Antonio Buonanno and Sebastian Bredthauer sit waiting on a row of chairs with their backs to the stage. They look like they’re waiting to be called in for a doctor’s appointment. Bredthauer is suffering from something quite serious. Serious enough for him to chew gum nervously and sway back and forth while his girlfriend Francesca rubs his neck and shoulders. Then again Francesca, dressed in a sunburst dress and finding it hard not to smile, seems prepared for better news.
Meanwhile, in front of the stage, Jack Salter is being filmed “walking up to the table”. The finished broadcast you’ll see on television will look great. You certainly won’t notice that each moment is rehearsed and filmed several times. Salter though seems unconcerned by having to perform this walk a few times, each time matching the previous swagger perfectly before, on reaching his seat, slumping into it.
Much has been said of Salter’s demeanour at the table, a tad demonstrative perhaps, and in the case of moving all-in, silent, Salter preferring instead to hold up his hands in a triangle shape rather than utter any verbal declaration. But regardless he looks confident and ready for the most important game of poker he’s ever played.
Then it was Kenny Hicks’s turn to do “the walk”. It consists of walking up the steps to the stage, taking the long route around the table, while followed by Frank Jr. on the MOVI camera which you’ll remember that he carries while others steer.
Hicks, less naturally than Salter, walks up the stairs as instructed. It’s a task each of us performs every day without much thought — walking up stairs. But being told to “walk up some stairs” has a strange affect, and Hicks looks awkward as he went up to find his seat, waiting for the all clear from the camera crew before coming back down again.
With that completed each of the finalists was then invited to form a line, to be filmed walking together up to the stage. They stand as instructed, no doubt itching to get started, but keen to do as their told. Watching them you notice that all of them, apart from Kenny Hicks and Mayu Roca, are dressed almost identically, in trainers, jeans and some form of hooded top. Hicks and Roca wear collars, although Hicks chose flip flops for his feet.
“Stagger yourself,” says the camera man. They each give this their full attention this apart from Salter who, with a packet of Golden Virginia tobacco hanging from his pocket, leans over the rail to ask a friend to arrange food.
A few people had by now gathered on the rail, one of whom talking about the Englishman to the person next to them. He was a fan of Salter, crediting him with having character before saying “a lot of others haven’t”.
Salter retook his place in line and, when given the word, joined the others in walking casually to the table in a staggered formation. “Second group go!” said a voice and the other players followed the first group. When they reached the table the same voice said “One more time guys, one more time,” and they all came back, Salter climbing out of the seat he had decided to lay down in.
Free to walk “any order they want” on the next go they all got it right. A man on the rail asks if these were the actual players for the final table, wondering if perhaps that they were actually actors. No, these are the actual players, and finally they’re ready to play.
All the hand-by-hand action, including chip counts, will be in the panel at the top of the main event page. We will have feature pieces below that.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.