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Friday, October 31, 2014
open/closeVin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.


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Negreanu rises, Pollak survives at World Series of Poker Main Event
 

LAS VEGAS -- During the early days of the World Series of Poker Main Event, it's sometimes easy to forget that this tournament is more than just a big poker game. Especially when you see players like Daniel Negreanu (277,200) and Jason Somerville (332,700) rocketing up the leaderboard. And with almost 6,600 players entering the event, it's easy to get caught up in the culture of poker banter. In the hallways, at lunch, at dinner -- it's all poker all the time.

"The board was five, six, seven. Then nothing on the turn. Then nothing on the river."

"I had ace-jack. He had pocket fives. I hit a jack on the turn and doubled up."

"These guys at my table are maniacs. They're raising all the time."

"Does anyone know where (or when) Phil Ivey is playing?" (I'm not kidding. The amount of time spent wondering when and where Ivey is playing is absolutely insane.)

But the Main Event is more than just a big poker tournament. It's also poker's biggest television show. That point was hammered home Tuesday as workers prepared the television tables for use.

Workers test and repair the stage for the television table at the World Series of Poker Main Event.

Workers test and repair the stage for the television table at the World Series of Poker Main Event. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

The tabletop came off. The monitors were tested. The feeds were tested. Ladders were up. Lights and wiring were being tested and fixed. At one point, a monitor lost a video feed. The first attempt to fix it -- jiggling the cable real hard -- made me feel good about my handyman skills. Then they wondered if there was a difference between the HDMI 1 and HDMI 2 ports. There isn't. Then some offstage magic happened and voila, the feed returned.

Watching the Poker PROductions crew put the televised stage through its paces made it clear how much the nature of the television coverage of the Main Event has changed.

When 411 Productions produced the WSOP Main Event, the broadcast felt like it was a poker tournament that just happened to have cameras there.

When Poker PROductions took over last year, that dynamic changed. They built a beautiful arena around a true television stage. And the Main Event now feels like a polished, sophisticated television show.

But I miss the intimacy of the old stage, where fans, friends and family were right on top of the players and almost part of the show. Players interacted easily with the folks sitting in the bleachers around the old featured table. And that connection players made with fans was critical to growth of the game.

While the television tables were being prepared for prime time, the players in the tournament were busy trying to stay alive so they could eventually appear on television.

As Negreanu and Somerville were making big moves up the leaderboard, Kevin Pollak was just looking to grab chips whenever, and however, he could.

Kevin Pollak danced a jig when he survived Day 2 action at the World Series of Poker Main Event.

Kevin Pollak danced a jig when he survived Day 2 action at the World Series of Poker Main Event. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

Pollak is every bit the congenial actor you'd expect him to be. When two ESPN producers walk his way, a smile lights up his face.

"I haven't heard from you," he tells the women. "No texts, no phone calls, nothing," Pollak adds, feigning hurt.

"I didn't call because I heard you were good," one producer said.

"Good?" Pollak responded with a mock glower. "I was just good?"

"You were great the other day," says the other producer.

"That's the right answer," Pollak says with a laugh.

"I love this table," Pollak said towards the end of the first level of play. "I've chipped up at least 30 percent."

Of course, as Pollak was telling me how much he loved his table, WSOP officials broke his table up. He picked up his seat card, walked across the Amazon Room, and found himself sitting to the right of Andy Black -- not exactly the best seat in the house.

But Pollak held his own at new the table. After losing a good-sized pot, he called an all-in bet with ace-king. His opponent turned over ace-jack and Pollak leapt up from his seat and started walking in small circles.

"King, king, king, king," Pollak chanted under his breath. No king came, but Pollak's hand held up, and he stacked his chips with gusto. Pollak ended up outlasting Black and advanced to Day 3 of the tournament. Pollak even threw in a little victory dance at the end of the night.

While Pollak was stacking chips, William John was losing them in a hurry. John began the day as the chip leader with 266,700. But he busted out shortly after the dinner break, spewing chips at a rate of approximately 41,030 per hour.

NOTABLE CHIP STACKS
Shaun Deeb 460,900
Vanessa Selbst 350,400
Gavin Smith 279,100
Maria Ho 198,500
Bernard Lee 190,500
Eric Baldwin 182,600
Jerry Yang 149,600
Leo Margets 120,400

NOTABLE ELIMINATIONS
Martin Staszko
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Andy Black
Erik Seidel
Brian Rast
Jeffrey Lisandro
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Allen Cunningham
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Mike Matusow
Gabe Kaplan
Isaac Haxton

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