting all of the way to 14th in 2009, then third in 2011.
We spoke with Lamb yesterday at the first break of Day 6 after he had gone from 4.725 million to start the day to 7.48 million. The upward climb continued unabated from there, with Lamb ultimately ending the day having more than quintupled his stack to 25.685 million (fourth of 27 presently).
After a day like that, If Lamb wants to chat with us again at today's first break, we'd understand why.
Speaking of superstitions, late last night we couldn't resist talking with the colorful 64-year-old amateur player John Hesp who would go on to end Day 6 with a big stack as well of 20.88 million (sixth of 27).
We call him colorful both because of his gregarious personality and his choice of dress, a crazy-quilt patchwork combo shirt and jacket given to him by a friend before leaving his home in England for this "bucket list" adventure to play the Main.
Hesp has worn the outfit each day of his run, the more conspicuous of a couple of his routines fairly interpreted as driven by superstition. A less conspicuous one concerns how Hesp has literally been driven to and from the tournament each day.
On Day 1 he obtained a ride to the venue from a new friend made here in Las Vegas, and when Hesp made Day 2 he made certain to find the fellow again. They kept up the routine from there, forming a fast and likely lasting friendship over the last week.
"I'm the luckiest guy in the world," says Hesp's driver (preferring to remain out of the spotlight). "I got to meet him on Day 1. I became his friend, and it's just been my pleasure."
Hesp's driver-slash-lucky-charm has been railing him all day and night, too, cheering him on along with many others enjoying his success.
"He's become my manager while I'm here," Hesp added with a smile. It's true -- during the last break last night he helped arrange and even snapped photos of Hesp with some new fans while also coordinating his interview with Joe Stapleton for the televised broadcast.
Many are enjoying watching Hesp continue forward, and marveling at his remaining jovial, relaxed, and competitive against such top tournament talent (including those mentioned above).
"I just hope I've entertained some people," adds Hesp. "I've had a ball... a real ball. I mean, I'm amazed that I'm still awake. The grind just goes on and on. The grind is relentless, really. I suppose it's adrenaline that's keeping me running at the moment."
It's been some ride, for sure, starting with that first ride to the Rio for Day 1.
Finally, speaking of superstitions, we at least have to acknowledge the elimination last night of Jonathan Dwek in 38th place for $176,399. Like Hesp, Dwek dressed the same for several days of his Main Event run, and everyone noticed.
Dwek wore the costume on Day 1 and did well, then ditched it subsequently. But a bad day thereafter inspired him to put it on again, making literal the convention of calling oneself "Hero" when playing poker hands against "Villain."
Dwek was knocked out yesterday by Christian Pham in a huge hand that gave Pham the chip lead at the time, and Pham continues to have that lead to begin play today.
Pham made a five-high straight flush to stop Dwek, prompting variations on the headline "Steel Wheel downs Man of Steel." In the hand Pham had shoved the river with A♦3♦ on a K♥5♦3♠2♦4♦ board, and Dwek called with A♠8♣ to be eliminated.
After the hand, Benjamin Pollak joked at the table that Pham was Dwek's Kryptonite, a line also employed by others around the room at the time.
A suggestion was made by someone -- perhaps by your humble scribbler, I can't recall -- that the tournament be stopped and everyone be given some time to come up with other ways to describe Dwek's knockout as he went up, up, and away from his seat, forced to leave the tournament faster than a speeding bullet.
I mean someone had to remark on the irony of this strange visitor who came to Earth said to be able to the change course of mighty rivers getting knocked out on fifth street, right?
Maybe we could make a contest of it -- a different, alternative tournament to run alongside the one involving cards and chips?
There was no time to consider the suggestion properly. The tournament marched forward, and as noted play stopped later in the night with 27 left and Pham on top and Lamb, Hesp, Saout, Ruane, and Pollak among those left.
Call it superstition or a system -- their routines have been working so far, and all who remain are hoping to be among the nine at night's end who'll be able to continue them.
Click here for a look at the start-of-day chip counts with 27 remaining, then stick close throughout the day as we monitor players continuing to do what they do.
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.