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  • 2008 WSOP – ‘Rest’ Day

    By Anthony Holden

    There’s no such thing as a rest day for writers. Today’s sole Day Off for main-event players was still a Day On for bloggers, with the WSOP”s annual news conference, a free lunch (yes, there does turn out to be such a thing), the annual media tournament (with an especially memorable moment for Yours Truly, coming up in this despatch after a duly modest delay) and yet more of this oh so taxing late-night partying.

    At the press conference, Commissioner of Poker Jeffrey Pollack proudly declared this 39th World Series of Poker ‘the biggest and best ever’, with more than 59,000 players from 108 countries generating a record prize pool in excess of $180 million. Next year, he solemnly promised, the 40th WSOP would be even bigger and better.

    Once the speeches were over, the hot topic was still (unsurprisingly) the TV-dictated postponment of the final table until mid-November, four months after the world-title event comes down to the last nine players of its 6,844 starters next Monday, July 14. Never mind, went most of the questions, all the sponsorship opportunities for the ‘November Nine’ (as Pollack has taken to calling them). What about collusion, private coaching, people hiring the likes of ‘Mad’ Mike Caro to spot other players’ (and, in my case, please, my own) tells etc etc etc?

    Commissioner Pollack expressed his confidence in the ‘honesty and integrity’ of (whoever might turn out to be) the ‘November Nine’. Anyone caught breaking WSOP rules would be severely sanctioned. Anyone who failed, for whatever reason, and from wherever, to turn up back in Vegas in November – even if they had, say, died in the interim – would be anted away, as per tournament rules. (Actually, when you think about it, getting anted away could well wind up winning you – or your estate – third or fourth place while your absent self ‘sits there’ mutely, jumping up the money ladder while all these poker heavies knock each other out).

    All remaining players would also have the same chance, he went on, to study each other’s play, complete with hole cards, during the endless replays constituting ESPN’s four-month build-up to November 10’s ‘Biggest Night in Poker’.

    ‘You mean all American players!’ piped up an English voice from the back. Yes, it was Your Correspondent, speaking up for Britain, indeed Europe, if not the rest of the world. ‘Five of the nine players at last year’s final table came from overseas. What if some of the “November Nine” don’t live in America? Will you be sending them tapes or DVDs of the ESPN coverage to ensure a level playing field?’

    Commissioner Pollack, I am pleased to say, publicly pledged to do just that. Then I peppered him with questions about a subject close to my heart, poker’s Hall of Fame, not least because it was invented by my old buddy Eric Drache (joint best man at my 1990 wedding to the Moll), with whom I am due to dine tomorrow night. When would the WSOP be announcing this year’s inductees – usually part of this very press conference? Did the authorities have plans to establish a proper shrine for the Hall of Fame – which, last time I looked, had fallen into some disarray downtown at Binion’s?

    Pollack responded by announcing that the naming of this year’s Hall of Famers had been postponed, along with the final table, until November. And I am delighted to say that he agreed with me about the importance of the Hall of Fame – and confirmed, for the first time in public, that yes, indeed, senior WSOP executives were already discussing plans to provide it with a suitably stylish permanent home. An announcement would be made later in the year.

    Duly mollified (despite the Moll’s absence), I repaired for the aforementioned free media lunch with such long-time Vegas buddies as ESPN’s Gary Wise, Swedish poker writer Dan Glimne and the now semi-retired poker broadcaster Larry Grossman. From there it was but two cigarettes (outside, natch, in the 120-degree heat) to the annual media tournament, where the $15,000 prize money these days goes to charity. But there are still three handsome gold trophies up for grabs to show off to the folks back home.

    The 100 or so starters did not, for once, include the usual (in recent ‘boom’ years) porn stars and TV starlets. Nor, alas, did James Garner this year grace us with his dashing presence. With a field entirely comprised of real poker writers / editors / journalists / broadcasters / bloggers, the honour of intoning the ritual ‘Shuffle up and deal!’ fell this year to… well, since you ask, ME – the author of that historic tome Big Deal, summoned up to the podium for that purpose, without warning, by WSOP media director Nolan Dalla. My big moment seemed to do for me in the tourney, in which I got dealt pocket rockets after only three hands – if only that had happened to me in the main event! ­– but then fizzled my way towards a rapid, less than distinguished demise.

    So the charity of my choice gets zilch. And, not for the first time, I won’t have sleepless nights wondering how to get that wonderfully vulgar gold trophy past UK Customs.

    And so now – ah, it’s a hard life – to both tonight’s PokerStars parties. Of which more – maybe – ­anon.

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    Comments

    Comment from Johnny Hughes
    Time: July 8, 2008, 2:21 pm

    I am for Titanic Thompson in the Hall of Fame. He was a huge crook and con man. So were some of the good folks now in the Hall of Fame. Ti was a better crook and con man than anyone in there.

    Comment from Richard Whitehouse
    Time: July 8, 2008, 7:19 pm

    Nice to see you bearing up under the strain of promoting BiggerDeal across the pond. It must be hard to smmooze and drink when you also have become World Champ. I recommend rolling up your sleeves when wearing the hat as you can then pass yourself of as Hemmingway.

    Comment from Anthony Holden
    Time: July 8, 2008, 8:34 pm

    Thanks, Rich – but how do I get a big, bushy white beard overnight (w/o recourse to the Vegas Santa store) ?

    Comment from Sam Holden
    Time: July 8, 2008, 8:56 pm

    There’s nothing like a free lunch

    Comment from Richard Whitehouse
    Time: July 8, 2008, 10:30 pm

    Well Hemingway didn’t go down the Santa route until he was fifty and in fact you could pass for his pre-noel look. But then at WSOP 2008 you are likely to be better known and read than he, so it might be a step back in appearance fees!

    Comment from cindy
    Time: July 9, 2008, 8:19 am

    Hemingway’s mother made him wear dresses as a child so you have a lot of leeway when it comes to your image. It’s already Wednesday here – am thinking of you and I have the suspicion that it’s a good idea to get pocket rockets out of the way…they can be, as I know too well, dangerous and deadly.
    beat em bust em….major achievement whatever happens..

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