5. The H.O.R.S.E. Event
This was probably the best event of the World Series. Where else are you going to get a final table that consists of some of the biggest pros ever? We got to see T.J. Cloutier, Chip Reese and Phil Ivey (just to name a few) go head-to-head and play some remarkable poker. The final table was like watching a David Blaine stunt: it tested the human spirit and the body's endurance while pulsating with an element of magic.
4. The PokerStars Media Press Conference
Okay, this wasn't on the WSOP event list, but since no World Series champs made it past Day 3 in the Main Event, this press conference made up for it tenfold. After the usual photo opportunities and Q&A session, the media had the chance to sit down at various poker tables and play with the PokerStars stars. I sat down with William Chen and 2003 World Series champ Chris Moneymaker. After ten minutes of play, they switched the pros at each table and suddenly I was sitting beside Barry Greenstein and looking across at Humberto Brenes (who really enjoys going up against the ladies as he so eloquently put it). Joe Hachem, Greg Raymer, Vanessa Rousso, Isabelle Mercier and Wil Wheaton sat at the surrounding tables giving tips and making side bets with one another. I felt like I was on another planet. It was awesome.
3. Mary Jones Meyer Winning the Ladies No-Limit Hold'em Event
Don't you just hate it when the nasty jerk at the poker table ends up winning the event? Well, this was definitely not one of those times. It was a cinematic case of the "good guy" winning. Or rather, the "good girl." Mary Jones Meyer played calm and focused under the pressure while maintaining her innate sense of humour. It was truly enjoyable to watch her play and eventually win the bracelet. The emotional resonance of the entire tournament was something that every poker event should have.
2. The Media/Celebrity Poker Tournament
Where else do you get to see porn stars and "Playboy" models like Ron Jeremy and Cindy Margolis? This three-ring circus event was a blast. Hollywood showed up in all its attention-grabbing glory. Even Elvis made an appearance. We got to sit at a real WSOP poker table and go head-to-head with the celebs. At the end of the day we could say that we played in the World Series and it didn't cost us a cent. How cool is that?
1. Meeting Doyle Brunson
How can you compare it to anything on earth? When I walked into "Doyle's Room" and saw Texas Dolly smiling at me, it felt like I was entering the pearly white gates to see the Big Man himself. And the fact that not an inkling of egotism or elitist superiority seeped out of that larger-than-life being was truly awe-inspiring. Brunson is like a black and white movie - a well-preserved piece of history full of magic that can transport us back to a time we will never see again, but are lucky enough to get a glimpse of it.
Well, that's it for me. I'm not gonna lie to you. Although it was a lot of hard work, playing reporter at the WSOP was the ride of a lifetime. It's definitely on my top five list for best writing gigs I've ever had. And I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Only next time, I'd either bring more money or learn how to bluff.