The pain. It's the final week before the big one. Everything has changed and nothing has changed. A few short years that seem like decades ago, the World Series was everything for the poker pros. The biggest tournaments but also the best cash games. You had about three weeks to make a big score in a tournament or have a good trip in the cash games. How it panned out determined whether it was easy street or grinding for the rest of the year. The guys who'd all come into town in high spirits and full of bonhomie were either caked up and ready for the shot at a million or somewhere in the middle of a long queue for the last two supersatellites in a desperate attempt to salvage something from the wreckage. It doesn't take long to take away a man's dreams.
Of course it's all a lot bigger now. The stakes are higher but so are the falls. For some, it's not about winning any more. It's about being perceived as being a winner. I'm not talking about the prestige of being rated by your fellow pros, it's way bigger than that now. Sponsorship deals, endorsements, stock prices, TV stuff… that's where it's all at now. You've got to talk the talk to get into this game but if you can't walk the walk, things can go horribly wrong. It's not like you can fall down, pick yourself up, go back to where you came from, and come back again next year for another shot. If you fall down now, you're liable to be trampled on.
Jesse May is in town. For a guy who can play the game as well as he can, it's strange that he seems like he prefers watching. That's until you realise how sick he is and what he's really looking at. This week the seven-card-stud eight-or-better and the limit holdem shootout were on at the same time and he couldn't wait to see who was playing in both. Evidently his theory was that at least a few guys would be playing both, who really shouldn't be playing either. It all comes down to the pain. This was followed by the $5,000 deuce-to-seven no-limit tournament with rebuys. I don't know how many guys were in this who really shouldn't have been, but Jesse figured the first three hours would be way more fun for the spectators than the final table! I'm sure he was right, but I didn't join him on the rail. I felt the pain. I don't need to see it.
I've been here from the start. I've heard the talk. I suppose one or two guys wish they'd promised less… they might have accomplished more. But that's the game now. Poker can be a cruel game. It can find out some of the jokers… you know, the guys whose self-promotional skills far exceed their genuine ability. I suppose that's fair. But they are often joined in the losers' enclosure by guys who just don't deserve to be there, even by some of the greatest players in the world. I suppose that's why they call it gambling.
For a competitive game, there's a lot of really genuine friendships between rivals. Maybe it's this camaraderie that makes the game what it is. I hate to see guys hurting, especially guys with heart. Nobody tries harder than Barny Boatman. His play may be a little unorthodox but there's often a method to the badness (so he tells me). He's played a zillion tournaments this trip and hasn't cashed once. The deck has been hitting some guys in the face and Barny can't catch a break. I doubt if he could catch a bus! He's gone really deep time after time, which means he must do something right. But like Cinderella, midnight, or bubble time as we call it here, is not his favourite time of the day. No ball for Barny. We had dinner with the Hendon Mob the other night. As the waiter offered Barny the dessert menu, I told him not to give it to him as Barny was due to be knocked out just before the end of the main course! It's a tribute to his great sense of humour that he managed to laugh.