Just waking up here. “You don’t have to write anything today,” Vera told me when she left this morning. I nodded and smiled. Then I slept another six hours.
The journey back yesterday was fine, with me mostly fading in and out of consciousness during each of the two flights. Was awake enough to notice on both flights the woman sitting beside me was starting Fifty Shades of Grey.
That last wild night at the WSOP ended with me getting out of the Rio around 1:30 a.m. or so. From there I joined Daniel, Paul, Chad, Sam, Mickey, Joe, Josh C., Rich, and Josh B. at the MGM for a few hours of fun low-limit H.O.R.S.E. -- plus a goofy round of 2-7 triple draw -- and thus didn’t really get to bed until dawn.
Got up yesterday after perhaps two hours of actual sleep, wrote a post, packed in about 20 minutes, and was on my way.
As I’ve done in past years, I am going to pull together one of those “Reporter’s Notebook” entries in which I compile all of my Hard-Boiled Poker posts I wrote from the WSOP. Was looking at the earlier compilation posts just now and noticing how each seem to begin with me talking about how much I’d slept the night before. I'll just go ahead and report today that I have slept a solid 14 hours since Vera and I got home from the airport at midnight. And I forced myself to get out of bed knowing I could easily sleep a few more.
Gonna save the “Notebook” post for tomorrow, though, and instead just add a last little postlude today. One last memory of the WSOP Main Event to share.
It comes from what turned out to be the last break of Day 7. The breaks were weirdly coming halfway through each level, so this one happened at the midpoint of Level 33. The previous hour or so had seen Jesse Sylvia, the 26-year-old pro, go from near elimination to the chip lead with 14 players left.
The big hand for Sylvia had come when he’d reraise-squeeze-shoved from the blinds with K-Q, gotten called by Robert Salaburu who held pocket jacks, and caught a king to win the race. That pic is by Joe Giron of PokerNews who swooped over to catch a shot of Sylvia awaiting the community cards with his supporters. He’d then grab some more pots in non-showdown hands and had nudged out in front when the break arrived.
Most of the breaks on Day 7 were just 15 minutes (not the usual 20), and so I’d spent almost all of them counting chips or catching up in other ways. I’d even worked through most of the dinner break, too, so when this last break arrived and it was the full 20 minutes, I took the opportunity to go for a short walk which included a visit to the restroom.
There was a crowd in there, and I remember while walking out noticing Sylvia with a couple of his friends leaving as well. “Is this real life?” someone asked -- I am pretty sure it was Sylvia, in fact -- and excited laughter followed. Not waiting for an answer, the questioner continued. “I mean, this better not be a f*ckin’ dream!”
Sylvia was interviewed later for the ESPN Poker Edge podcast where he talked about how he roomed with Russell Thomas at the WSOP two years ago and how cool it was for both him and a good friend to have made it all of the way to the final table as they did.
“I actually feel like I’m dreaming,” he said, “because like… in your dreams the people you know show up… and it's just really weird that [Thomas] is here.”
Later on while playing H.O.R.S.E., Rich would point out to me a post he’d written about Sylvia way back on Day 2c, kind of a funny one in which he’d been passing by Sylvia’s table and the player had stopped him to say something about wanting his parents to be able to follow his progress in the tournament. This sort of thing will happen from time to time, especially in the Main Event, where players might ask to get included in the counts.
In Sylvia’s case, he’d actually already by then built a big stack and would’ve probably been included soon, anyway. But Rich was quick to say sure and inserted the funny, brief post about him. Pretty unusual to grab from the thousands a glimpse at the one who would emerge with the most chips by summer’s end.
As it turned out, his parents and everyone else got to track his progress in great detail over the last few days. And they’ll get to see even more during the next three months once the edited shows begin to appear on ESPN.
And it’s all real life, not a dream.
After the break Sylvia would win another big one when knocking out Scott Abrams in 12th place in which he flopped a set, Abrams flopped top pair and a flush draw, and they got Abrams’ significant-sized stack in the middle with two cards to come. Sylvia faded the flush, carried the chip lead to the final ten-handed table, and kept it at night’s end.
Like most, I’ve yet to learn a lot about the final nine -- or the “Octo-Nine,” as the WSOP has decided to call them -- though have heard repeatedly the phrase “he’s a good guy” used with reference to several. We’ll be hearing more about all of them over the interim, and even if they weren’t known by many before, they’ll all evolve into “notables” soon enough.
I love thinking about experiencing something so thrilling and unusual that one is moved to ask -- even jokingly -- “Is this real life?” While every summer there’s much at the WSOP that is less than exciting, even the most mundane moments are couched in the context of something special slowly coming together.
Because some are going to go far. And someone is going to win. And for many who find themselves still around when a tourney is concluding, the experience is going to be so new and exhilarating they might wonder to themselves if it’s real or just a dream.
I think I will go back to sleep for a short while more. I’ll find out later if I really wrote this or just dreamed I did.