This is when it all gets good.
|Jesse May in
Well, well. They fell like flies
on Day 2 of the World Series of Poker, slashing the field down from 384 players
to 111 big hearts with their eyes on the prize. Actually, there are only some
of them with their eyes on the prize. A good chunk of the 111 players left in
this tournament are lying in bed as I write, eyes wide open and tossing and
turning, with the same two thoughts going over and over in their heads. The
first thought, Why cant I get to sleep? And the second
thought, I just want to hold on for fifty more places, get dealt an
ace-queen and be allowed to go home. Because in your wildest dreams, you
could never imagine how lonely it must be to be lying awake in bed with a whole
stack of chips after Day 2 of the World Series of Poker.
That is why,
with all due respect to those who have had fun so far, those players that found
their nerve to come over the top with no hand when their instincts told them
the play was proper, the guys who said to themselves after winning a monster
pot on Day 2, How hard can this be?, all those fellows are just
beginning to experience whats special about a five day tournament.
Its not just five days of poker. Its a 120 hour dream that you
cant wake up from, something that started as a barrel of laughs until the
walls began to move, when the smile on your neighbors face starts
haunting you like a white faced clown, cackling over and over in your brain
when he moved in on you for all your stack and you started trembling with the
two queens. Day 3 of the World Series of Poker is when laughter turns to pain.
And there are 70 guys with rings around their eyes who are just discovering
that rude awakening, they have to ask themselves one very important question.
Do I really have what it takes?
I like the guys who have been there
before. I always do. I like every player who has blown out once before on Day 4
or Day 5 and had the benefit of years to think about it. Lessons at this most
special of all poker tournaments can only be learned the hard way, and it takes
several years of pain before youre ready to step to the plate again.
Look at Jeff Shulman. Chip leader at the 2000 World Series of Poker
when they were only nine remaining, and he busted out in seventh place. Did he
cry about it, no. He was guilty of being a 25 year old kid who was so excited
that he tried to win the WSOP on Day 4, and if it wasnt for Jim
McManus recent book, a lot of people wouldnt even know how it
happened. Shulman didnt kiss and tell, he didnt spend two years
sunk below his beer telling hard luck stories to himself and the barman, he
mulled and he waited. And now hes back in a solid position, three years
later with 100,000 in chips and so much the wiser. This is a guy whos
ready to win. Annie Duke, same story. She held herself together on a volatile
Day 2, bereft of the suckers who just keep giving her money because they figure
a woman cant call, and shes looking to improve on her top fifteen
finish of a few years ago that gave her a lifetime of experience in how to jig
the big dance. Former champions cant be ignored, guys like Scotty Nguyen
and the always underrated Dan Harrington. Theyre sleeping like babies,
the sleep of the what lies ahead.
This doesnt mean that you
should write off every no name, the poker world is big and there are some
players who have a big advantage this year in that no one knows that
theyre capable. Final tables are not only where champions meet, its
where they are made, and theyll always be a few youngsters who have more
courage in their little finger then thirty years worth of practice could ever
give anyone. Very few folks know about the Norwegian Odd Erlund, but his name
will likely be in lights for years to come. He spent part of Day 2 on the left
of Amarillo Slim, one of the greatest players in the short history of Internet
poker reraising a man who was great before the Internet was born. Odd
Erlunds got game, and a whole lot of poise. My pick is the red headed
wonder, young Rory Liffey, who has got that pedigree that every No Limit
Holdem player dreams of in that hes Irish. Rory is also a European
cash game player of no small repute, and the boys back home know that if you
give him too much respect hell rob you blind. Late in Day 2 he had 60,000
and was taken aside, the wise minders with reassuring words said hey Rory, you
got enough for tomorrow, dont be scared of settling down for the last two
hours. Well, Rory said, thats fair enough but I think Ill
just kick on instead. And with 91,300 in chips and the bottle to boot,
Liffey could back into the final table without ever showing a hand.
There was some tough tables on Day 2 of the World Series of Poker. In
an 800 player tournament the luck of the cards pales in comparison to the luck
of the draw, and you wouldnt wish on your worst enemy what happened to
Surinder Sunar on Day 1, when he played for eleven hours straight with same
eight players, he said it was like a super satellite where theyre giving
away eight seats. Menawhile, at the next table over all you could hear was,
Seat open. Seat open!. Its tough to accumulate when
theres no chips on the table.
Julian Gardner sitting at a Day 2
table with the fearsome Paul Darden, and to the left of Johnny Chan. To his
right was John Inishima, and a short stacked David Sklansky. Actually, for
Sklansky anything over six thousand is three hours of antes. It must be lovely
to sit on the left on David Sklansky. Paul Darden is the one they call the real
deal, wearing a slick pair of silver winged glasses and a T-shirt that reads,
Rules of the Game. Darden has a steady gaze, dark eyes and an intense
expression, 600 becomes 2200 before Sklansky reraises all in for 5000 more.
Sklansky is biting his nails, flipping his nose, and he takes his glasses on
and off once as he looks away. Darden just freezes, immobile with his 70,000
and staring down, but you have to imagine hes just feeling, feeling to
his left. Paul Darden folds.
Lyle Berman has to have the second biggest
mouth in poker. He had chirping chips all day long, meaning he got a hold of
some chips and just started chirping. Hes spitting out nothings, a waah
waah waah, usually the way people act when they know theyre going off
their cheese. A backwards baseball cap stubble mouthed gangler wearing a
Pokerstars t-shirt and playing like hes in an Internet chatroom is
ranting right back. And with both ears ringing and sitting between the two of
them is pretty boy Carlo Citrone, who had the clock called on him three times
today. And that was without any chips in the pot.
Day 3 wont be
nearly so fast. The play will halt to a grind when entrants start smelling the
money, and itll be the stars with the muscle and the courage who are open
for business when everyone else shuts down who will make it to the final
forty-five of the World Series of Poker. Me? Im gonna have some bacon and
eggs and get a place on the rail. This is when it all gets good.