"I want this so bad" said Jennifer Harman in a tight, determined voice.
She stood in a huddle with her husband Marco Traniello and best friend Daniel Negreanu in a corner of the strip club/bar that had been transformed into a disco-chic final table area at the Empire Casino. Harman was about to play heads-up for her third WSOP bracelet in a game where she had an undeniable advantage-- H.O.R.S.E. Her regular $4,000-8,000 game at the Bellagio had hourly swings greater than the approximately $140,000 USD first prize, but for Harman, the money was of little concern. She wanted that bracelet. So bad.
A couple of hours before I had walked up to Daniel Negreanu on one of the breaks as he was practicing his golf swing. Two of his best friends were at this final table-- Harman and Kirk Morrison, whom Negreanu has known since his early years as a pro in Las Vegas.
"So, if Kirk and Jen go heads-up who do you root for? Or does your head just explode?"
"Nah. I root for Jen. I want her to get that third bracelet to put some more distance between her and the other women."
It would have been a record-- three WSOP bracelets in open events-- and for most of the evening, it looked like that piece of history would be made. Harman ran over her opponent, Thomas Bihl of Germany for the first two hours of their 100+ hand heads-up match, whittling him down to 170,000 to her 720,000 at one point. But as the blinds escalated and the hour grew later, luck began to play more of a role, and Bihl finally began to play back at her.
After the final hand, an Omaha one where she got her money in with two pair against Bihl's straight and flush draws, Harman seemingly disappeared into the crowd. It's often easy to lose track of her in a crowded room given her diminutive size, but coming so close, nearly tasting the victory and having it slip away... it must have been just wrenching. And had Harman won, I'm sure the celebration inside the casino would have continued until dawn. Instead, most of the fans and media alike, simply packed their things and headed back to their hotels after a long, grueling night.
On our way back home, Pauly and I ran into Wendeen Eolis in Leicester Square. We're all staying at the same hotel and she was delighted to run into us, not wanting to navigate the dodgy streets of Central London on her own at 4:30 A.M. She shared my disappointment at Harman not winning.
"I know all the female players were really pulling for her" said Wendeen.
Well... maybe not all of them. I can think of at least one who is likely breathing a sigh of relief.
I covered the H.O.R.S.E. final table hand for hand with the lovely and capable Jen Mason, who normally does blogging duties for Blonde Poker, but joined the PokerNews team for the WSOPE. Jen is also quite a player in her own right, having won over € 30,000 for first place at the Green Joker Poker Festival in Ireland last May and most recently finishing second at the Party Poker Women's World Open last month. That particular tournament will hit the European airwaves in October, and I imagine Ms. Mason will be getting recognized a whole lot more at the tables.
After that grueling affair, I got the day off on Sunday. Good thing I did, as I woke up with a completely stuffed head and spent the afternoon injesting a combination of orange juice, tea, and cold medicines while watching NFL football and fighting the internet connection in our hotel room. Literally the only way to get a signal inside our room is to wedge oneself against the door or go out into the hallway altogether. I inquired at the front desk about a room change and almost went for it, but thought it wouldn't be a good idea to have Pauly arrive home from the PLO final table without a key to the new room. Still, we might do it tonight. A shame really, since our current room number is the hammer-tastic #727.
* * * * *
Today, the Main Event started. Ten thousand pounds, which is about $20,200 U.S. I moved casinos and am over on St. James' Street at the Fifty, very posh card club within about a 15 minute walk of the Empire at Leicester Square. Schecky and I are ensconced in a corner next to the bar on the second floor, and the charming fellow behind it asks us about every half hour or so if we're OK on beverages. They also fed us at the dinner break-- mini hamburgers, bowls of onion rings, and some sort of sausage and cheese confection. Schecky wouldn't try the latter dish, as he had a bad experience with the local sausage over in Barcelona. It's really calm and mellow over here compared to the spectacle of the Amazon Room in Vegas. We have seven tables in play here and every single one is peppered with at least two or three name pros. Gus Hansen, Liz Lieu, Erik Seidel, Jan Sorensen, Robert Mizrachi, Greg Raymer, Noel Furlong, Farzad Bonyadi, Thomas Wahlroos, Sorel Mizzi, Pascal Perrault, and Jeff Lisandro all sat down to play today at the Fifty.
Funniest thing I've seen so far at the WSOPE? While blogging the H.O.R.S.E. from the "Shadow Bar" (we were literally sitting on barstools with laptops) WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack kept slipping behind the bar to raid the fridge for bottles of water. One drunk guy assumed he was the bartender and attempted to order a cocktail from him!
Oh, and speaking of drunk guys, I got one kicked out of the final table area. He started annoyingly chatting to me on one of the breaks while I was desperately trying to catch up on posts. I tried the graceful brush-off, but he was persistent.
"What are you doing?"
"Covering the tournament for Poker News."
"Oh brilliant. But really, who watches poker?"
"Millions of people."
"Did you come here from America for this?"
"You Americans really take poker too seriously. I can't believe you have a job doing this."
"Sometimes, neither do I, but it is a job and I have to do it now, so..."
"I mean really, who watches this?"
"Look, I have to work here"
"I'm just being friendly"
"And I was trying to be, but now I have to ask you to bugger off."
"Whaaaat?! I'm just trying to make conversation."
"And I politely told you I didn't have time for it. So leave me alone."
"God, you're so bitchy"
"Look man, you're drunk with your friends on a Saturday night and I'm on the tail end of a 14 hour day, so just please let me be."
Well, he wouldn't. And just got nastier and nastier. I told him to fuck off at one point and two of his (more sober) friends tried to get him to leave to no avail. But this asstard just wouldn't let up. So I threatened to call security. And he went apeshit.
"SECURITY? What the hell have I done to you! I didn't touch you!"
"But you're preventing me from doing my job, so yeah, I'm gonna get you thrown out."
I waved over one of the Harrah's suits and they immediately radioed for the muscle. Jonno, my bald-domed, tough-as-nails Australian colleague was sincerely disappointed that he didn't get there in enough time to head-butt the little bugger.
Ah, the workplace hazards of a casino....