As the World Series Turns: Main Event Search for November Sweeps Storylines
It's all Main Event all the time at the Rio these days. We've survived most of the season and made it to poker's November sweeps. Or at least, it's time to write the big stories that will carry us through four long months all the way to the November Nine. It's going to take some good stuff, but thankfully, the Main Event never disappoints.
Numbers Game: All summer we speculate on the number of people who will play the Main Event, and this year, turnout exceeded expectations. Harrah's tried a new system of closing registration for various start days and reopening them later to help balance the fields. Day 1a got 1,125 runners, 1b drew 1,489, 1c jumped to 2,314, and 1d was the largest of all with 2,391 players. That means the Main Event drew a total of 7,319 players, making it the second largest poker tournament in the history of live tournaments. The largest, the 2006 Main Event, drew 8,773. This year, those still in are playing for a cut of a $68,798,600 prize pool. First place is a sweet $8,944,138, though there are rumors that Harrah's may add enough cash to make it an even $9 mil. And they can afford it. From Main Event rake alone, Harrah's earned third-place money.
Shuffle Up No Big Deal: In past years, the WSOP has made a production about the kickoff of each starting day of the Main Event. Showgirls, marching bands, the national anthem, guest stars giving speeches, etc. They dispensed with all of that this year in favor of an almost deafening introduction to tournament rules by TD Jack Effel and a quick and painless "Shuffle up and deal!" by someone playing that day. Greg Raymer uttered the standard phrase on Day 1a, which he followed by busting out in less than a level. Dealer of the Year Ashley did the honors on the second start day. Day 1c's shuffle-upper, Joe Cada, at least made it to Day 3. Day 1d's attraction was the most ESPN-friendly, but he didn't exactly practice his lines. Football superstar Emmitt Smith told the crowd to "Shuffle and play!" Smith earned some raised eyebrows but not many chips and was eliminated with plenty of time to get his terms right before his dinner-break chow session with Phil Ivey.
Four Brothers: The summer started with a story about the two Mizrachi brothers, and by the Main Event, they multiplied into a four-brother media machine. And how could you not love the new first family of poker? I mean, what have the Brunsons done for us lately? The whole clan congregated in Vegas for the Main Event, and remarkably, all four Mizrachi brothers — Michael (aka the Grinder), Robert, Eric, and Danny. Eric finished in 718th place for a mincash, but the other three made it to Day 5. Danny hit the rail in 345th, but heading into Day 6, Michael and Robert are both still in with a chance to make ESPN's storyline dreams.
Cash, Baby: It's one of the most electric moments every summer, a moment built up over four days for some and six weeks for others. The bursting of the Main Event bubble is something special as hundreds of players suddenly earn the biggest cash of their lives in the most important tournament they'll ever play. Sure, the circuit pros don't care much about the mincash, but even they can't help but be affected by the excitement of their tablemates.
This year, the suspense built slowly over several levels of Day 4, and you could feel the short stacks holding their breath as the number of players remaining slowly ticked down. And then, just on the brink of hand-for-hand, the TD announced everyone was going to dinner! The entire room booed, and, no doubt, many people spent a very uncomfortable 90 minutes waiting for a chance to fold into the money. Tim McDonald, an amateur from Kentucky, earned the dubious distinction of bubble boy, but he seemed thrilled with his moment in the spotlight — far more glory than a mincash could ever bring — and a freeroll into next year's Main Event. The real bubble boy, one away from notoriety and two away from $19,000, was Angel Guillen, a Team PokerStars pro from Mexico. Guillen was all-in with aces against jacks preflop. The jacks flopped a set to bust Guillen in perfect stereotypical bubble-beat fashion.
Not the Only Game in Town: Although it's hard to believe from inside the Rio cocoon, the WSOP isn't the only high-stakes tournament in Las Vegas. Of course, everything pales in comparison to the life-changing exposure of a Main Event final table, but for the pros, if they found themselves on the rail, it wasn't time to throw in the towel on the summer yet. The World Poker Tour Bellagio Cup $10k Main Event started during the WSOP Main Event and kept registration open for three days to allow for late bustees to buy in. Caesars and the Venetian are also running their $5k summer series finales. With so many opportunities, there were also a lot of chances for players to go from tilted to supertilted. Darryll Fish managed to bust out of the WSOP $10k, the Bellagio $10k, and the Caesars $5k all in one afternoon. That's a lot to take in a day.
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