Seventy-seven of the most distinguished players in poker took their seats in the Amazon Room on Friday, in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship. But you almost could hardly notice, as a record 5,919 players descended on the Rio in the $1,000 Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship — for a day that in many ways captures what the World Series of Poker is all about.
It was the largest field ever for the Seniors, beating last year’s record field of 5,389.
In the Amazonian sea of gray and white, a black polo shirt rose from the green felt, contemplating calling an all-in bet. Ron Miller, 55, furrowed his brow, clasped his hands behind his head, counted his stack and eyed his opponent as the rest of the table patiently watched.
“Do you have it?” he asked.
Seated with arms folded, 66-year-old Chuck Decker replied: “If you got it, you got it.”
Ultimately, Miller flipped over a pair of red kings and tossed them into the muck.
Decker, showed pocket queens.
“Remember that on Sunday at the final table,” Miller said, implying that he was unfazed by folding better hole cards. Still, he quipped: “I should have known. It’s the seniors event.”
Special WSOP Experience
Even while padding his already healthy chip stack, Decker held a more pragmatic outlook.
“I’ll be lucky to make the money,” he said. “It’s just poker. I got lucky a couple times.”
The WSOP Seniors event, which restarted at 11 am Saturday and is open to players 50 and older, included those who celebrated half-century birthdays in the weeks and days leading up to the close of registration, as well as 97-year-old Herman Moonves, father of CBS president/CEO Leslie Moonves and the oldest player in the field.
Going into Day 2, 989 players remained, with the money bubble just over the horizon at 888.
For many who showed up to play this tournament on Fathers Day weekend, the WSOP Seniors is special, unlike any other event. Seventy-year-old Bob Cain stepped past the rope after busting, but he wore a proud smile. Hanging from his neck was a sign that read: “Playing the WSOP Seniors in Honor of My Good Friend Dave Gomersall.”
The Cleveland men had played last year’s WSOP Main Event together and had a blast. But Gomersall lost a battle with cancer around Easter, and Cain wanted to return to Vegas where they created poker memories.
“When he played, everybody just liked him a lot,” Cain said. “But being out here isn’t the same without him.”
As the field of 50-and-olders fell to less than 2,000, in the middle of the Amazon room, many of the players were content with chips and a chair.
“We can all say we did better than Phil Hellmuth,” one man said, referring to a recent tweet from The Poker Brat, who described busting quickly.
Can’t make this up: over course of my last 7 Hold’em hands, I busted THREE @WSOP tourns! 7) my A-3, Q-5-3-7-3 to QQ, he checked behind me on turn-BUST! 6) fold: 5) KK limp UTG (lost min): 4 AK all in big blind, BUST: 3 & 2) fold: 1) raise w AJ, AQ calls in Big Blind, A-K-5, BUST
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) June 16, 2018
“That’ll teach him,” another player said. “I wonder if he wanted to get into that $50,000 Poker Players Championship.”
With WSOP’s Most Experienced
Hellmuth had not yet entered the higher buy-in tournament on Friday night. But the field in the eight-game mixed event was packed with a decidedly younger crowd and some of the biggest names in poker — including 2014 winner John Hennigan, fresh off nabbing his fifth bracelet earlier the same day.
(Hennigan took down the $10,000 HORSE Championship for $414,692, boosting his career WSOP earnings to nearly $4.7 million.)
He seemed in good spirits as he laughed while texting with Phil Ivey, seated a few tables away.
The PPC drew 77 players on Day 1 — with registration still open for four more levels on Day 2, which resumed at 2 pm on Saturday.
At one table, Mike “The Mouth” Matusow battled Daniel “Jungleman” Cates and Isaac “Ike” Haxton. While another table featured John Racener, David Peters, Daniel Negreanu, and Mike Leah.
For serious pros, winning the PPC bracelet, and getting their name etched on the Chip Reese trophy, is a top honor. And playing amongst their high-stakes contemporaries makes this tournament one of the most special.
Nick Schulman, who said he has played the PPC since the first event in 2006, had high hopes.
“I’ve always wanted to win this one,” he said, eager to add to his stack when play resumed on Saturday. “It would mean a lot.”