Catching Up: Many Greetings at the WSOP
After yesterday's rush of words, I'm up to perhaps only a week out on catching up with events. I mentioned my last time out of hooking up with PN boss John Caldwell virtually as soon as I hit town, and the next day we met again along with Tournament Operations boss Garry Gates, who's way-y-y-y-y better a coordinator and scheduler of things than I am. Garry's one of those folks I've e-mailed or chatted with hundreds of times, and it was great to meet him and see his energy in person. Multi-talented multi-taskers make me jealous.
That night, I had my first drink -- singular -- in Vegas. Shamus called me up and wanted to meet, and since he's only a short walk away over at the Ricin Hilton, we met downstairs here at the GC and had that one drink each -- me a strawberry margarita, him a beer -- and yakked about this and the next. Shamus in person is quiet and thoughtful, and I talked too much, which is a weakness of mine when I feel mentally intimidated. I'm normally the quiet one, too. Shamus be smart cookie.
We had a big staff get-together at a Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ the following night, and I got there about a half hour early because I'm really anal about being late for (or getting lost on the way to) must-attend things. I wasn't quite first, since Pauly and Change100 were both there already. Hugs for them both. I had myself a giant iced tea, which came in a Kerr-jar knockoff and was the best iced tea I've had in a long, long time. Our staff BBQ dinner was excellent, too. Ribs o' dinosaur, by the size. I am not a small person and I had one roll, a helping of salad, a spoonful of pulled pork and one rib. And was stuffed.
And amid so many meet-ups, so many faces to which to attach names I've grown long familiar with. BJ Nemeth, who I've corresponded with so much he's an old friend at first meet; Mean Gene, whose sunny disposition is so admirable, who I've tried twice to tilt with "Steely McBeam" references, and he won't have any of it. "130 pounds of blogging fury" F-Train was there, as were veteran PN reporters Steve Horton and Logan Leatham, the Brits Snoopy and Dana, the legendary Flipchip, so many many more. This was just at our table... and there were five tables, and I'm missing three or four more names just at our table you'd all know. This is some damn staff, and I'm more than a bit intimidated by it. If I felt this way, God knows how the truly new kids there feel.
Side Note #1: There are a couple of interesting Pauly photos from that gathering floating around somewhere. I'm not specifyin', I'm just sayin'....
Side Note #2: Most surreal moment had to be while John is speaking. We're on an outdoor patio area, enjoying a beautifully cool Vegas evening, listening to a pep talk about poker and reporting and such, and a line of monks (or something similar, Coptic maybe?), went wandering by through the walkway just five feet or so behind our tables. Whatever we are, we aren't monks, though we might feel on a mission of sorts, at that. Still, you don't get incongruities like this in the Chicago 'burbs. Do they play poker in monasteries? If so, do they ever go on monkey tilt? And whatever happened to Brother Dominick?
More meet-n-greets in the following days at the Rio, as folks filter in. A big hug for Michalski, another for Jen Newell [same site these days] (who I meet in person for the first time). I meet two of the famed entities that comprise Wicked Chops, where I'd managed to miss them both on my first WSOP lap two years ago. One of those two got hugged, too. I recognize Gary Wise milling and chatting outside the media center and introduce myself to him, and accidentally meet PPA honcho John Pappas at the same time. (I can be such a schmuckette at odd moments.) I also soon meet Bluff's Lance Bradley, who impresses me as a focused sort who knows his shit. Yes, I'm dropping names, but I owe people some linkies. Deal with it.
My first night's setup, out on the floor, a big grizzly bear of a man is introduced to me, and it turns out to be Mike Paulle. You who do not know who Mike is have little sense of poker's history, in terms of who did much of the recording of it. Tom Sexton, one of PN's feature writers, I spend a good stretch talking with as we watch the interminable bubble for Event #1 stretch into the morning daylight hours; Tom's famous brother Mike makes that final, as do Kathy Liebert and several other famous players, though I admit as I watch I'm secretly pulling for poker's old guard -- Liebert, Sexton -- since I'm of that age myself. There is suckout after suckout to keep the short stacks alive; a couple of them are gaspers, they're so unlikely. Finally, John Kabbaj exits in tenth after no less than five hands where shorter stacks than his were both all in and behind in the hand, but survived.
I tend to feel a bit for Kabbaj, since it should have been Amit Makhija or Chris Bell -- or even Mike Sowers or Liebert or Sexton -- missing the final. In my experience my most painful tournament ousters are those where my expectations are reduced due to the unlikely runs and suckouts of others, where I'm likely to back up the board while waiting for my moment, and that's what happened to Kabbaj here. He was in line for a six-figure payday and it didn't happen. What's also surprising is the mean age of the final ten. Mike "SowersUNCC" is the kiddie corps rep here, with Makhija just a hair older; I don't know everyone's bio here but Patrik Antonius may well have been the third youngest player seated in that lengthy bubble war.
I have little purpose there, since my night's work doesn't begin until the table is set... or so I think. Around about 4am I notice an internal computer glitch in the Rio's count-tracking screens, splayed all through the Convention Center, and accidentally help the WSOP folks thwart a potential technical nightmare, though they don't find the mechanical culprit until much later that morning. Someone would have noticed the problem soon enough; I just happened to be the one who caught it first. But it's a good omen, a sign that I might have use here after all.
So much to do, this tour of service. Surviving comes first. Maybe a bit of poker at odd moments, if almost as only doing it as a personal mental challenge. Can I pour in the many hours of tight focus my job needs each day, then still somehow hold it together to play an hour or two of good poker when the time allows? Pros measure that ability to stay focused in years, and I'm wondering if I can do it for just a handful of weeks. The first couple of tries have been promising, but I'm under no illusions of real success; I've been the beneficiary of some short-term good luck as much as anything. Perhaps the poker gods are rewarding my early efforts elsewhere.
Next post: a touch of that early poker.
* * *