And this is the way it's been going for the past few years, and will probably continue to go as the WSOP continues to gain entrants and momentum year to year. We saw every big name in poker come out to compete in the Main Event, and now we're left with hardly any. The ESPN camera crews are still here, but the faces they recognize have mostly been recorded busting out. So what happens at this stage in the tournament? A whole whack of unknown guys (and maybe a lady or two here and there) suddenly become known.
I remember watching the WSOP on ESPN two years ago when Greg Raymer took the big prize. While Raymer was a complete unknown going into the tournament, it became apparent early on that the Fossilman was a force. He had the chips, he had the reads, and he had the shades. Obviously those with the power recognized it too. Raymer got moved to the featured table, got loads of screen time, and before the televised tournament ended, I knew exactly who Greg Raymer was.
And just as it was dutifully followed two years ago, the same routine is being followed today. All of the current chip leaders are being filmed like mad with the assumption that one of these nobodies will be the next somebody. Names like Jon Lane, Jason Strasser, Michael Binger, Dmitri Nobles and Jordan Rich - while currently only known to a select few poker fanatics following the Main Event maniacally, or the writers like myself who are completely immersed in the thing - are being primped and primed to be the next Hachem or Moneymaker by the ESPN crews and the poker periodicals.
Last year's final table saw not one even remotely recognizable face. And out of a playing field of 6,000, that's exactly the way it should be. This year, with nearly 3,000 more entrants, the results are guaranteed to be the same. In theory this sounds kinda bad. Everyone really wants to watch their favorite pro take down a title, but in reality a field of unknowns keeps poker fresh and the Main Event consistently superior to every other tournament. Most importantly, it supplies a new mega-star for the poker community. Whoever wins the Main Event becomes a legend. It's best that it be someone who isn't already a legend. It's just more fun that way.