It is a little into the second hour of play in Day 1A, and Amir Vahedi has just arrived at his new table, hands cupped in front of him. The ESPN cameras are inches away from Vahedi's face, and he turns to scream, "Stop looking at my chips!"
What chips? I wonder. Vahedi has just sat down and his chips are nowhere to be seen. It is not until he lifts up his hands that I see he has been cupping his hands over his chips, not his cards. All that remain are three black chips and a green, good for 325 out of the 10,000 stack he started with. Vahedi is four spots from the big blind, and with blinds at 50/100, he knows his time is short – It's all-in or fold time and he's going to need some luck to stay alive.
"I love you, man. Do you come here often?" He jokes to the dealer. He knows he has four chances left, and he needs to build some good karma for the man in control of his destiny. The ESPN cameras eat every word of it up, hounding him and waiting for him to fall. The first hand he gets dealt, the player under the gun raises, and Vahedi looks at his cards. He ponders for a while, and then slaps his hand and says, "No! Don't do it." His opponent shows A-K and Vahedi laughs. "I had A-3!"
Bullet two, and Vahedi mucks his cards, looking back at the anxious camera crew. "They just want to see how the great men die!" He yells. The table loves it, bursting out in laughter – they paid $10,000 for the chance to sit with a pro and now they have the chance they dreamed of – telling their friends they knocked out the Beast, Amir Vahedi.
Finally, on bullet three, Amir pushes under the gun. As people around the table ponder the call, he shouts, "Before any of you call, I'm good for poker! Let me stay!" The table folds around to the button, who smooth-calls. The blinds fold and it's heads-up. Vahedi says, "Don't feed the animal, don't let me double up!" and confidently flips over A-3 again. His face drops as he sees his opponent's KK. "How the hell do these guys keep on getting hands?" He asks to no one in particular.
The hand ends quickly, and Vahedi is out. He turns to the man next to him and begins to faux-cry on his shoulder. He yells, "I hate all of you!" and walks away, taking one last glance at the table as he is about 10 feet away. He turns to the camera and says, "You see a legend walk away" before heading down the hallway towards the exit.
Indeed, we do.
I spot Jim McManus at the table, and I walk over to say hello. McManus, an accomplished poker player (he made a final table this year) and author of the best-selling book Positively Fifth Street, is known around the poker media circles as being one of the most articulate and outspoken players in the game. Never at a shortage for words, he made a notable television appearance in the 2004 WSOP in a final table match with Ellix Powers, in which he angrily accused Powers of disrespecting the game, among other banter he threw his way.
As I get closer, I see that a big hand is in process. The button has raised the pot preflop, and the small blind has re-raised. The button re-raises, and the small blind confidently says, "I'm all in!" flipping over his AA happily in the process. The table yells in unison, "Wait!", and the dealer explains to the player that the button must still call the all-in. "Oh, sorry!" says the player sheepishly, turning back over his AA quickly as if to prevent any more damage from occurring. The man on the button laughs and says, "I guess I have to call." He throws in another 1/5 of his stack for some inexplicable reason and flips over a completely dominated A-10 offsuit. The flop comes 10-high, the turn a 10, and the river a blank. Goodbye Aces.
The player with the aces laughs and says, "Good hand," before getting up to shake the man's hand and leave. He is happy just to be here, it's clear.
Meanwhile, I look over at Jim McManus, the most erudite man in poker. His jaw is wide open, hands on top of his head in utter disbelief at the incompetence of his opponents. "Jim, did you just see that hand?" I ask him. And for once, McManus is speechless.