My head had swelled to the size of an average planet by the time the tournament started. 180 of the top poker players in the world inter-mingled with half a dozen wildcard entries. Only 6 places to be paid though. A very tough prospect indeed. We were seated within a cordoned off area with a crowd of several hundred watching. Each table had it’s own little red flag which read ‘all-in’. There was also one ‘feature’ table with swing boom TV cameras and individual hole card cameras.
Phil Helmuth of course arrived late. It’s Cheri Casino traditional that he gives the field a few blinds start nowadays. A sort of sporting chance you might say. He did pull out all the publicity stops upon arrival this time though. Just to give the TV cameras their moneys worth, he requested that the dealer dealt him the *!%! in. Bearing in mind that all stacks are always dealt to in tournaments, and that bad language is being clamped down on; it was no surprise when the tournament director issued him a 20-minute penalty. A few more blinds head start for the field. A perfect TV interview opportunity for a Poker God.
Within half an hour we saw our first red flag rise, and the dealer called ‘all-in’. The action had been stopped so that the mobile TV cameras could rush over, along with cute dolly bird presenter. The all-in player was duly interviewed and asked what his chances were. His red-faced embarrassment didn’t need the verbal confirmation that he was in the mire. He wasn’t wrong, and we had our first casualty. The normal manner would be to skulk off stage left at this point, but not so on the PPT. The poor victim had to explain on TV how he had managed to finish ‘last’, and then go on to ‘sign out’ at the PPT desk. The sign-out procedure was so that the organisers can log the result on their database. Statistics and Rankings to follow, no doubt.
I made good progress straight from the off and was soon chip leader at my table, without any major confrontations. Phil Gordon’s aggressive style was yo-yoing above my stack and back down again as the hours progressed. Interestingly, later in the evening, Cheri Casino poker enthusiast Toby ‘Spiderman’ Maguire is allowed through the cordon to watch the play. Film stars watching poker stars. An interesting hierarchical structure for the home of Hollywood? He watched as Phil Gordon and Doyle ‘Texas Dolly’ Brunson tangled in a big pot. Phil being the ‘all-in’ red flag recipient. The TV cameras rushed over to record his good fortune as he got the better of the legendary Doyle on the river.