It was 3am when the $1,500 Seven Card Stud event reached the final eight. Scheduled to be a two-day tournament, the second day had dragged long into the night. As it happened, I found Team PokerStars’ Greg Raymer in the bathroom. He’d been asked by the tournament directors to fill out an ESPN bio sheet and take a break. He decided to take a break first. Which, I suppose, is why I found him in the bathroom.
There had been a lot of confusion all day long. No one was sure whether the final table was going to play out that night or come back on Sunday. By the time the decision had to be made, it was already Sunday.
Raymer didn’t look tired, but he indicated he’d rather come back and play after getting some sleep. The vote at the table was 5-3 in favor of sleeping. Among the three dissenters was a man accustomed to not sleeping, Barry Greenstein.
My job here is to pay very close attention to all people who come from the PokerStars ranks. While not necessarily more important, the members of Team PokerStars tend to stand out in my coverage. So, when both Greg Raymer and Barry Greenstein make a final table together, it tends to grab my attention. Greenstein was set on playing tomorrow’s 5pm Limit Hold’em event and wanted to play on this morning. The TDs eventually decided that is exactly what would happen.
Around here, final tables are a big deal. ESPN has a huge stadium-like stage set up for its televised coverage. Bluff Radio has a high-security cloaked area where it broadcasts tape-delayed final tables that ESPN isn’t covering. And even when no major media outlet is paying attention to a final table, there is usually a rail three-deep of looky-loos.
This morning was an exception. Whether it’s the plodding nature of Seven Card Stud or the fact that it’s 5:30 in the morning, the final table of this event was watched by no more than a dozen people, only half of them being people who weren’t paid to be there.
And yet, this was going to be a place where one of the most coveted prizes in all of poker would be earned. There are people in the world who actually buy World Series bracelets that they didn’t win. For a guy who has covered more final tables than he can count, this particular conclusion was surreal. Sitting there at the baize were two of the world’s most recognizable poker pros, Barry Greenstein and Greg Raymer. And watching? A skeleton crew of media and a few people who had wandered in after a night at the clubs.
In a perfect world, this story would end with one of those two men winning the bracelet. Both of them are as likable as you’d ever want and not media whores. Neither seemed bothered by the fact that they didn’t have cameras in their face or a cheering section on the rail. They played their games, and they did what they could to win. In the end, it wasn’t enough. But, from the perspective of a guy who has seen them play all over the world, it was pretty cool to see this odd thing happen. It was a fight for a World Series bracelet that only a few people could actually say they saw.
Greg ended up busting in sixth place shortly after his set of queens cracked was by a flush. Greenstein ended up going out in fourth place shortly after his two pair was bested by a better two pair.
Both men exited with a certain flair, Raymer signing autographs and Greenstein signing a copy of his book, “Ace on the River” for the guy who busted him.
This morning, as the rising sun turns the Las Vegas mountains purple, there will be no bracelet for these two champions. And even if nobody saw it happen, these two guys proved they are worthy of the admiration they get when the cameras are rolling.
Nice work, gentlemen.