It's 10:20 a.m. on Thursday, August 3rd, rest day for the players remaining in the Main Event. Rest day for the media, as well... or at least most of them. At this time of day, the Rio Convention Center is as close to a ghost town as you're likely to see. Even the main media room is sparse. In the back corner, Max Shapiro types quietly, on one of his humor columns, perhaps, and across the room a gaggle of three reporters with Aussie accents chat a bit too noisily for the confines of the space. But only for a moment, as they set their plans and are off.
The energy's still in the air, but it's a lazy, wafting sort of thing --- not the high-energy frenetics that have marked the last few days of play.
By 11:00 it's busier, if not quite the full-bore hum. It's an off day for the main event, but there's never a true "off day" at the WSOP. Today the first of several second-chance tourneys begins, and for many of the players here, these tournaments represent their final grasping for a bracelet. A number of big names are present, too. John Juanda, just inside the rail, is an easy target for fans' cameras. Mark Seif's nearby, Erik Seidel is just across the way, and dozens more of the big names are scattered among the thousand or so players who enter the event. Many of the poker divas are present as well, Erica Schoenberg and Vanessa Rousso among them, though their camera oppportunities are limited. Lacking the multi-person camera crews and chip-counting runners from the biggest media outlets, the aisles between the tables are navigable for the first time in days.
James McManus, author of the acclaimed Positively Fifth Street, rushes in as play begins, breakfast bagel in hand. McManus has had a great Series already, with four cashes, but he hopes for a fifth, whether in this tourney or the next. Yet even for him the Series is winding down, and he says that Saturday's second-chance event, if he's out of this one by then, will likely be his last.
Nor is McManus the only writer seizing the inexpensive chance at a bracelet. John Vorhaus took time off from his own writing duties to make the final table in the Seniors Event a couple of weeks back, and today he seems intent on creating chaos (if not mild heartburn) for both his table's other players and the otherwise-relaxed floor supervisors. "They can't figure out your strategy if you don't have one," he quips, and a moment later, under the gun, he asks to the table in general, "Straddle, no?"
"It's called a blind bet, sir," the dealer tosses back, smiling. "Throw your chips out there." Of course, Vorhaus's cards have already been mucked.
The other half of the Amazon Room is all but deserted. A couple of cash games are running desultorily over near the room's main entrances, and in the opposite corner, where $175-entry satellite action to the remaining second-chance tourneys willl soon begin, there aren't even enough players on hand to start up a table. By 3:00 or so the action will have picked up, but for now it's just quiet and chilly, the hall's air conditioners an easy match for the less-than-capacity crowd in the room. It's a high-ceilinged room, a convention hall just in use these weeks for poker. The room damps echoes but in the emptiness, they can still be heard; the incessant chip-clacking that serves as the room's base tone is all but unnoticed from this deserted corner of the space.
A return to the media room finds it more populated, but just barely. This main media room is about the size of one of those long, narrow, mall-based shoe stores, only 20 or so feet wide, with nothing more than black-clothed tables (and chairs) lining the walls and a series of beverage and buffet tables occupying much of the center. It's a rest day for Harrah's cleaning crew, too; the place hasn't been cleaned. Normally the room varies between cozy and cramped, but today it's almost airy. WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla swings by, finds not much going on, answers a cel call and sweeps back out of the room. It's that type of day.