Gentlemen, Start Your Engines
by Andy Glazer©1999 Andrew N. S. Glazer, all rights reserved. Used with permission. Andrew N. S. Glazer is the author of Casino Gambling the Smart Way available at most bookstores.
396 players shattered the World Series record for starters in the $10,000 No-Limit Hold'em Championship event earlier this afternoon. This caught more than a few people offguard, including the Binion's officials who had estimated 250-280 starters just a week ago.
Many people had expected a smaller Championship event this year, because the overall Series was shorter than in years past. A shorter series meant fewer satellites and supersatellites, and thus people expected fewer players.
When I ran into fellow journalist Mike Paulle just before the event started, I asked him if he had an explanation for the shockingly larger number of starters, which broke the old record by roughly 25%. Even Mark McGwire only broke the home run record by 15%.
"Two reasons," Mike said. "First, an 11,000 Dow Jones, and second, us. All the media reporting has made this a bigger event."
I think Mike was on the right track, especially with the Dow, but I think I know a bigger reason. I can say it in two words:
Last year, when Kevin came out of nowhere to finish second in the Series and take home three-quarters of a cool million, he birthed dreams among the poker masses everywhere. The ESPN special has run numerous times and everyone has seen and heard the commentators saying how new Kevin was, how unorthodox his play was, etc., etc. There were probably thousands of decent players who saw this and said, "heck, I play better than Kevin McBride, maybe I should go to the Series."
I should know, as I was one of them! I wound up not starting the event; my primary job here was as a writer, working on my book POKER BRAT with Phil Hellmuth, and the few supersatellites for which I had time were unkind. I wasn't so deluded as to think the ten grand would be a terrific investment, so I stayed on the sidelines. But as I sat in those supersatellites, as I watched the earlier Series events, I was among the dreamers, thinking it could happen.
So my best guess is that out of those thousands of solid mid-level players who saw the ESPN special, roughly a hundred had the time and money to try to live out their dream, and we had a record on our hands. If another Kevin McBride comes out of the pack this year, we could easily see another record next year.
(By the way, Kevin really doesn't play all that badly; the commentators made much more of his unorthodox play than they should have, but TV people have to talk about something. He won a no-limit event at the Rio, and he's one of those action guys who, if he catches cards, can accumulate chips in a hurry. Possibly not the best approach to a no-limit live game, but Kevin wasn't playing in a living game, and I know a great many conservative pros who would give two fingers off their left hand for Kevin's tournament results over the last 12 months.)
Anyway, the mid-limit hopefuls are off to a promising start. Suppose you were on the sidelines at 2:00, with the tournament's start ten minutes away, and someone offered you this bet: That actor Wilford Brimley would outlast defending champ Scotty Nguyen, Phil Hellmuth, Men "the Master" Nguyen, Daniel Negreanu, Mario Esquerra and Layne Flack?
You'd have mortgaged your house to take the bet, of course, but thank goodness it wasn't offered, because five hours into this tournament, everyone's favorite uncle/grandfather- type actor (I actually liked him best as the manager in The Natural), was going strong, having doubled to about $20,000, while the all-star team mentioned above (and probably a few other stars who slunk out while I wasn't looking) was already on the sidelines.
Of course, there are roughly another 50 or so all-stars, and another 50 or so honorable mention all-stars, still left for Brimley to deal with, to say nothing of plenty of other competent contenders, so I wouldn't start fitting him for the gold bracelet just yet.
On the other hand, if he wins, can you picture the starting field next year? I wonder if Binion's could accommodate 800 starters.
Oh, and by the way, make sure you pick up the May 17 issue of Newsweek. There's a good story on tells, starting on page 76, and it mentions several of my very favorite people.
|Internet coverage of the 1999 World Series of Poker is brought to you as a service of ConJelCo with the full and active cooperation of Binion's Horseshoe. ©1999 Binion's Horseshoe some portions © 1999 ConJelCo|