If these women look exhausted, forgive them. It's now 16 hours since the Final Table resumed play at the Rio for the World Series of Poker. The aim is to whittle down the nine players who survived the field of 6,494 in July down to two and then have those two go heads-up starting at 10 p.m. on Monday.
It's been colorful, amusing and grueling. I know many of you don't care about poker, but the mechanics of the game are never why I find this so intriguing. It's the personalities and the life-changing sums of money involved. The four guys left right now include a 46-year-old lumberjack from a Maryland backwater who was never on a plane before July and has now won at least $2.5 million. The guy lives in a double-wide, won entry by winning a tournament in a West Virginia casino that cost him $130 to enter. That's nuts.
Also nuts? This lady, the self-coronated Poker Queen:
Also ALSO nuts, the fact that the $27 million they're giving to the players this weekend is in mounds on a table with a couple of security guards who look like Barney Fifes:
Yes, that's real and not newspaper (they even make that anymore, anyhow?) filler as the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Howard Stutz thought until I walked him over to take a closer look. Perched atop that mound is this, the only bracelet most men would want to own or wear:
Here's one of the dealers in earlier times at the table...
...and an up-close look at the face of the special chips they create each year for this event:
During breaks, famous poker pros like Howard Lederer, whom I profiled with his sister Annie Duke in the Boston Globe in 2007, signed autographs.
Some of the eccentrics got to take pictures with the Holly Madison of poker, online pro and [link maybe NSFW] WSOP hostess Lacey Jones:
As you can see, Ms. Jones works hard to please:
To preview the WSOP Final Table, I wrote a profile of Ivey, referred to as the Tiger Woods of Poker because he's an elegantly handsome, biracial break-through player whose astoundingly winning consistency has folks believing they are in the presence of greatness. Unfortunately, Ivey seems to despise the press and only speaks to reporters when he's in some way being compensated or is obligated to do so. Thus, the press was not sorry that he played lousy and riskless and busted out in seventh. To return the favor, Ivey was the only one who snubbed even ESPN when he departed, much to the WSOP's chagrin. He surfaced playing on a poker website within an hour, the very definition of gambling addiction.
Here's the only shot I got of Ivey up close:
Other pros were more accessible. I chatted up Phil Hellmuth and 2008 finalist Dennis Phillips and got these shots of Doyle Brunson and Daniel Negreanu...
"The Godfather of Poker," which I picked up to read and possibly review. Not sure what Negreanu was doing with his hand there.
As the night wore on, I did wander the Rio looking for a place to buy some candy and soda to perk me up. I caught a little bit of this silly show in the casino...
...and found myself pelted by beads from the Masquerade in the Sky:
The reason I need to hang in here is because one of the remaining players -- currently in first with a large lead, in fact -- is Antoine Saout, a 25-year-old college dropout from St Martin Des Champs, France, and one of my clients is Agence Presse-France, the French wire service. Clearly the deeper Saout goes, the bigger a story it is over in France. I love how his cheering section has these special scarves they knitted...
But now, after 265 hands and no sign that these four are going to settle it anytime soon, we're all feeling like we could use a little nap.
Those legs happen to belong to poker star Mike Matasow, who decided to lay down on the floor and rest. That sounds nice, but some of us have to work here.