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42nd Street: Ballsy Brits, Bari's Bravado, and Blemished Bicycles on the WSOP Stage

Jake Cody's rail

The opening number of the 42nd Annual World Series of Poker was showy, well-choreographed, and loud. The players couldn't wait to take the stage, but before the supporting cast made it to the second verse, the headliner announced he wasn't coming out of the dressing room, and the audience forgot all about the show. Now into the second week of the Series, spectators seem ready to focus on the action again, and some new stars are demanding we pay attention.

The British are Coming

The British have stormed the World Series like it's an island in the West Indies. Only 11 bracelets have been awarded so far — and two belong to the Crown. Eight final tables had at least one player from England. (If you forget the current tally, just ask them.) Jake Cody kicked off the festivities by winning the $25k Heads-Up Championship and securing poker's third-ever triple crown. Cody also won EPT Deauville and WPT London in 2010. His best friend, Matt Perrins, enjoyed the post-bracelet partying so much he decided to win one himself, taking down the $1,500 2-7 Draw event three days later.

It's almost not fair. They're still allowed to play online when they go home! But the Brits have reminded us very quickly that the rest of the world isn't coming to the U.S. to deliver aid to displaced American grinders. No, they're hungry, too, and they can smell the blood in the water. With the redcoats gleefully chanting, "We can cash out from Full Tilt," in the final table stands, it might be time for the Rio to put on a revival of 1776.

Tax on Tea Beer

One if by land, two if by sea, prohibition while waiting for number three. Perhaps even more noticeable than the Queen's subjects' domination on the felt is their display of football-worthy enthusiasm in the stands. The problem is that all eight of the final tables featuring a British player have taken place indoors. That hasn't stopped the railers from littering like they're in a stadium, screaming themselves hoarse and even knocking over a wall on the final table set. The raucous cheering, heckling, and well-watered tomfoolery resulted in a complete ban on food and drink in the final table arena. Yes, the stands that served as a bar sponsored by a beer company for the last several years — now dry. And the Brits think Americans are boors.

Poker Finally Proven a Skill Game

If poker really was a giant musical, the skill-vs.-luck debate would be the Senate's first big group number. For years, poker players have wanted to believe that skill was the dominant element, but how could they when the best player in the game walked around with barren wrists? If the "retarded fish" could steal Allen Bari's glory every time, how could the game really be about skill? At long last, the conundrum has been resolved. ** jazz hands ** Bari won the first $5k No Limit Hold'em event of the Series. Sure hope he forgets about his moment of triumph soon, because the world would miss bitter Bari's vitriolic tweets and his constant insistance on his mental supremacy. In an uncertain world, we need something to hold on to. "Not sure whether it's fresh water or salt water but my table stinks of fish," tweets Bari. Smells like a Tony to us.

Steel (Steal?) Wheelin'

The tournament staff at the Rio has been catching flack in spades, in {2-Spades}s, {3-Spades}s, {4-Spades}s and {5-Spades}s to be exact. During the $1k No Limit final table being played under the lights on the main stage, Jon Turner noticed that the back of the low spades were marked significantly enough to be identifiable from across the table. Turns out the same manufacturing error can be found in every deck made for the 2011 World Series. The final table was moved to a regular tournament table, and without the stage lighting, the marks were deemed not visible enough to be a problem.

Two days later, Steve O'Dwyer tweeted that he could see the marks from the one and nine seats at regular tournament tables. Good thing all of this was happening during the $10k 2-7. Don't care much about wheel cards in that one. Players took to the "fair and balanced" medium du jour (twitter, obv) to air their frustration. Tournament staff responded by switching the marked decks in the 2-7 event for unopened set ups from 2010, but all other tournaments continued using the flawed decks. The whole thing seems pretty outrageous for a big-budget production subplot. (In the director's cut, the marks turn out to be a genius corporate response to the annual accusations that a particular player marks the deuces in the $50k. Mark 'em all, and the TD gets to skip that awkward conversation this year.) Back in the real world, one would hope that thousands of marked decks would get a better, faster, more apologetic response from the World Series. Players shouldn't have to beg for a level playing field. But, hey, as long as the decks are stacked, might as well wear your infrared glasses to today's H.O.R.S.E tournament.

*Editor's Note: Before kick off of Friday's first event, tournament director Jack Effel tweeted that the card issue had been resolved and new cards would be issued to all areas.

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