It started at around 10.45am, right about the time a poker tournament reporter thinks about ending the browsing of garbage and smut on his phone and getting up and making something of his morning. An orange started trembling on the counter.
The sight of static fruit in a tournament reporter’s room is strange enough, but good intentions had not yet faded to dust (it’s Day 1B) and the cracks-papering vitamin C shot still sat there. But now it was moving, gently quivering from side to side. That was not normal.
It’s difficult to remember why this early warning sign was dismissed, but it didn’t cause unnecessary shock. However, when the bed starting shuddering too, and more vigorously than if the neighbours had just decided they liked each other, something was clearly amiss. Was it the wind? Surely not. Was it a sudden onset disease? Possibly, but remember the orange.
No, it was eventually obvious. This was an earthquake. But now a question: what on earth does one do in an earthquake?
I still don’t know the answer to that, but I can tell you what I did. I put on some swimming shorts and a T-shirt and went to stand in the corridor.
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It sounds dumb, but I was not the only one. One neighbour, a bemused Frenchman, peeked his head around the door and said: “Did you feel that?” I told him I did, and he said: “Do they have earthquakes in Vegas?” I did not know. Then another door opened and a character from a movie stepped out: a woman in a robe carrying a tiny dog beneath her arm. Regrettably, she did not have curlers in her hair nor face-cream on her cheeks, but it otherwise it was perfectly cliched. The dog yapped in acknowledgment of the fact.
A housekeeper stood behind her cart and fended some questions. “Was that normal?” She did not think so. “Were there often earthquakes in Vegas?” She did not think so. I thought about asking for a second bar of soap, but feared she would not think so. I left it, and headed to the elevator.
There were three people in the first one that came along, a Midwestern family from a Duane Hanson sculpture. The mother was nervy, talking about a swaying on the 30th floor. The father was apprehensive too. He looked like a man waiting for a stall in an airport bathroom. Meanwhile their son peered at both of them, finally understanding an overheard argument from a couple of years back when mom shouted at pop about the banging in Vegas.
The three of them looked to me for reassurance. But my bed-head and swimming shorts offered them none, so we travelled to the lobby and started harassing the bellman.
“Sure we have them,” he said, like we were asking for extra bars of soap. “But not often,” he said, like we were asking for extra bars of soap. A colleague got on the phone and talked to someone in California. “They had one there,” the colleague said. “Aftershock,” the bellman said. We all nodded but were not convinced.
Two young couples came through the door and one of them said something that sounded like “earthquake”. I said: “Did you feel the earthquake?” seeking solace in company, but the guy said: “EARTHQUAKE!?!” and seized his girlfriend with both hands, his face stricken in fear. “Sorry, I thought you said ‘earthquake’,” I said. “EARTHQUAKE!?!” he said again, bloodshot eyes and rumpled clothes belying a man on his way home from a night out, wracked in a stoned paranoia. I quickly shuffled away.
It was only when in the line for a coffee that it struck me. So far I’d encountered only people with no obvious access to Twitter. Twitter would know! I reached for my phone and typed in “earthquake” “Vegas”. And soon I saw the reassuring memes and quips, the fallen chair and the sports bettor anxious to get his wager on before the line changes. Meanwhile the Irish pair David Lappin and Dara O’Kearney wondered if they should open their safe.
With the danger apparently passed (it lasted 20 seconds) it was apparently safe to return to the room. The dog had stopped yapping. The Frenchman had returned to bed. The orange still sat on its counter. There was still only one bar of soap.
Quickly the poker world returned to normal, with upwards of 1,000 players heading to the Rio for Day 1B of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. Daniel Negreanu was on “shuffle up and deal” duties and said, “Players! Don’t do anything stupid.” Further tremors are expected today, but we’ll hope to get through it. We’ve survived torrential rain at the WSOP before, and now we can add an earthquake.
WSOP photography by PokerPhotoArchive