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Best of Vin Narayanan
Moods shifts at World Series of Poker Main Event8 July 2009
LAS VEGAS -- Depending on your vantage, Day 2A at the World Series of Poker Main Event was either carnage, moving day, or a complete and total grind. But no matter what your viewpoint, the mood of the tournament had shifted.
The excitement, joking and laughter that permeated the air during the four Day 1s of the tournament gave way to a more competitive edge Tuesday. Sure, there was still the occasional friendly banter at the tables. But for the first time at this year's Main Event, the sound of chips clacking was louder than the sounds of voices at the table.
And even the friendly banter seemed to have more purpose. Instead of general conversation, comments were focused on cards and hands, and trying to draw out more information to use in the future.
Comedian Brad Garrett, showing how seriously he takes the game, had the white iPod headphones in and his game face on. Outside of mugging once for the Casino City camera (thank you Brad), he was plugged in and focused on the game.
With reporters and ESPN cameras hovering around his table in the outer reaches of the Blue section in the Amazon Room, Garrett occasionally engaged the table, but only about cards.
"I had quads then," Garrett said referring to a previous hand that a player at the table was talking about. "I had four nines, but I didn't get paid off."
Sensing the other player wasn't buying his story, Garrett recounted the flop and turn. "I had you all the way," Garrett added.
After folding another hand, Garrett bemoaned his luck. "You always get the cards," Garrett told his opponent.
Around 10:05 p.m. -- play began at noon -- Garrett was on the ropes. He was trying to decide whether or not to call a bet that would put his tournament life on the line. He stood for several minutes with his hands on his face. "I think they're frozen here," he joked before sitting back down. Garrett, who at one point on Tuesday had 68,000 in chips, eventually called the bet and was eliminated from the tournament when Peter Kremenliev showed two pair to beat Garrett's pair. Garrett stood up, shook everyone's hand and told them what an honor it was playing with them, and how much fun he had. He then slipped through a side door, out of the tournament for this year.
The same scene repeated itself throughout the Amazon Room Tuesday. Table after table had brief bursts of limited conversation before lapsing back into silence as players focused on the task at hand -- avoiding elimination. The time for experiences was over. It was time to play cards.
The Day 2A field -- comprised of the players that survived Days 1A and 1B -- started with 1,476 players. It ended with 607 players. Almost 59% of the players that started Day 2A were gone by the time play had ended for the night.
The bloodbath began early, with the shouts of "all in and a call" by dealers ringing clearly throughout the room. At times, those shouts came five or six at a time in staccato fashion, indicating several players in the field were fighting for their tournament lives.
With elimination hands coming in bunches, there weren't enough ESPN camera crews to cover each one. So instead of waiting for an ESPN crew to come by, players asked the dealers to complete the hands.
"There's no one here important enough for the cameras," one player told a dealer. "Let's just finish it."
Day 2A was unkind to poker pros and amateurs alike. Mike Matusow, Gus Hansen, Johnny Chan, Gavin Smith, Todd Brunson, Hoyt Corkins, Beth Shak, Barry Greenstein, Jen Tilly, Tony G, Phil Laak, John Hennigan and Mike Caro were among the players who busted out Tuesday.
Pam Brunson outlasted both brother Todd Brunson and Corkins in the Main Event to win a pair of last longer bets. According to Pam's Twitter page, she won $1,000 from Todd and $20 from Corkins. She ended the day with 139,300 in chips.
Several players took advantage of the Day 2A carnage to chip up and place themselves in position to contend for the Main Event crown. Andy Black (215,700), Mike Sexton (169,000) and Sorel Mizzi (166,400) charged up the leaderboard. But it was Andrew Gaw, with 386,800 in chips, who held the lead at the end of the day. Cricket superstar Shane Warne ended the day with 173,700 in chips.
The "middle" class of the Day 2A field spent Tuesday grinding away -- looking to pick up chips where they could and stay out of the trouble the rest of the time.
Jon Curtis, from Perth, Australia, was one of the grinders trying to make it to Day 3. Curtis, who arrived in Las Vegas Wednesday, began the day with 30,150 in chips -- up just 150 from 30,000 in chips every player started with.
Battling an illness -- he asked me if I knew a doctor that could get him antibiotics -- he patiently looked for moments to make small moves. "I'm happy just to accumulate chips," Curtis said after doubling up a couple of hours into the day. A couple of hours later, Curtis' chip stack had dwindled. "I've been card dead," Curtis said.
Curtis did get the pleasure of playing with -- and outlasting -- fellow Australian Tony G. "He's really aggressive," Curtis said. "I've never played with him before."
As the night wore on, Curtis picked up chips and eventually switched tables and found himself with another set of grinders, each determined to make it to Day 3. The group played premium hands only -- pocket tens and higher, with the flop rarely being seen. As the night grew closer to ending, the players tightend up even more, and eventually time ran out on the day. Curtis advanced to Day 3 with 80,700 in chips, looking for a shot to cash in the Main Event.
Best of Vin Narayanan