Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Too-Brief Taste: Phil Gordon Draws an Audience at the WSOP

The giant ESPN boom cams swing over the cavernous Amazon Room, home to the Main Event of the WSOP. It's the third of four Opening Days, barely past the first break. Phil Gordon is at one of the outermost tables, almost in touching distant of the fans, with barely enough passage inside the rail for players, tournament and support staff, and media.

Phil's in the seven seat, and seats two through five look like a black-bowling shirt quintet, including side-by-side twins from Martin's Poker. They're all attentive, enjoying being at the table with Gordon and hanging on his every word, as are the fans behind. As the cameras and microphones drop in they perk up even more; they're part of the fishbowl as well. Phil's in his red Full Tilt hockey jersey, which stands out a bit from the rest, and he's leaning sideways across his backwards-facing chair, a bag of trail mix at the ready for occasional munching.

As for me, I've stumbled into the perfect spot: about five feet to Phil's left, but just out of the camera angle that ESPN has chosen for its cross-table zoom.

"You've got to watch what you say on camera, guys," says Gordon, glancing up at the mike dangling above his head. "It'll be like that episode of Blind Date I was on, back before I did Celebrity Poker and all that." The guys at the table are all ears, as am I. "Worst date of my life," adds Gordon. "I turned down jumping into a hot tub with a lingerie model. My best friend and I made the bet, and the loser had to go on the show."

Then he looks to his side and sees me, jotting into my memo book. "See? See?" he gestures at me, laughing. "She's taking notes now, too!"

I'm laughing just as hard as everyone else, of course. "Who was the bet with?" I ask.

"My friend Rafe [Furst]; he won a bracelet earlier." And he waves over yonder toward the feature table on the other side of the hall --- whether Rafe is also playing today I haven't yet had the chance to check. But he feels the need to explain his hideous experience. "Most beuatiful woman I ever dated. But she was 30 and had a 16 year-old-kid --- not a brain in her entire body."

By now the cameras have swung away, and the game returns to a little bit more serious mode. But Phil has one last line, which he shares with the table. "They run that episode all the time, since they found out they had someone recognizable." And he's right, too.

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