Table Talk at the WSOP
Hooked you in with one of those double-meaning titles, didn't I? Well, this time out, it's on to another pair of anecdotes from the floor of the WSOP's Main Event.
So, color me naive. I figured that the players, for the most part, would be pretty durned serious and focused on their games, and that irrelevant table talk would be at a minimum. Wrong-o.
Anecdote number one begins on either the third or fourth of the official Day One sessions, and T.J. Cloutier is in a highly visible spot --- his shoulder is literally against the rail of the main north-south aisle splitting the Amazon Room. Jen Tilly plays a couple of tables away, though she's not long for this tourney. T.J., though, waxes long on whatever topics come to mind, fielding questions from his tablemates about his past tournament experiences, interesting situations, whatever comes along.
I'm working the room --- he's one of perhapd 30 players I'm keeping a light watch over. Another is Barbara Enright, but my reasons are more personal here --- I'd played against Barb and hubby Max Shapiro several times in the now-defunct Expert Series on Royal Vegas Poker. I'd already met Max, but hadn't yet stumbled across Barb. The first time I locate her, I grab a quick photo but don't do much else; she looks focused and I'm not going to bother her with personal matters. But just as the dinner break arrives, her table breaks and she's carded... to T.J.'s table.
I run into Max during that break, too, and tell him where Barb's new seat happens to be. Barb is back a few minutes before the cards are dealt for the evening session, so I take that moment to introduce myself --- she remembers me from my Prima nickname (CawtBluffin) and my poker crosswords, which are on the main www.hintzes.com/poker site. Soon enough play resumes, and I wander off elsewhere, but return a little while later, just as Max himself checks in to see how Barb is doing. T.J.'s still telling his tales, of course, and the poor guy caught between T.J. and Barb --- and their what, nine bracelets? --- now has Max and me behind him as well. T.J. only knows me from one brief photo request, but Barb includes me (standing next to Max) in this strange conversation as well. Barb looks up at me and says to T.J., "She does poker crosswords. Good ones."
Well, that's just a hook into a new tale for T.J., about his uncle who did the New York Times crossword every day, and got so good he could do them in pen. I don't have much of a response for that --- I'm acquainted with one of the guys who creates the Times crosswords, Ray Hamel, but it's pretty much as irrelevant as the rest of this conversation is to poker.
But that doesn't slow down T.J. From there he's off into another tale, and then another. Even when he loses most of his stack when he can't knock another player off an overpair (T.J. held a pair plus an open-ended straight draw), he's off into another tale. Maybe about poker. Maybe not.
However, as for weird topics discussed at the table in conversations I was part of, that one ranks only second best. It's now late on Day Three, not long after the bubble has burst, and I'm doing a slow walk of the room, looking for someone to write about who's not wearing a Party or a Poker Stars shirt. (They were legion, and they had their own writers covering them, and I tried to keep my distance unless there was some unrelated reason for my being there.) Off toward the back wall, again, not far from the rail, I chance onto a guy from Houston, named Isaac "Scott" Lidji. He's not wearing some online site's gear; instead, he's got a powder-blue Terrell Owens #80 jersey on. (You know the team.)
When I ask about Lidji's experience in the tourney so far, I stumble into something unusual: His wife had just called to inform him that her recent in vitro implantation procedure had been successful, and she was now expecting; Scott got to relay his own good news (about making the money) in the same phone call. Scott's table neighbor is a nice man named Alan Resh, a 59-year-old developer from Virginia Beach who offers his own personal aside --- he's a decorated war vet. It's a good tale, but I can't write it up; the timing between Lidji and wife trumps Resh on the coincidence scale. It turns out though, that Resh has knowledge of in vitro procedures, and I do, too: I've had medical training. So darned if we don't end up in a discussion, promppted by Resh, of in vitro techniques and practices, this at a post-bubble table at the WSOP's Main Event.
Now that's unusual.
Also unusual is Lidji's tournament tale --- never deep-stacked, he just kept finding a way to hang on, hang on, hang on. He hangs on all the way to the late stages of Day Four, when I believe he's knocked out by Annie Duke, finishing somewhere inside the top 150. His seat just outside the ESPN area is filled by another player I'm following, Norway's Per Erik Loeff, and Loeff meets the same fate, only minutes later. Bad seat, ba-a-ad seat.