Some people like the bubble. For others it’s all about the very end. (Some masochists even enjoy day one.) But for my money, today is the best day on the poker calendar: when the World Series Main Event plays down to its final nine.
This is the day of Matt Affleck vs. Jonathan Duhamel. It’s the day of Will Kassouf vs. Griffin Benger. And it’s the day of Daniel Negreanu vs. the weight of the poker world on his shoulders, and an award-winning image from photographer Joe Giron.
This is the day when the Amazon Room really crackles, as players find either elation or complete deflation. It’s impossible to know exactly what will happen, but something will. And during a WSOP where we’ve already had an earthquake, the sky is the limit.
Though there’s uncertainty about the direction the fireworks will erupt, there is one thing we know for sure: at the end of it, there will be nine players guaranteed a $1 million payout and a shot at ten times that amount, plus eternal glory.
We make no apology in these parts for focusing our attention entirely on the man currently sitting in sixth place on the overnight counts: PokerStars’ own Garry Gates. Gates says he has been blown away by the support from across the poker world, testament to his standing as one of the ultimate good guys.
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He was in exceptionally good spirits when we caught up just before the resumption in play, going through a few stretching exercises just to get the blood pumping. Actually, according to Gates, it’s less blood and more pure adrenalin coursing through his body at this stage.
“I’m feeling good, feeling good,” he said. “I didn’t get that much sleep last night, the adrenalin was pumping. I have this odd sense of calm around me, I’m feeling the love from everybody near and far. I’m excited and ready to go.”
Gates is sitting on the same table as the chip leader Nicholas Marchington, a man who is as surprised as anybody to find himself in this position. Marchington came over to talk to Gates (the two have played together a lot already in this tournament) and admitted that this was his first Main Event, and first very deep run in any tournament of this magnitude.
“He just wins all his money on his computer,” Gates said, spotting an online wizard when he sees one. “This could be a heads up match actually,” Gates added.
Marchington said: “It’s crazy. It’s a surreal experience. I don’t know what to say really. I also didn’t get that much sleep but I’ve got all the energy in the world. We were playing for 14 hours yesterday and the last hand I still had lots of energy. Then as soon as I got back to my hotel room, I’m asleep in five minutes.”
This is the ultimate trip saver for Marchington, who said that his first ever proper overseas trip just for poker had been going badly prior to now. “I’ve fired 33 bullets worth of events, and this is my second cash,” he said. This is the right way to make it up.
Marchington said a rail is ready to jet in from Britain should he make the final table, but that he wasn’t taking anything for granted. Gates too said that some more of his family is preparing to fly down from Pennsylvania should his progress to continue, joining his brother who arrived yesterday.
“I’m grateful that I’ve already made it this far,” Gates said, to agreement from Marchington. “And whatever happens here is just gravy.”
WSOP photography by PokerPhotoArchive