[ Adventures ]
coming to terms with deserving it
None of the people I know has survived Day 2 except The Numbrist, and he’s barely survived, with just enough chips left for one last move. As a result, when I finish bagging my chips, there’s no one left to celebrate with, no one to help process the simmering stew of feelings: shock and dismay at my terrible beat, relief and pride at having survived, numbness and exhaustion from having borne down so hard. I’m surrounded by relieved, exultant, and dejected men, talking wearily on their cell phones, agitatedly explaining hands to their friends, walking dazedly through the cavernous tournament room, with its black walls, its abandoned white-lit TV table, its blown-up pictures of past champions like figures at a political rally, icons who are variously revered, despised, or simply ignored after lucking their way into a Main Event victory and never again winning anything that matters.
I almost bump into Barry Greenstein, a brilliant player whose face is so familiar to me from photographs and television and instructional videos that I can’t keep from lighting up in recognition. He’s famous enough in the poker world that he must be used to this, and generous enough after his Day 2 to give me an exhausted but welcoming smile.
Well, now that I’ve acted like I know him, I have to at least acknowledge my response. “It’s an honor to meet you,” I say sincerely, and he smiles with what looks like honest diffidence—modesty, even. He may not be humble—rumor has it that he has a very strong and well-deserved sense of his own ability—but he certainly is gracious, putting me at ease for having thrust us both into this awkward situation.
“I wouldn’t say that,” he says. “But you’re still in?”
“Yes!” I say, unable to believe that he is the first one I’m telling. “With about 100,000 chips.”
He half-smiles, half-winces. “Then you’re doing a lot better than I am.”
After sending an awkward sympathy text to The Numbrist, whose crippling last hour I’ve read about on Twitter, I make my way to the little cluster of benches outside the tournament area, at the edge of the enormous Rio parking lot. I sit for what seems like hours in the thick desert night—even at midnight, the heat is a substantial presence, as palpable as the clouds billowing off a stove—and try to come back to life, to let myself cry or exult or do something to let go of all those hours of bearing down–so different from what I need to write or direct or do anything else in my life. It’s as though, having used myself exactly to the measure of the game’s unflagging demand, I simply evaporate when the demand does, a dried-up well that needs hours—at least—to refill.