Day Before the Day

I was hoping to have a relaxed day today, visiting the Rio in the morning to get my main event registration squared away, get a quick peek at my table assignment, and catch a movie at the Orleans. On the eve of trial, I’ve often gone out for a movie as I find it the best way to completely distract my brain from the obsession at hand. The “quick run” to the Rio turned out to be much more involved than expected, but could have been much worse had I taken the approach of most of the obnoxious crowd.

The Rio Convention Center had a completely different feel than the same venue last week. The main event apparently brings out thousands of spectators and they jammed the hallways. Harrah’s also sponsored a “Gaming Expo” and re-routed the foot traffic so everyone, player and spectator alike, has to pass through the Expo Hall. The official theme of the expo is, I kid you not, “Girls, Gaming and Gear.” In other words, someone thought it’d be a good idea to combine strippers and poker book publishers.

Now, I’m not talking about women dressed like strippers (although most companies set up to sell something tangible had the requisite trade show booth babes), but real strippers trying to ply overweight chain-smoking guys from Georgia with discount offers from four different Vegas gentlemen’s clubs. Strippers on a mini-stage with a pole. Strippers in a dunk tank. Play one hand of poker heads-up for a free lap dance. I couldn’t make this stuff up. Needless to say, it was very bizarre and more than a little sad to watch wives and kids accompanying a player through the stripper expo to the Amazon room where the tournament is held.

I got there about 12:30, figuring that things might have calmed down a bit after the 12:00 start of Day 1A. Although it makes sense, I was still pretty shocked to see scores of players shuffling in the opposite direction describing into cell phones a bad beat or something stupid someone else had done, resulting in their quick dispatch from the biggest poker tournament of their lives. I saw one guy squatting in a corner whispering into an iPhone while wiping tears from his eyes. I lost count of the number of “can’t believe he called” and “I was so far ahead” explanations. $10,000 gone in less than 30 minutes.

Seeing all of this early carnage was actually good for me in a couple of ways. First, most of the stories didn’t make sense which means most busted out because of poor play. Second, it’s easier to be graceful in failure when so many are ugly losers. I’ll be disappointed if I bust out, no matter what the reason, and I’ll be unhappy if it results from a poor decision on my part. I don’t, however, fancy myself to be the best card player in the world and I know up front I won’t be playing flawless poker. I got lucky in several key hands, winning when I should have lost, to get to the final table last night. I’ll not only need that to happen again, but I’ll also need to get some good cards, to go deep in the main event. If the the cards come wrong and my three tens fall to three jacks or my first hand is aces that don’t hold up, I’m steeling myself to have no regrets. That’s poker and if I got that upset by bad luck, it’d be time to find another hobby.

Anyway, I found the pre-registration room which, I was relieved to see, was pretty empty. I filled out the required television release form and provided my driver’s license for them to copy for tax purposes (such optimistic requirements), and then they looked at the list. No Daniel Harris. Bummer. There were a couple of guys there acting very agitated and taking out their bureaucratic frustrations on the poor overworked staff. I talked one of the staffers, apologizing for their thankless job dealing with over-stressed poker players, into making several calls on my behalf. I made sure before leaving the event last night that I had the Academy organizer’s cell number. He didn’t pick up so I left a message, trying not to panic too much.

After a few calls, we discovered that the WSOP Academy had wired the $10K to the Rio cashier, but that there was no name yet attached to it. Jeff from the Academy called and said that he’d provided my name, but the woman at the Rio who received the information was at lunch when he’d just called her. He said he’d follow-up and give me a call when it was sorted out. I was not thrilled to know I’d have to come back and potentially wait an hour-plus in the line to get into the room and to the cashier, but I tried head off to a the movies in good spirits. At least everyone knows my situation and it’s just a matter of connecting the disparate dots.

As I was pulling into the Orleans parking lot, Jeff called to tell me the Cashier Manager had my ticket and that I was all set. I was intending to see Michael Moore’s Sicko but had missed the early show and instead caught Transformers which started 5 minutes after my arrival. Nothing like super-sized toys battling for galactic supremacy to get your mind off of a silly tournament. I certainly didn’t think about poker for two hours (although I did get kinda misty when Josh Duhamel whined about missing his baby girl … I get kinda pathetic when I’m gone this long).

The return trip to the Rio found even more people in the hallways, and more dead money swimming upstream to get out of the convention center. The line to get into the main hall and the cashier’s cage was unbelievably long. Hoping for a long-shot, I checked in with the pre-registration room to see if perhaps they had dropped off my table assignment paperwork so I wouldn’t have to wait. No such luck there, but I did see Dana, the woman who helped me earlier in the day to track down the right people. I asked her if she remembered my situation and if she knew of any way for me to get to the Cashier without (1) waiting for an hour, or (2) pissing off everyone who was waiting on line. She said she was leaving for the day, but would be happy to walk me through the side door security. With Dana leading the way, we sailed right through, and I had my ticket in hand within 10 minutes. Phew.

As I signed the wire transfer form, acknowledging receipt of the $10,000 ($9,400 goes into the prize pool and $600 to Harrah’s for administration) from the WSOP Academy, and I had very strong urge to just ask for the cash. While my entry is “free”, it does bring home the thought that this is real money, and lots of it.

On the walk back to the parking lot, I ran into a couple of people who had attended the camp and witnessed my moment of glory at the final table. One said I played great and that he put money on me to win it pretty early on in the final table. The other wanted to confirm my name so she could follow my progress, expressing great confidence that I’ll go deep. I chalk both up to my first and last poker fans, but it sure helps build confidence that the highly improbable is possible.

I got back to the hotel, added an optimistic 5 more days on the room reservation (that would get me through Day 3), had a quick bite in the lobby restaurant, and have been following the progress of Day 1A online with the TV (Man vs. Wild marathon on the Discovery Channel at Zach’s suggestion … what an amazing show) in the background. A slate of big names (Johnny Chan, Doyle Brunson, and Amarillo Slim), along with 400-500 other players, are already gone before the dinner break. That’s $5,000,000 of truly dead money added to the prize pool before I see my first hand.

At any rate, I’m going to go down to the gym, and then try to get to sleep early tonight. Whether I last one hand (the first one out today lost with pocket aces on the first hand), or survive to Day 2, I want to make sure I’m rested and as prepared as possible. Given the numbers, we’ll be playing from noon until approximately 2:30 am before breaking for the day.

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