For those of you who aren't big poker fans: it was a very big and incredibly historical event, and watching it from about fifteen feet away is like being ringside for the Rumble in the Jungle, or in the dugout when the Sox finally won the World Series.
Buoyed by the celebratory atmosphere (and perhaps encouraged ever-so-slightly by an Arrogant Bastard Ale or, uhm, two) we decided that we would play some tournament poker of our own. At 1:15 in the morning.
And that, my dear friends, is how I ended up at Binion's, playing against a former WSOP final-tabler in their 2am tourney, and watching the sun come up as my friend made the final table.
I'm working on the story about that, and it should be finished sometime tomorrow (you can read Absinthe's first installment of what is sure to be an epic Roshomon if you just can't wait to hear it from me. He's already set the bar damn high, which is why I'm waiting until tomorrow when I'm off tilt to write it up. Yeah, that's right, I'm on tilt because I just lost another fucking PLO buy-in when I flopped a full house and the only fucking card in the deck that beat me came on the turn for the other guy and he stacked me. Again.)
Until then, though, here's some stuff I've recently done for the official PokerStars blog (as of Midnight Pacific on July 27, the blog is having network issues, so the links may not work, but come back and keep trying, mmmkay? There's a lot that I can't excerpt here):
How I spent my Summer Vacation is a mini photo essay featuring some of the places Otis and I hang out when we're not working.
Fossilman makes the final table
"Hey!" I said, as I hung up my phone, "how are you?"
"I'm great," he said. "Do you want to grab some lunch?"
I had just gotten into work, and I had a private consultation set up with Barry Tanenbaum just over an hour later, but there was no way I'd turn down lunch with Greg.
"Sure," I said, "can I be back in an hour?"
"Yeah, we're just going around the corner," he said.
I picked up my stuff, and we walked out of the Rio together. Just like crossing the Amazon room, we were stopped every ten or twenty feet, until we got to the valet.
"You car is on the way, Mr. Raymer," the valet, a twenty-something kid with sandy blond hair and a huge smile said. He held a deck of cards in his hand.
"Hey, do you want to high card for a million?" He said.
"How about a hundred?" Greg said.
The valet looked at his tips, and laughed. "Sorry, man, I don't think the rest of the guys would be happy about that if I lost."
Greg smiled back at him, and shook his hand. "Maybe next time," he said.
We drove out to lunch, and on the way I asked him if he was off until the Main Event starts later this week.
"I'm going to get into the deuce to seven lowball at three," he said. "I'll just wait until we get back to buy-in, because I think the line at the cashier will be shorter then, if there's a line at all."
"Cool," I said. "I'll try and keep track of you on the blog."
We had lunch, where I unsuccessfully tried to convince him to try Geocaching (no dice; Greg was adamantly opposed to anything involving hiking) and to explain why people didn't like Wesley Crusher on Star Trek. (Greg said that it just didn't make sense. Clearly, Greg hasn't spent a lot of time around Trekkies.)
Fossilman takes a break
I turned around and scanned the room. The no-limit 2-7 lowball rebuy (yeah, you read all of that right) has a very small field of just around eighty players, and I knew that Greg Raymer was one of them because he told me on our way to lunch today that he would be playing. I scanned the tables, and saw him. They were on a break, so I made my way over to his table.
"Hey," I said, "do you have a minute to talk to me for the blog?"
"Sure," he said. "Come walk with me for a bit."
He picked up his stuff, and before he could take a single step, two people came up and asked him for autographs. Greg graciously obliged, smiled and shook their hands, and we started to make our way out of the room.
Ten feet later, someone stopped Greg for an autograph and a picture. He graciously obliged, and we continued on our way, single file with me following behind. This happened every ten to twenty feet for the next several minutes, until we got to the center of the room and a guy held out a signature-covered T-shirt and a Sharpie pen to me.
I took it, and turned to hand it to Greg when he said, "Oh, I wanted your autograph."
"Really?" I said.
"Oh, I thought you wanted Greg's."
"I already have it." He said.
"Ah, now this makes sense," I said. I took his pen and signed my name as best I could on a T-shirt, which is something I've never been particularly good at.
I caught up to Greg, who had managed to make it about twenty-five feet before he was stopped this time, and waited while an older man in a tan cowboy hat told him how much he loved watching him play.
Aside: I've been around a lot of celebrities in my life -- hell, I was even one of them a long time ago -- and it's rare to see someone handle himself with the grace, poise, kindness and generosity that Greg has. There are a lot of very young self-professed professional players here, many of them in their early twenties, and with rare exception they are arrogant, immature, entitled, and entirely without honor or respect for the history of the game. It was so refreshing to walk with Greg through a writhing mass of his fans, and see him treat every single one of them with kindness and respect. Some of these "professionals" would be well-served to take a break from "investing" in Dolce & Gabbana and listen to him.
Fossilman Makes the Final Five
While chip runners collected and racked the player's chips, Men "The Master" Nguyen talked with a friend at the rail about a huge call that Phillipe made with a ten nine to take a massive pot, and David Williams talked on his cell phone with a smile on his face -- pretty easy to do with all the chips he had stacked up in front of him.
"Is position as important in this game as it is in hold'em?" I said.
"Oh, it's more important. Knowing how many cards your opponent is going to draw is a huge advantage," Greg said.
The break was nearing an end, and I felt like I was dangerously close to imposing on Greg, so I put my notebook into my pocket, and said, "Good luck, man."
"Thank you," he said.
"Have fun," I said. It's such a stupid thing to say to a professional player, who has just been crushed by bad luck, and is tantalizingly close to winning another World Series Bracelet, but it is also something I tell my friends when they're playing, and I said it automatically. "Er, I mean, have fun if you can," I said, and walked out of the tournament area before I messed up his mojo.
Fossilman Finishes Fifth
A few minutes after the dinner break, I walked into the Amazon room and saw that the final table had resumed. Men The Master ran up to the rail to celebrate winning a hand with some people as I walked in, and it cracked me up that he was having such a good time, and acting like me and my friends do in a tourney with one hundredth the buy-in.
I made my way down along Main Street until I found a spot where I could get close enough to the rail to go under the rope, when a voice called out, "Cowboy Wil! Cowboy Wil!"
I turned around, and saw John Vorhaus in one of the 2-5 no-limit games. We talked for a minute or so, and when he sat down to play his blind, I looked back to check on Greg's table.
Okay, a small problem: Greg wasn't there.
"Oh shit," I thought, "Greg busted out."
"I have to go," I said, and I pushed my way past some tourists and beyond the rail. I walked past several empty tables, and an empty seat where Greg had sat confirmed my fears: he was eliminated in fifth place. Evelyn Ng sat in a chair at an empty table as she sweated her friend David Williams.
"How did Greg go out?" I said.
"David just busted him," she said.
"Do you know how the hand went?" I said.
"No, I missed it."
Aside: I checked on Pokerwire when I got back into the media room (where I've moved to do all my writing today; it's just too crazy and crowded in the halls) and saw that Greg once again got his money in ahead, and was outdrawn.
I pointed at David's massive stack of chips. "Not too bad for someone who says he's never played the game before today, huh?"
Evelyn smiled. "Nope."
I want to take a second and thank everyone who has left comments or sent in e-mail about my work for the PokerStars blog. It really means a lot to me to get your feedback. I feel like I'm in some sort of weird writer's zone right now, and doing some of the best writing of my life (or at least in recent memory), and I can't wait to see what the Main Event brings when it starts in about 36 hours. Things are about to get crazygonuts here in Vegas, and I will do my best to capture as much of it as I can.