Because of the media restrictions, which have been imposed partly to keep things under control in the Amazon room, but mostly because some media outlets opened their check books rather wide for exclusivity, it's increasingly difficult to get inside the tournament area and cover the action in anything resembling real-time.
While this has been annoying in many cases, it's actually forced us to get better stories, deeper stories, about the people behind the numbers and hand histories.
My major assignment is to cover Team PokerStars players, but -- entirely by accident -- I stumbled upon my absolute favorite story of this kid named Rob "Boilingfish" Berryman. Rob is just over 21 years old, and was the last player to qualify in the largest Main Event qualifier in history, which sent 234 players here a couple of weeks ago. Here's the story so far:
I paused near the center of the room on my way out, and a man in a PokerStars hat called out to me from the rail.
I walked over and he said, "would you write something on the blog about Steven Berryman?"
"Sure," I said. "What's his name on PokerStars?"
"Boilingfish," he said. "He's got a lot of college buddies back home who know him as 'Rob.' They're watching him really closely and want to know how he's doing."
"You bet, sir." I said. "I'll find out what I can, and report it for all of them. Oh, before I go are you . . ."
"Oh, I'm just his dad," he said.
Nobody is just a dad, when they are as proud of their son as you are," I thought. I tried to say it, but the words caught in my throat. I've been there with my own kids before, and seeing the love and pride in this man's eyes put me right back in the bleachers for too many basketball, soccer, and baseball games to count. Man, I miss my boys.
That was a couple of days ago, and since then I've been keeping a close eye on Rob, and talking with his dad, who watches him from the rail with such pride,
Today, I looked for Rob just after the money bubble burst. Here's an excerpt from my post, Beyond the Bubble:
I got up near Humberto's table, and stopped to check in on Rob "Boilingfish" Berryman, and I nearly panicked when I saw an empty seat where he was the last time I looked.
I bumped into my friend Joy, who is shooting some of the great pictures you're seeing with our posts, and asked her if they were breaking tables in this area.
"No," she said, "I don't think so."
"Oh, [expletive deleted]," I said. "I was really hoping that --"
Just then, Rob walked back to his seat. I hadn't even noticed that he had a healthy stack there. I guess when I saw the empty seat, they fell into some sort of panic-induced blind spot.
"-- this guy was still in!" I said.
I extended my hand to him and introduced myself. "I'm the guy your dad asked to cover you on the blog," I said.
He grinned sheepishly and said, "I think my dad's more excited than I am."
"I'm a dad," I said, "and I totally understand how he feels. When he's watching you and wearing a PokerStars cap, I can see myself watching my kids play T-ball while I wear a Direct Tire T-shirt."
He turned over his shoulder, and saw his dad standing at the rail. He waved and turned back around. I watched his dad swell with pride.
"How are you doing?" I said.
"I have about one hundred and five thousand," he said.
"This is good," I said.
"Yeah, and I didn't even think I would be here today, because I was so sick last night."
"Nerves?" I said.
"Oh no," he said, "I think I ate some bad food or something, because I was up all night long."
"Oh man," I said. "That sucks."
"Yeah, I finally had a doctor come in and give me a shot around six this morning, and even then I didn't think I'd make it here."
We looked at his stack together. "So this is pretty cool, considering." He said.
"Yeah, I think I'll agree with you," I said.
"And did you know that I got here on sixteen dollars?"
"Oh yes," I told him, and I didn't even try to suppress the huge smile that spread across my face. "We on Team Blog know all about you, and we're cheering like hell for you."
[. . .]
I passed the rail, and stopped to talk with Rob's father.
"Congratulations, dad!" I said.
"Thank you," he said. "Did he tell you about being sick overnight?"
"Yeah," I said, "I'm really glad that he's here, though."
"So am I," he said. The pride in his eyes may have brought tears to mine.
There's a lot more in that post, so I encourage you to go ahead and read the full story at the Official PokerStars Blog. When you get back, keep reading from my post A Pause in the Action:
On my way down the hallway, I bumped into Rob "Boilingfish" Berryman and his dad.
"How are you doing?" I asked him.
"I have about 130K," He said.
"You have just about 10K under average," I said, "you're doing great, man."
"What do you think I should do?" He asked.
"Dude," I thought, "I played like a moron and busted before level 2. You don't want my advice on anything."
"You should just keep doing what you've been doing," I said, "because it's really working well for you."
"Okay," he said, "I think I have some respect at my table."
"Use that, man," I said, "but don't forget that you have enough chips to go deep. How are you feeling?"
"I'm really tired." He said. I could see the exhaustion in his body, but there was also a big tell that, as a parent, I recognized from times my own kids have been sick: his pupils were pretty dilated.
"Right after the money bubble, he told me, 'I don't think I can go on, dad,'" His dad told me, "and I told him, 'you got to! you got to keep going!'"
They both smiled, and Rob said, "Yeah, when we got past the twenty thousand mark, I felt a little extra motivation."
"That's entirely understandable," I said.
"Yeah, I think we're making something like three thousand an hour now, but I just want to finish the day and go to bed."
"That's a great plan," I said, "whatever happens, we're all really proud of you."
He looked at the clock on his phone. "Oh! I have to get back in there," he said.
"Just keep doing what you're doing!" I said as he joined the stream of players moving back into the tournament area.
When he left, his dad told me that he really wanted to just get him back to the hotel and into bed, so he'd feel better for tomorrow, and he thanked me for covering his son on the blog. I told him that it was my pleasure. It was an understatement, but it's the truth.
I made one last foray into the tournament room about an hour ago, and I talked with Rob for a minute. He was exhausted, and seemed relieved to take a break and not worry about poker for a little bit. He leaned back in his chair while the other players at his table fought over the antes and blinds, and we talked about the tournament. I gave him updates on some of the other PokerStars players in the field, and a few of the big pros who are left in action. I looked up and saw his dad watching proudly from the rail, but I also saw the concern that a parent has when they know their kid really needs to get some rest. I don't know anything more about this father and son than you do if you've read this far, but I've heavily identified with them both, and it continues to be an honor to share their story with the Internets, which you may have heard is just a series of tubes.