Finding familiarity in a full house

It’s a little after 5 p.m. and I’m just starting to stir in my hotel room, where the “Do Not Disturb” sign hangs on the door during all reasonable housekeeping hours. While this may have been a regular schedule on college weekends, it’s about as far from regular as the definition currently allows.

But it’s just another life cycle at the World Series of Poker, where day and night are interchangeable and often insignificant. If I were planning to be here for a longer period of time than I am, I’d definitely be trying to get on a healthier timeline, which would include being outside for more than the three-minute walk to and from the Rio. After my final game last night, I meandered out of the Pavilion room with its 300-plus poker tables and saw the sun in full force through the first open window I’d passed in many hours. I picked up some breakfast, came “home” and hit the sack at about 7 a.m.

The past few days hadn’t been exceptionally good to me until a turnaround late Wednesday night. I’d been playing well but missing out on the money in most of my satellites and all of my larger tournaments. But it’s been impossible to be upset over it because I keep reminding myself that anyone able to put themselves here and in this position is probably among the luckiest 1 percent of people on the planet. Anyone unable to have fun here needs to do some reevaluating.

I’ve been having a blast, despite more valleys than peaks. Hopefully that’s been obvious and rubbing off on the people I’ve sat with. It seems to be, with all the folks who come over to me each day to see how I’m doing and what I’ve cashed. I like to talk a lot at the table and create a friendly atmosphere. I take the game very seriously, but anyone who treats it like battle instead of what it is, a test of wits with a fair amount of luck, is missing out, in my opinion.

“I’m coming for you, Hawaii,” rang a voice from a table over, pierced with a southern twang. I turned my head and saw the grey-haired man I’d played a couple satellites with, his upper lip smiling while his bottom lip carefully contained his chewing tobacco.

“Let’s make it happen, Memphis,” I responded, as he winked and nodded. I was eliminated from the deep-stack tournament shortly thereafter, so I couldn’t keep up my end of the bargain.

Then it was my now good buddy James Woods calling me over as I said hello from a table away. Yeah, we’re pretty tight at this point. He even told me to call him Jimmy.

“David, right?” he asked. “David what again?”

I reminded him of my last name and he said “That’s right” about seven times within two and a half seconds. As great an actor as he is, I think most of the hyperactivity in some of his characters is more his own than the writer’s intent.

“You’re a good player,” he said to me, a compliment I happily accepted. “You’re getting deep in just about everything, right? As long as you stay confident in your game, you’re going to crack one of these things and maybe win a bracelet.”

I think Jimmy believes I’m a higher echelon player than I actually am, but who am I to disagree with Max Bercovicz?

Now the WSOP concourse is less like a sea of nameless faces and more like a walk through the halls in high school. I nod to someone every few feet and stop to talk story with guys I’m playing against each night. Though we’re essentially trying to take each other’s money, there’s an odd camaraderie in the whole process. We talk about hands we played against each other and try to help in the analysis.

My strongest rooting interests are now for all the Kauai people on site. Many have arrived over the past few days and some are aiming for a bracelet in the Seniors Event, which begins today. I’ll be playing some other events, but my main objective will be to stay on top of their chip counts and get some anecdotes from their day. Hopefully someone survives what should be a field approaching 5,000 players and makes it to Saturday. If they do, I’ll be flashing my media credential and demanding immediate access.

For now, it’s almost 6:30 p.m., which means I should put on some pants and start my day.

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