With the Main Event only just flexing its muscles you may feel that this summary of events it a little premature.
But this is where I get off the bus.
I am a father, as a well as a writer, and duty calls.
When I first got into writing I was told that I could never call myself a poker writer until I had worked at the WSOP. I assumed the experience was viewed as the ultimate test of strength, character and endurance, and after my fourth tour I think they are about right.
I am flying back to the UK in the morning and the only things I am going to miss are my wife (who is staying in the States for a few more weeks), the sunshine, and the Vegan Pho in Pho Kim Long (where I would bump into Daniel ‘Jungleman’ Cates eating chicken, with no onions, and drinking Taro almost nightly).
Other than that, I am done. I am feeling jaded and I hope that you are not seeing that reflect in my work. It sounds like a hackneyed saying but it really does feel like Groundhog Day after a few weeks. It’s time to kill the Groundhog, eat it for breakfast and then shit it out of the pan.
My journey started on Tuesday 27th May when I played in the Casino Employees event. It was my third WSOP event and the first time that I had cashed. I remember how excited I was until I realized that a min-cash didn’t even double my buy-in and the excitement dissipated quickly thereafter.
But I did get bitten by the bug.
In the end I would play four more WSOP events: including the Monster Stack, Millionaire Maker and Little One for One Drop, and I loved every minute of it. I made so many mistakes, and that was great, because it meant I learned so much.
My abiding memory has to be crashing out of the Millionaire Maker on Day 2, and as I reached the media room to plug my laptop in for the regular writers grind I could hear Jack Effel telling everyone that they were in the money.
I was that close.
I interviewed over 60 different people during my stay in Vegas and once again I learned a lot. Of particular importance is an interviewee’s line of questioning. If you fire off a lot of predictable closed questions, then you are going to get a return fire laden with predictable closed answers.
The best interviews are the ones that sound like the sort of conversation you have at the bar. Two friends just shooting the breeze, and when you get this dynamic the result is fantastic.
There is a misnomer in poker media that it’s important to get interviews with the games biggest stars, because that’s what the public wants, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. The best interviews are the ones that hold the most emotion, and normally these are the ones that have absolutely nothing to do with poker, and come from the most unlikely of sources.
Sitting down to talk to Dutch Boyd, and his girlfriend Michelle, about his mental illness is probably one of the most refreshing interviews I have ever done. The sincerity of the man, the depth of exposure that he afforded me, and the connection I witnessed between the pair was something special.
Andrew Lichtenberger was another great person to interview. He seemed to be on a different plane of consciousness and it’s one of the only times I have walked away from an interview determined to be like the person I had just spoken to. I have spent the following days trying my utmost to remain in the moment and that was inspired by LuckyChewy. The man who talked to me with a smile on his face about how he saw a parasitic worm coming out of his ass.
Lichtenberger’s transformation wasn’t an isolated case. Amongst the disappointment of the WSOP’s decision to allow e-cigarette peddlers to try and coerce you into trying their new marshmallow flavored death-cig, were a plethora of people who had been working hard on the body and the mind. The most notable that springs immediately to mind is Bryn Kenney, and he was rewarded with his first WSOP bracelet.
The one player who really interested me was Calvin Anderson. I didn’t know much about him when I approached him for an interview. He looked like your typical young kid, who clicks buttons for a living and makes a few bob at the same time.
But he surprised me.
His passion and maturity were unbridled and I think you are going to see a lot from this young man in the future. Not only will he win a ton of titles, but he will also rise amongst the hoodies and sunglasses to be an important role model for the new breed.
Talking about role models, and the emergence of the Raising For Effective Giving Charity (REG), led by Igor Kurganov, Philipp Gruissem, Liv Boeree and the Effective Altruism movement’s Adriano Mannino has also inspired me this summer.
Poker is shunned in so many quarters of the world, and the action of these amazing poker players could be the pivotal moment where we show the world that we have another side. I myself have committed to giving 2% of my gross earnings to REG and I urge you to do the same.
Aside from REG the WSOP raised over $5.5m for charity, but one person who was in no mood for charity was Dan Colman. The winner of the BIG ONE for ONE DROP who is now being single handedly blamed for what can only be described as a damp squid of an ending from a storyline that initially promised so much.
Colman is a star though, and he will come through the other side of this experience as a better man. Don’t be surprised if you see him wearing a REG patch sooner rather than later. The young lad could no worse that to climb under the protective wings of the Germans. Whilst his timing may have been off, his motives remain pure, and once he figures out what to do next, I am sure the world will benefit in some way.
The 45th Annual WSOP created a lot of smiles, and made a lot of people very happy indeed, but it was also a very sad time for a lot of people. Brandon Cantu’s very public spat with Jeffrey Lisandro, and Mike Matusow’s reaction to his one round penalty, showing the world that poker can still produce some unsavory moments. And I’m not talking about the incidents, but more about the shit that is going on in their lives behind the scenes that lead to the leaking lava.
It was also a time where we mourned the loss of two of our own. Johannes Strassmann was found dead in Slovenia, and Chad Brown lost his battle against cancer. The latter was awarded with an honorary WSOP and it was great to see it placed on his wrist just hours before he passed away.
So that’s a wrap from me folks.
It’s time for me to get back to reality.
Just days ago I was playing in the Little One for One Drop courtesy of Phil Galfond, Jason Senti, Roberto Romanello, Matt Marafioti and my Dad’s mate Bob…and now I have to get back to wet and windy Wales.
Now where are those ruby slippers?