The metrics used to measure distance from the bubble in the World Series of Poker Main Event all work to some degree. Social media activity picks up and the crowd in the corridors becomes denser. Meanwhile bellies stretch the seatbelt-like dividing rail between players and supporters ever further, making the man with 30 years’ experience of eight-pint sessions the best friend one can have. He can bend the rail with his belly further than anyone.
For all that, the most obvious marker of an encroaching bubble is intangible. It’s just a feeling. Anyone who has been to a major tournament will know exactly the sensation: a nervousness, a slight crackle, a crispness in the air. There’s the chatter and the chip-riffling and it probably grows louder, but it’s more than that. There’s just something, a je ne sais quoi.
There is probably no equivalent moment to this in any world sport. After three days in a pressure cooker, 1,011 people are simultaneously going to be rewarded for their endeavour. The steam is let out with a roar and a round of applause. The chatter soars then dissipates. The crowd rises to tip-toes then relaxes.
But then there’s one person for whom all this does not apply. There’s one player who has been through the same wringer, had his or her nerves shred as much as anyone’s. And yet he or she has nothing to show for it besides a pat on the back, a couple of handshakes, and the knowledge that everyone else in the room is positively elated to see them leave.
This year, that ignominy belongs to Adam Furgatch, from Marina del Rey, California (left). He hits the rail in 1,012th. But, unusually, there was no weeping, no beating of the table and not even a protracted hand-for-hand period of play before Furgatch got it all in. “I’m the bubble boy of the century!” he declared.
Shortly before that, Tournament Director Jack Effel had moved over to stand beside Furgatch. “Are you all ready for hand-for-hand?” Effel said over the microphone. “Well I’m sorry. We’re not going to get hand-for-hand.”
Everyone could see by now precisely why that was so: the board showed 1,012 players and Furgatch, who was still seated, had no chips in front of him. His elimination would tick it down to 1,011. According to table-mates, Furgatch was down to one big blind — 6,000 chips — and couldn’t get the help he needed with queen-nine to beat George Zisimopoulos’s ace-seven.
Furgatch actually seemed pretty delighted with the way things panned out. He was given a free buy-in into next year’s Main Event as consolation, but said, “I was going to go out soon more than likely, with my chip stack. But now I get the experience of being the bubble boy.”
Furgatch pointed to his result in the Main Event last year, where he finished 387th and won $24,622, and asked whether he could still buy into the Little One for One Drop tournament as a way to stay occupied for the rest of the tonight.
“In some ways, of course it’s disappointing,” he said. “But I’m the bubble boy!”
One-thousand and eleven people are equally as delighted. They play 90 minutes more tonight before it’s a wrap.
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.