Robert Varkonyi was out of his chair, watching the dealer prepare for what could have been the former World Champion's last hand of the Series. His wife was next to him as the TV cameras homed in, hoping to catch it all on tape. Varkonyi was behind, flipping up a meagre-looking ten-seven, against his opponent's queen-ten.
Then the flop came; eight-nine-jack. Varkonyi was still wise enough to know that the odds were against him but called for a queen anyway. When it came on the turn he cried out in disbelief. He'd said his goodbyes and left his paperwork in order, ready to go, but now had been brought back to life by the defibrillation of a turn card queen.
Former World Champion Robert Varkonyi
Varkonyi is a veteran of this place, having done all this before. But the obvious display of fire in his belly betrays just how much this event means to the winners, and the losers. His experience is just one of many currently taking place in the Amazon Room and ever decreasing Pavilion Room, as more and more players find themselves banished to the rail.
Just as players think they're making progress - a third day, equivalent to a cash finish on the PokerStars European Poker Tour - reality snaps at your heels. While players have done well to make it this far they remain a good 24 hours from any financial compensation and that stage is just about close enough to cause torment.
Already the hallways leading back to the Rio casino floor are filling with the defeated, loners contemplating what went wrong and how they're going to explain it to their families.
For others it's not that bad. Pros already resident here will just drive home, or straight into another tournament at Bellagio or the Venetian, someplace big where they can play their way out of regret. For the majority though, a terminal lack of chips marks the end of a trip they've been looking forward for months. It's all over. Time to re-join the real world where the office and the Pai Gow debts will be waiting.
Thanks for playing, but we're going to have to ask some of you to leave...
Fabien Kowalski, from Brazil, busted on Day 2. His departure was typical. The cards confirmed his worst fears so he stood up from his chair, the players that he'd formerly formed a bond with talking about the hand as if he'd never really been there.
Kowalski was lucky though, and had a friend playing a few tables away. His friend was in a hand so he stood a few feet away for a couple of minutes, self-consciously sipping from a bottle of water, not thirsty. Normally even these little engagements can be awkward, the "friend" more concerned with his own plight and hoping that his visitor's bad luck doesn't rub off.
But Kowalski was lucky. His friend noticed him, raked in the chips he'd just won and turned to console his friend, leaving the room with him to ask "what happened?"
For my part I asked him how he felt: "Bad," he replied, and I felt like an idiot for asking. But it's the only question still unanswerable to those yet to take part in the biggest game in town, and as long as there's no satisfactory answer we'll keep asking.
QUOTE OF THE HOUR
"Let me lose this pot, and then I'll tip you." --Young Phan to a cocktail server delivering water. Phan made good on both promises.
SUPERFLUOUS COMMENTARY OF THE HOUR
Player #1: "I'm all-in."
Player #2 (not in the hand): "He's all-in."
Player #3: "I fold."
Player #2: "He folds."
FAIRLY OBVIOUS T-SHIRT LEGEND OF THE HOUR
"Tofu Guys Don't Eat Meat."
BLIND VS. BLIND OF THE HOUR
JP Kelly sat in the big blind. His opponent in the small blind limped in for the 2,000 completion. Kelly raised it up to 6,500 and got the call. On a flop of A♠Q♠J♥, Kelly's 7,000 got the check-call. The same went for the 5♥ turn for 15,000. The 9♦ went check, a quick 41,500 from Kelly, and a long tank from his opponent. He finally made the call to see Kelly's A♥9♥ for the rivered two pair. He was up against the A♦ and what the dealer eventually said was an eight.
DISAPPEARING SECTION OF THE HOUR
The white section in the Pavilion is now bereft of players, with all tables having broken.
IMPORTANT INFO OF THE HOUR
Tournament boss Jack Effel says he expects we'll be in the money around Level 15 or 16, which would make it early on Day 4 tomorrow.
ODD FACT OF THE HOUR
If all the remaining 1,476 players in the field decided to chop up the prize pool evenly now, each would receive $43,720. Wouldn't like to be in charge of negotiating it, though.
AWKWARD MAN-SHAKE MOMENT OF THE HOUR
Stephen Bartley's handshake greeting to Tony Hachem, which involved Bartley inadvertently, and unbeknownst to Hachem, winning a game of paper-scissors-stone as he "wrapped" Hachems's fist with his hand.