But every once in a while, when a tournament gets down to the final few tables, it becomes this small group of people that, at first glance, looks like a bunch of people playing tournament poker. But once you hang out for a bit, you start to realize something. You start to see the zoo that is the poker tournament.
Such was the case in Day 2 of Event 28, $3,000 No-Limit Hold'em. One particular table was a fanfare - and a dream for poker journalists to cover. What happens when you put 11-time bracelet-winner Phil Hellmuth at the same table as a crazy old Asian lady, a wannabe hip-hop star, a hot poker wife, an ex-comedian and a serious, rational Finnish man?
Welcome to the cage.
Well, we have to start off with Phil Hellmuth, because after all, he is Phil Hellmuth. And of course no animal but the lion could suffice for this poker king, especially in this shrunken tournament pool. He behaved quite well today, almost regal at times, but seemed to be excessively hungry; he started off with some kind of whole-wheat breaded sandwich, and moved on to noodles and bagels - but his eating habits were not what interested us. What does interest us however, conveniently, brings us to our next character:
Phil was faced with quite a predicament today. He played at the same table as Luke Vrabel, a Tracy McGrady jersey-clad, Gucci-shoes-wearing, blinged-out fella who says things like "Sooo00ted" (suited, with a long annoying drawl on the 'ui'), and yes, that's how you spell it - he spelled it out for us. He was just strangely, incessantly loud. Yeah, loud like a hyena. Standing beside him after he wins a hand is dangerous for the ear drums; he gets excited. Phil did not appreciate Luke's excitement, and their banter took center stage.
Here's a clip:
Lion: Do you know where Muck City is? It's a little town in northern Alaska.
Hyena: You know, you're my still third favorite player. After my girlfriend, and Evelyn N-G. (turns to Evelyn Ng, sitting in the seat to his right.) How do you say that, N-G?
Unfortunately the fun had to end at some point. Phil had to leave the table in big blind position, and he did so but not before jumping up, running up to the steel rails of the No-Limit Lounge, throwing his arms upon them and exclaiming "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!"
It seems, as much as he disliked the boy, he really wanted to take his money first.
Beth Shak was not impressed with the surrounding banter. She's used to more civilized company, like her husband, Dan Shak. Every once in a while she would bat her cat eyes at me, slightly rolling them in a "Can you believe this crap?" kind of way. When Vrabel rivered a set of tens to win a hand, she leaned over to another player and whispered, "I really wanted him to lose."
She purred her way through the day's proceedings and is going strong into the night. She did fumble a bit though, when she broke the rules by showing her cards when she folded them on an all-in pre-flop raise, and was given a warning. But she's pretty. Meow.
Oh, she was a nice lady. Really cute, Asian, with graying roots proudly uncovered by hair-dye, secured in a side swipe with two charming barrettes. She wore a white jumpsuit with some trendy designs on the back, and often had the hood upon her head, her smiling face poking through. Estimated age? About sixty. Estimated shopping section? Junior Trendsetters.
Tsai Chen was having a great time, calling pretty much every hand, winning with kings, queens - anything - and throwing just about everyone at her table off their game. No one knew what to expect; she was like Braille - unreadable! Unfortunately, good ol' Tsai's run came to an end in 18th place, but we're pretty sure she enjoyed her time there. We will miss her kind reminders of "No I-Phone!" (no earphones/iPods).
With her long, dark hair and finely tuned, slender physique, Evelyn Ng graced the tables of Event 28 like a silent predator, taking bites here and there, but never attacking full-on. Of course, it doesn't hurt that she is quite "foxy." Sorry, couldn't help it; I had to use the literal. As I write this, she is at the bottom of the chip board and hoping to regain her animal strength. Eat, Evelyn, eat. But dinner time is still a couple hours away.
Wahlroos the Walrus. This one was just too easy. Walruses live in Finland, right?
But actually, Thomas Wahlroos was more like a kangaroo today. Or a rabbit. He hopped from table to table, and his chip count was jumping all over the place too. He'd double up, then lose it, and double up again. At one point he even started doing push-ups in the tournament room!
But hey - we cannot forsake a name like Wahlroos. Walrus it is.
The Old Monkey
Well, we assume he's funny because he's supposed to be a comedian, and monkeys are funny. Thus, Norm MacDonald is our old monkey character of the day. Why old? No, he's not that old, but perhaps old monkeys are quieter than young ones. Norm was pretty quiet at the tables today, and pretty gentle too; he apologized for winning pots, got up for short silent strolls, and really stayed under the radar, in comparison with his fellow players. He ended up in 20th place, and we were sad to see him go.
And there you have it, the featured exhibit of the Amazon Room. Stay tuned for PokerListings.com's next episode of Poker In A Cage.
And for once, we're not talking about the highly controversial shrouded final table, AKA Poker In A Box.