It's what makes for good TV. The stress ensures everybody is playing at the top of his or her game. It also ensures there will be some heated confrontations.
When you have so much riding on one turn of the card, and that card could be the difference between busting 20th and winning the whole damn tournament, anything can set a player off.
It can be as simple as having two loudmouths at the same table, or one player who just won't stay out of another's way. It could be an angle shoot, or just a case of someone trying to get under an opponent's skin.
Whatever it is, the resulting confrontations certainly are memorable.
Counting off the Top 5 Main Event Confrontations:
Prahlad Friedman 2006 WSOP - "I don't trust you sir."
Prahlad accuses Lisandro of not throwing his ante in. Lisandro takes great offense to being called a robber and threatens to knock Prahalad's head off.
Turns out, upon further review, Lisandro did ante up. Oops.
8/10 for threats of physical harm.
Brandon Cantu vs Nikolay Losev 2008 WSOP - "All out pump fakes."
Cantu makes a full house and somehow doesn't do anything spazzy. When he then goes to check/call a river bet, Nikolay Losev goes to put in a mountain of chips but pulls them back at the last second.
The floor rules the second bet will stand and not the first. Cantu and Michael Carroll won't let it go until finally the Russian guy explodes and says a bunch of stuff that none of us can understand.
But I've heard it's pretty bad.
7.5/10 for foreign language blow-up.
The lead up:
The foreign blow-up:
Phil Hellmuth vs Christian Dragomir 2008 WSOP - "Buddy you're an idiot."
Christian Dragomir raises with T♦ 4♦ and Hellmuth re-raises with A♠ K♥.
When the flop comes T♣ 9♣ 7♠, Hellmuth check/folds, Dragomir shows the T♦ 4♦ and Hellmuth explodes, calling Dragomir an idiot about 20 times.
Hellmuth should have been given about three hours worth of penalties but he gets off the hook because he's lolphillhellmuth.
8/10 on the Hellmuth explosion-o-meter for the steam coming out of his ears. Plus you know it's bad when even Matusow is telling Hellmuth he's out of line. Oh and more bonus points for "To you it's poker man, to me this is my life!"
Mike Matusow vs Greg Raymer 2004 WSOP - "You've got little cajones."
As Matusow details in his book, he and Raymer were dealt the softest table in history and had the two pros agreed to stay out of each other's way, they could have taken turns carving up the turkeys at their table.
Matusow believed Raymer was coming after him for no reason. So Matusow wanted to tell him to stay out of his way the only way he knew how. He three-bet bluffs Raymer on the turn and when Raymer folds he busts out one of his famous rants.
7.5/10 mostly for an angry Raymer refusing to shake Matusow's hand.
Bonus: Tiffany "whatsapokers?" Michelle vs Craig Marquis 2008 WSOP - "Clock"
In a massive pot between Scott Montgomery and Paul Snead, Snead takes his time debating whether to put all his chips on the line with a pair of jacks.
Tanking in a spot like this is perfectly acceptable, considering they're in the final three tables and it's a huge pot.
Tiffany Michelle, claiming she's "short" with like 50bb, calls for the clock when she isn't even involved in the hand.
A huge bitch move and completely uncalled for, Craig Marq calls her out on it and she can't see how she's wrong.
8/10 for complete ignorance of normal poker etiquette and at least a few extra points thrown in for how lolbad the hand is. My name is Scott Montgomery and I three-bet bluff with ace-high when leaving my opponent 10-1.
You can bet the ESPN cameras will catch more confrontations this year. As the tournament gets deeper and the stakes get higher, so do the emotions. So keep your eyes peeled to our live updates.