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WSOP after dark

10 July 2007

When the sun is up, the Amazon Room at the World Series of Poker is fairly subdued. Players are well rested and listening to their i-pods, trying to conserve energy for later in the day. Levels are low. Chip stacks are average. You can easily hear people talking. And tension is almost non-existent.

But as the sun sets and the moon rises, the Amazon Room transforms into an electric, tension filled room. The noise level remains constant at a dull roar, with sounds of chips, chatter and dealer shouts of "all-in called." Players, after 12 hours of play, start to get antsy. Some are bored out of their minds and looking for someone – anyone to talk to. Others are watching dwindling chip stacks and wondering if they're going to survive into the next day. TV crews desperately try to keep up with the action. And fans race around the rail to watch bust-out hands, and chatter among themselves about the players and hands they're watching.

The WSOP after dark is an absolute frenzy, and Sunday night was no exception.

Waiting on Costanza

Jason Alexander wasn't at a featured table, but he was still under the lights. An ESPN producer spent the night watching the table. And each time Alexander played a hand, a camera man raced in to cover the action, waiting for Alexander to bust out. But Alexander wouldn't oblige. At one point, he won three consecutive hands without showing his cards. And he ended the night with $41,000 chips.

I need a friend

Around 1 a.m., it looked like boredom had set in on Bill Gazes. He got up to stretch, and then started looking around for someone to talk to. Gazes, who was playing at the same table as Alexander, decided the ESPN producer covering the table could be someone interesting and started chatting her up. After exchanging pleasantries for about 10 minutes, Gazes noticed that Phil Gordon had been moved to an adjacent table.

"Phil, when did you get here?" shouted Gazes.

"Just a few minutes ago," responded Gordon.

"Good, now we can socialize," said Gazes.

Then Gazes ordered an iced coffee black from the cocktail waitress and then headed over to Gordon's table to talk.

Stop beating me

Phil Gordon ended the night with $16,100 chips and frustration showed late in the session. "No more runner-runner please," Gordon said. "The same guy has gotten me fives in a row," he explained to the table.

Schlep wins again

Nattily attired players stand out in poker rooms. It's why people notice Marcel Luske's style. He is always dressed perfectly in finely tailored suits. And when Luske busted out on Day 1A, it was a giant blow to WSOP fashion. On Sunday night, another player in a brilliantly tailored suit looked like he had a chance to advance to Day 2. But his pocket aces were cracked by a guy in shorts and his belly hanging out of his t-shirt. Mr. Suit bolted in disappointment, and possibly disgust, before anyone could try to console him.

Ain't love grand

Around 2 a.m., Olga Varkonyi busted out – and headed straight to her husband's table to lend him support from the rail. With a smile on her face, she watched and cheered as Robert Varkonyi ended the night with $56,500 to bring into Day 2.

A casino comes to life

At 3:45 a.m., the floor of the Rio Casino was silent. Nobody was playing the slots. And the table games were lifeless.

Then suddenly, a small roar started to build in the long hallway leading from the WSOP playing area. Play was done for the night, and the players that had made it to Day 2 were excited. By the hundreds, players chatted on cell phones, extolling their great hands and bemoaning bad beats. They called friends and family to tell them they'd advanced in the World Series of Poker. And then they headed to bar for drinks and to the tables to have some fun. All of a sudden, the Rio was alive again.

The Varkonyis walked hand in hand down the hall and stopped at Starbucks before heading to their room in the Rio's Ipanema tower.

Shannon Elizabeth hung out with friends at the circular bar near the front of the Rio. And at 4:15 a.m., Joe Hachem and his wife stopped and reached over the wall to get Elizabeth's attention. After receiving hugs from Elizabeth, the Hachems left the hotel to enjoy what was left of the night.

Slowly but surely, the Rio hallway cleared, until one lone figure could be seen making his way toward the casino. It was Chris "Jesus" Ferguson with his long "Matrix" jacket whipping up in the air as his long strides propelled him quickly through casino. He disappeared as quickly as he showed up, and the night was done.

WSOP after dark is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.