[ Adventures ]
The Main Event Day 2: Unbelievable Luck
Still in it. And going somewhere.
I start Day 2 with much of the same sense of wonder and unease with which I began Day 1. It seems unreal that I’m here. I can only see as far as making it through Day 2, especially because, when I played the Main Event two years ago, I was out within the first hour or maybe even less, playing (I see now but didn’t then) very badly, so it was completely my own fault. If I can make it past that first hour—if I can make it to the end of the day—I’ll feel a spurious sense of progress; spurious because several brilliant poker players are already out of the tournament, presumably because they did everything right and got unlucky. Why should I be any different? I want to last, and I’m going to do my best, but I understand that it isn’t, ultimately, up to me. That thought is comforting, though, because it allows me to focus on what is up to me: playing correctly. I’m terrified that I won’t; I’m realizing that I can; and I’m also beginning to think that perhaps my game actually is the equal of many, if not all, of the players I meet.
Well, that’s what I think until I spend ten minutes at my table, unbagging my chips and stacking them in my obsessively short towers of ten (most players use towers of twenty, but I can’t count those as quickly and I’m also always worried about knocking them over).
Then an expansive, smiling man comes to sit on my right, announcing, with his short stack, that he’s expecting one of us to double him up, and I realize, after the parade of reporters and camera men and tournament officials who stop by to wish him luck, that he’s Somebody Famous. When he steps away from the table for a moment, I ask the dealer who he is, and learn that he’s been at one Main Event final table already. Great. Even though I have more chips than he does—and am pretty determined that I won’t be the one to double him up—I’m already in the presence of someone who officially belongs here, making it all the clearer that I, officially or unofficially, do not.
For a while, I grind along with my 40,000 chips, watching Mr. Famous—who also seems to be the nicest guy in the world—slowly accumulate a stack. Pretty soon, he has over 60,000 chips, though I am, gratefully, holding my own. The Numbrist reserves some of his most scathing scorn for people who care about their rank in a tournament—above average, below average, chip leader, short for the table. The only important thing ever, he constantly explains, is the relationship of your stack to the blinds and antes, and maybe, on a hand-by-hand basis, to the stack you’re playing with as well. But that misses the point, the key is for me to pay attention to my own stack and not be distracted by how others are doing, especially when they’re not even at my table. Play your game, The Numbrist insists, and don’t worry about your rank. As a chronically envious and anxious person, I couldn’t have chosen better therapy.