As this summer's final World Series of Poker event heads into Day Three, there have been more than a few remarkable developments.
The 65 tournaments drew a record 82,360 entries, generating the largest total prize pool in history: $225,584,873. At least that much was won and lost in the side games still being held at the Rio, the Bellagio, the Aria and other Las Vegas card rooms. World Series bracelet events have also spun off $5,260,700 in donations to the One Drop Foundation, with sizable sums going to other good causes and charities.
As I've noted before, youth is being served in tournament poker of late. The youngest player this year, Zachary Zaffos, became of legal age, 21, the day before he entered the Main Event. The most senior was 93-year-old William Wachter. The oldest player to make the money was the great Henry Orenstein. The 90-year-old Holocaust survivor and poker hall of famer, the man who invented the hole-card camera technology that dramatically improved the game's visibility, finished eighth in the $10,000 championship event in seven-card stud, the variant that requires the keenest memory. A number of much more junior seniors have been wondering aloud how such a feat could even be possible.
The average age among all entrants is 38.9. Players from all 50 states and 107 countries have participated. Besides the Americans, the biggest contingent is from Canada, followed closely by the U.K., France, Germany, Russia and Brazil. The groans and shocked gasps of Brazilians could be heard throughout the Rio's Brasilia and Amazon rooms, both fitted with large television monitors, as their World Cup team was annihilated on Tuesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Howard "Tahoe" Andrew has extended his record of playing in the World Series to 41 straight years, while genius trader Richard Anthony of BGC Financial entered his 20th straight Main Event. I happened to be playing at his table on Day One and watched as a startling series of missed draws and vicious river cards relieved him of all 30,000 of his chips before the end of the fourth two-hour level. Even more unfortunately, Anthony had backed the author and West Village poker stud Peter Alson, who also lost all his chips on Day One. The coup de grace came when his ace-king was three-outed by an opponent who'd recklessly called Alson's all-in raise with a king-queen, then hit one of the remaining queens on the flop.
On a happier note, Yale Law School alum Vanessa Selbst became the first woman to (albeit briefly) top the Global Poker Index rankings after winning the $25,000 Mixed Max event and the first to win three gold bracelets. The legendary Phil Ivey, by winning his 10th bracelet, moved into a second-place tie with Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan, three behind Phil Hellmuth's all-time total.
I'll be returning to action today with a thousand or so others (out of 6,683 total entrants) as the survivors are combined into a single field to run the rest of this eight-day gauntlet for the ultimate bracelet. Unsurprisingly, Ivey has been dominant, while I'm hanging on by my ink-stained fingernails with 25,200 chips remaining.
I'll have to double up at least twice to get back into anything resembling contention. I certainly won't be the only one reminding myself that Jack "Treetop" Straus came back to win the 1982 Main Event after being down to a single 500 chip, as the arresting final sequence of Al Alvarez's masterpiece, "The Biggest Game in Town," describes. The cliche has become "All you need is a chip and a chair," although with the blind bets at 800 and 1,600 chips when we return, a lone 500 chip would offer cool comfort indeed.
We'll probably reach the money bubble by late tonight. The lowest place paid, 693rd, will earn $18,406. Everyone who reaches the final table on July 14 will earn at least $730,000, with a nice round $10 million going to the person who wins the last hand to celebrate the tin anniversary for the World Series at the Rio.
But that won't occur until the final nine return in November, so ESPN can broadcast it live (with a brief delay to protect against electronic cheating) during the fall sweeps period. And since the appropriate gift for a 10th anniversary is diamond jewelry, the winner also gets this.
Wednesday was my own 22nd wedding anniversary, and my wife, Jennifer, proposed that the appropriate gift would be a family vacation to anyplace in the world besides Las Vegas.
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