Waist Deep in the WSOP's Media Event
Media Day at the WSOP normally occurs on the day preceding the kickoff of the $10,000 Main Event. 2006 followed form, and on the 27th of July the press festivities came in two parts: the press conference itself, dealing with the World Series, the year's Poker Hall of Fame inductions, and the kickoff for the sure-to-be-a-dud Lucky You, and the Media Event, where writers and photogs and celebrities slug it out, the winner able to make a sizeable charitable donation.
I'll be writing about the press conference in one of my "Diary" pieces over at the KAP blog, but since the actual media poker event is more of a personal tale, it's better fodder for this site.
I didn't have much poker in my own plans during my first three days at the WSOP; I'd only managed one super-satellite and an impromptu FL session over at the Imperial Palace, while I waited to be able to check into an early-promised room that never materialized. That day, I'd made it to the Rio, hours later than planned, just getting my creds before the press office closed for the day. When it turned out I could play in this, I said, sure, why not? I knew it had the reputation of goofball poker, but then again, I'll try anything once.
--- What a draw! I end up next to Jay Greenspan's new book and disembodied backpack.
The registration card we received said play would begin at 5:00, but it was a soft start, post-conference, meaning 5:15 or 5:30 or whenever most of the celebrities scheduled to play could be rounded up and herded into their seats. James Garner's at a table about three behind me (he's always been one of my favorite actors), and he gets a nice round of applause as he takes his seat. We've got no celebs at our table, and only one writer I've met, that being Amy Calistri. On my left a rapid-talking East Coaster shows up, props his new book upright on the felt, and runs off again to give a couple of early copies to nearby friends. It turns out to be Jay Greenspan. I'm not sure I like him at first meeting (which is probably how he felt about me, too), but I get to know him a bit more in later days. Jay's alright. I also learn there's a little white lie somewhere in his book, but I won't spill the beans on that one.
Half the writers and photogs are running around taking photos of everyone else --- Pauly's everywhere with his photo lens. CC swoops by, as does Mickey Wilson (though she's too bashful to play), and that's about half of the writers I've met at this point. Overall, the scene is like an alumni banquet with card tables replacing the posh dining settings.
It takes a bit, but the cards do get dealt. At our table, one of the photogs must feel his time is more valuable elsewhere; he pushes all-in on the first hand with 10-3, gets called by QQ, and goes bye-bye. Nope, this ain't gonna be good poker. I'm down to about $800 (from my initial $1,000), when I limp into a pot with a baby pair, flop a set, and bust a player who pushes top pair. I'm at about $1,600, but then the table is broken and I'm shuffled off to other parts.
A strange table awaits me. It has two players who are literally asking the rules, and two seats with chips, but no players, one of those immediately to my right. That mystery is solved a few hands later --- Vince Van Patten slides in across the way, and his father, Dick Van Patten, moves in next to me.
--- At my second table, this guy's across the way...
--- ... and this one's on my right.
We all say our hi's and shake hands, the usual meet-the-celeb ritual. I bluff Dick off one hand for a small pot, holding garbage, when he checks a junky flop to me, but I miss a couple of other flops myself --- my chips are sliding a little bit. A few hands have gone past, and all of a sudden Vince notices that his father's chip stack is about half what it should be --- he'd been blinded down to about 850, while father Dick was down somewhere under 400. I figured it was the woman across the way, on Dick's other side, simply not knowing whose was whose and what was what; she'd also managed to grab chips from another player's stack when he was away, mis-anteing the whole table into confusion.
But Vince stands up and calls a tournament director on his father's behalf; Dick seemed a little bit out of it in the way that older people can sometimes get, pleasant but way-y distracted, and he'd "snap to" whenever he was spoken to or asked a question or when the action came round to him. But he's 77, and those things happen. He might also just be a little hard of hearing --- that happens too.
The end result of Vince's calling for the tournament director is that Dick is given an extra $500 in chips. Whether that was correct or not, no one knows. It's like everything else in the media event... just sort of made up on the spot. No one cares, either.
Oh, yeah, but then I'm about to get knocked out. I'm down to $1,200 in chips, the blinds are already $150/300, and I'm in middle position. I find A-J, but decide to limp in --- I'm just enjoying the bizarre table and not caring much about the correct play; everyone else has been limping in and seeing flops as well. Besides, the big blind only has another $300 in chips. Oh, and I hate A-J.
The small blind limps in as well, but he's short-stacked too; I've got him covered by a couple hundred.
The flop comes A-J-10, giving me top two, and as I expected, the big blind pushes his last $300. The only thing I really fear is K-Q, and even then, at least I'd have four outs. So I call behind again, and the small blind also calls, for $300 of his remaining $700. Now that's weird, but I'm pot-committed; I'll push the rest on the turn if a K, Q or 10 doesn't arrive.
The turn card is a 7, seemingly safe. I push. I get called --- have I indeed been trapped by a slow-played K-Q?
The small blind turns over 7-7.
Oh, come on now. How could the guy possibly think those sevens were good with an all-in push and a call-behind in front of him? And with so few chips, how could he justify the payback odds for his two-outer?
Well, that's why it's the media event.
I roll my eyes, chuckle; it's about what I expected. Vince makes a lot of squawking noises at me, commisserating. "Oh, that's an ugly beat! I mean, top two! And the seven --- I mean, top two!"
I just smile and shrug --- I've still got $200, and three hands until the big blinds eat me up. On two of those hands I find junk and worse junk. On the third hand, under the gun, I look over at Vince, say, "I don't think it matters much," followed by "all-in, blind." I toss the two $100 chips to the middle. Vince looks at me and nods --- at least he respected the move.
By some miracle of chance it's folded all the way around to father Dick in the big blind, and he turns over... A-J. Bad omen. I grab one of my cards, flip it over. "A deuce!" I grab the other card. "It's another deuce! At least it's a race!"
But not for long. A jack flops, an ace turns, and I'm gone. I shake hands and depart. Thus ended my hour or so of play in the media event, a true goofball spectacle of poker.