Saturday, January 14, 2006

Shorties at the Big Dance

This isn’t necessarily my favorite photo from the World Series of Poker, but it’s up there. Of course, the first thing you might notice about it is that it does not involve degenerate gamblers, badly dressed old men, or crushed dreams. Therefore you might ask: what the hell does it have to do with the World Series of Poker? Well, that’s exactly what I asked as I walked to the Rio Tournament area one day. I showed up and everywhere I looked it was Jon Benet Ramsey-day. It was all sequined shirts and strained smiles as far as the eye could see. I’m still not entirely sure what was going on but it had something to do with small children dressed as figure skaters and possibly a dancing competition going on in one of the sections of the convention center the WSOP wasn’t using.

At first, it somehow just didn’t seem right. Of all the things I think of when I think of the WSOP, unbridled youthful enthusiasm usually isn’t at the top of the list. Looking back though it starts to make a little bit of sense. More so than others, I guess 2005 actually was a year of youthful enthusiasm. And I’m not just talking about the throngs of 17 year old internet players sitting behind towers of black chips at the triple draw lowball tables. This year the final event had over ten times as many players as it did the first year I got to go, over 2500 as many players as last year’s event. That makes for a lot of first time players, a lot of people untainted by the taste of soul snapping defeat that comes from busting out of the final event.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to think I’m still far from being jaded about the final event. I consider myself fortunate every time I get to play it. Come summer people are always asking me if I’m playing the final event and I’m always amused by the number of people who think I’m joking when I say I don’t know. The money to monkey ratio is insane and traditionally it’s one of my luckier events. Nonetheless, I’m not ashamed to say that $10,000 still seems like a lot of money.

I was watching Desperate Housewives last year and I remember a scene with a private eye who said that for $5,000 he could have someone hurt and for $10,000 he could make them disappear. Now, I really flipped out when I heard this. What this meant was that for the same $10,000 it cost to play the World Series every year I could have been having people bumped off. (At first I wasn’t sure about the veracity on that price quote and I decided to ask around the New York poker clubs. This didn’t really work out though as the few people who actually would have had privy to such information all gave me exactly the same answer: "I, uh, wouldn’t know what you’re talking about, and we, uh, never had this conversation.")

Even if $10,000 isn’t the exact cost of a hit though, it still helps to put things in perspective. Money in itself tends to lose some of it’s meaning for poker players. Occasionally I find it helpful to instead convert the raw numbers into more concrete things as in "this weekend I lost 3 new laptops, a Tivo, and 2 weeks in Tokyo with my girlfriend." I mean, if on the first day of the tournament someone asked for a show of hands on who would be willing to give up their seat in exchange for the chance to have a cap popped in someone’s ass you might find yourself at a somewhat smaller event.

All I’m trying to say is that I still understand what a privilege it is to be able to participate in the final event. And while I’m still excited every year, I would be lying if I said it is ever like it was my first year. The abject terror at the thought of making a million dollar mistake, the awe inspiring possibility that I could become a champion of the world, these were still virginal experiences. I did feel like a lucky child swept away by the fantasy of it all, so very excited to have a chance at playing the big game.

I look back and think about what it felt like for me that first time, and what it must have felt like for the thousands of people in Vegas for the first time this year, and all of a sudden those wide eyed kids in their shiny little costumes that were skipping around the Rio don’t seem so out of place.

Twirl on tiny dancers. Twirl on...


Chris Fargis said...

I think you've missed the best part of the first picture, namely the Chippendales poster in the background. I'm going to let you work that one out on your own.

Seriously, May, was that your very own cell phone that kept showing up on your ear this week? Wonders never cease.

Mike May said...

I just want to thank you for noticing the level of detail that goes into every photo on this site. When you add up the costs of the set constructions, model's fees, lighting crews, catering, etc, etc, it's not an inexpensive project. When one of my 7 or so readers appreciates the small details though it kind of feels like it's worth it.

While that particular Chippendales poster may have been rather difficult to track down, I did think it was important not just to the diegetic space of this specific photo but to the many of the thematic aesthetics of the site as a whole. Good eye Chris.

JILPoker said...

guess who moved to blogspot? it's an easier layout!

Anonymous said...

Nice little Blog Mike. It's Carl/Buddha from the old Playstation, checking out these poker blog thingies. Maybe I should start one, talk about losing 10k in February at PLO, yech.

Speaking of PLO, do you remember a night where we had a confrontation AJ board, broadway comes on the turn, I bet out 900, you think a long time and fold. Did ya have set of aces? I've wondered all these years. carl(a-t)skutsch-dot-c-0-m.

matt k said...

Mike May, you have to write about how Sammy knocked you out of the 2003 Main Event. It's a crime that so few people know that story.

Also, the story about guy in LA that called you allin with JT because if he "lost this pot, he would still be up xxxx for the day."

Mike May said...

I do worry that I don't post as many bad beat stories as other poker blogs and wonder if that is affecting my numbers. If I ever do a best of bad beats post I'll be sure to throw in the old classics.

And Carl even though I have a digit recall span of exactly 3, obviously I remember all hands that I've played a half dozen years ago. However, to tell you what I had in that hand would give you an insight into how I play that would decimate whatever positive EV I might ever have had againt you.

Anonymous said...

I KNEW it! You had the aces. I just had the jacks, and I don't care if you know!