Those who follow the tour know Steve O’Dwyer to be a jovial, carefree, fun-loving man, a popular member of the poker fraternity. This is all true. But at the last break we saw O’Dwyer in a different frame of mind, suggesting that as play approaches a final table, the enormity of the situation is becoming clear.
That doesn’t apply to everyone. On the bell for the break Theo Jorgensen made a bee-line for the gents toilets while Christopher Frank, putting his anorak on and reaching for a box of matches, went to do his homework with a friend in the smoking area. Niall Farrell and Chris Moorman sloped off to the outside of the tournament area, seemingly with nothing to do other than wait for the break to end.
But most striking of all was O’Dwyer who, at over six feet, with a beard and long hair swept back over his head, is as noticeable away from the table as he is at it. Now though he’s serious. Gone is any trace of a grin, replaced on his slightly flushed face by a furrowed brow.
Perhaps foremost in O’Dwyer’s mind is last Season’s EPT London. In it the American, who now lives in Dublin, reached the final table where he faced the unstoppable Benny Spindler heads-up. It had been a transformative event for O’Dwyer, not least because as he passed a certain level of prize money he proclaimed: “I’m out of make up!” But he would finish second to Spindler. Returning to London O’Dwyer has unfinished business.
As players took their break O’Dwyer felt better watching the colour-up. Players are welcome to watch, although most don’t. But O’Dwyer preferred knowing everything was in order. It’s not that he doubted any of the five floor staff changing the chips, but at this stage, with ten left and a final table in sight, there’s no point taking unnecessary risks.
So he told the waiting TV crew he’d be a minute and watched the stacks revert to just two colours, yellow (25,000) and blue (5,000). O’Dwyer seemed as focus observing this as he’d been in any hand played today, watching the dealers as if looking for the sleight of hand as they performed a magic trick.
There was none, and O’Dwyer left to do his interview, although he looked as though his mind was elsewhere. On tea perhaps…
O’Dwyer returned from the break third in chips. Now, with just nine players remaining, he’s fifth in chips with 2.5 million as we play on until one more player departs. One thing seems certain: O’Dwyer has only one thing in mind.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter