At a conservative estimation, more than two million poker hands have been dealt in this World Series Main Event. But if any single hand is likely to be remembered long into the future of poker, it is the one that has just eliminated Matt Affleck in 15th place.
It wasn’t necessarily what happened with the cards – the outdraw was no less horrific than thousands that occur every hour. But the reaction from Affleck, both the very minute an 8♦ rivered a straight for Johnathan Duhamel, and then for the next 20 minutes as Affleck attempted to begin the rest of his life, was without comparison in modern poker memory.
Here’s what happened, from the very start:
At the table
Affleck and Duhamel were involved in a pot worth 42 million tournament chips, an amount large enough to carry to November’s final table with serious expectations of becoming World Champion. Affleck, 23, had pocket aces. Duhamel, 22, had pocket jacks. They had seen a flop of 10♦9♣7♥, and then a turn of Q♦. And then all of Affleck’s chips found their way into the middle.
Duhamel took five minutes before calling the bet. Affleck was leading but Duhamel could hit any king, any jack or any eight to win, eliminating Affleck. He hit the 8♦.
As the eight-deep crowd gasped and roared, Affleck leant forward, slid his hat forward over his eyes, and rested his head on the arm-rest around the table. His body started to shake like a man beginning to weep. He held his head there for longer than any player I’ve ever seen. When he lifted it, he held his cap over his reddened cheeks. He wanted no one to see the tears in his eyes, but no one could look anywhere else.
He shook hands with his opponents, he took his off his microphone, he didn’t pause to watch his chip stacks, meticulously arranged and scrupulously earned through eight days, slid in the direction of Duhamel.
In the corridor
As play resumed – it always does that – there was still the nervous chattering that follows any kind of monumental happening in any sporting pursuit. Folks discussed the hand, adding their own inexpert views to what they had seen, then discussed what they expected to happen in the future. “They sure take their time to make a decision these guys,” said one man on the rail. “I mean, man, either do it or don’t. Come on.”
Affleck was not around to hear it. In the long corridor outside the Amazon Room, he stood beside three friends, all of them silent and frozen. He was in the very middle of the hall, like a statue. A few strays from the MMA fight in the neighbouring Pavilion Room ambled past. A janitor swept a plastic cup into his trash-can.
One poker spectator had pursued Affleck all the way out into the hall and he sheepishly approached him with a baseball cap and a marker pen, proffering it nervously. Affleck took the pen, scribbled on the white baseball cap, and sent the man on his way. No words were exchanged.
Affleck then blew out his cheeks, still red and still moist, and wandered along the hall towards the main Rio Casino. He stopped when he caught sight of one of the monitors that showed the chip counts to spectators. It still had his name on it, fifth in chips, and heading to the November Nine. It was wrong, plain wrong. Affleck pulled his cap over his eyes again.
Off he went once more. He walked slowly, feet splayed outward, his “Griffey 24” Seattle Mariners jersey disappearing into the distance. He was still crying. His friends followed, but they gave him a five yard start. Affleck was alone; there was nothing a fist pump or a handshake could do.
Outside by the taxi rank
When he reached the end of the corridor, Affleck left the building and stood by the stairs leading to the taxi rank. He walked through a few smokers to a railing and lent over it, two elbows propping him there, as though he was about to be sick. He stood for two minutes before one of his friends walked over and patted him twice on the shoulder. They said nothing.
Affleck moved away and propped on another stretch of railing. His friend removed his jacket but stayed where he was. A group of four MMA fans smoked and talked about a car wreck one of them had recently been in. The petty minutiae of their impending court case, peppered by expletives, was out of earshot. Affleck instead stared into the shrubbery beneath the suites of the Palazzo Towers. That’s usually where the November Nine stay when they return to Vegas to play the final table.
A plane flew into McCarran airport and Affleck watched it briefly. Then his friend moved over again and patted his back once more. Aflleck turned around and this time the buddies talked. Then they walked together back into the hall.
Back in the hall
As he held the door open for a lady to leave the corridor, the woman recognised Affleck and wanted to talk. “Congratulations,” she said. “Congratulations on getting that far. We’ve been watching you for days.”
Affleck thanked her but wandered away. She shouted after him: “Congratulations on getting that far.”
He wandered back in the direction of the Amazon Room, pausing again to sign another baseball cap with a Sharpie and accepting congratulations. Three other poker supporters approached him, including Greg Mueller. They exchanged handshakes, but Affleck did not tarry. He seemed to be heading to the payouts room, but once again got only as far as the rotunda, and turned 180 degrees again.
Once more, with his silent three-man entourage lagging five paces behind, Affleck headed away. It was now the third time he had walked this corridor in as many minutes, like a polar bear in a zoo, having lost all sense of purpose. This time he turned past the shuttered merchandise stand and past the photos of previous Main Event champions. Six cabinets displayed World Series bracelets. Affleck did not look.
He then drifted into the corridor that led to the bedlam of the main casino. About a week ago, a banner hanged there that read “Thank You For Visiting the World Series of Poker. Don’t Forget the Main Event.”
Matt Affleck will never forget the 2010 Main Event. And the Main Event should never forget Matt Affleck.
CHIP LEADER OF THE HOUR
OTHER ELIMINATION OF THE HOUR PART 1
It’s official. We will not have a new shortest-named World Champion after Duy Le was eliminated by Adam Levy.
Le, who’s name is shorter than Joe Cada’s by two letters, moved in with A♥Q♦ and was called by Levy with K♦6♦. In the end Levy didn’t need diamonds, just a king on the K♣4♣J♥ flop. This got teh familiar “ooh” from the crowd. Both players have cheering sections and admirably Le’s was made up of about five young girls jumping up and down. The turn card came 5♥ and the river 5♦ ending Le’s tournament right there.
Le, who’d been a short stack for a while, high-fived a friend before walking into said five girls for some words of consolation. He looked happy. He’s $500,165 ricer, finishing in 13th place.
OTHER ELIMINATION OF THE HOUR PART 2
Adam Levy just has followed Duc Le to the rail. After fighting the short-stack fight, he shoved from under-the-gun with K♠Q♥ only for Jonathan Duhamel to wake up with A♦A♣. Levy’s rail came to life but Levy wasn’t fooled. He knew this was it and the odds were stacked against him. The 10♥6♣3♥ flop was no good, neither the K♣ on the turn. He needed another on the river but instead got a 2♣.
Levy looked disappointed, a reassuring sign that the World Series means much more than the money that has made its reputation. For Duhamel though it’s more wood for the fire. He’s still the chip leader by some way, with 48 million.
OUT OF CONTEXT QUOTE OF THE HOUR
“I s*** you not, someone just asked me if this moustache was mine.”
HOME MADE SIGNS OF THE HOUR
Jeff Madsen and friend rushing into the Amazon Room to hold up homemade signs expressing their support for Adam Levy, including one that reads “Adam’s on the Eve of Something Special” and “Levy won’t break.”
SIGHT OF THE HOUR
William Thorson and Johnny Lodden walking together down the hallway with big, stuffed envelopes. We don’t have to guess what was inside, as they were coming from the payout office.
BAD TIME FOR A CONVERSATION OF THE HOUR
Just a few minutes ago as a railbird asked the player at the urinal how many players were left in the Main Event. The man next to him (who had just sprinted into the men’s room) was Michael Mizrachi, taking a much-needed break when there was no tournament break.
TOO MUCH INFORMATION OF THE HOUR
“I need to go tinkle first.” –Girl yelling across the Amazon Room to a friend.