Embrace the Silly

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008, 10:47 pm

On Day 1d of the WSOP Main Event I showed up for work the same as I did most days during the Series. Garry went down the line giving us our assignments and when he got to me he paused and said, "What are you doing here?"

"I work here," I said. "My name’s Gene…been here all month…"

That wasn’t what Garry meant. Turns out I actually had that day off, but I hadn’t bothered checking the schedule. Thought I’d be working the whole way through to the bitter end and the idea of a day off never crossed my mind. I would’ve had to drive Matt to work anyway, and now that I was at the Rio going home seemed a waste of time. I could use the extra time to take pictures, wander the room…and be in position to record Phil Hellmuth’s grand entrance to the Main Event.

Last year, of course, Phil was supposed to drive up to the Rio in a stock car tricked out in UltimateBet colors. Then Phil wrapped the car around a concrete pylon the day before the show. Oops. This year the rumor was that Phil was gonna drive up in a goddam tank. I wondered if a tracked vehicle would chew up the concrete, wondered if Phil would shell the Palms, where PokerStars had set up shop. I wondered these things while waiting outside the Rio in the blistering heat, feeling the moisture wick away from my body and vanish into the high Vegas sky. "I’m broiling alive waiting for Phil Hellmuth to show up for a poker tournament in a tank," I thought to myself. "This is one (deleted) up world."

When I was down in Costa Rica I met Steve, one of the UB marketing people, and he arrived on the scene to say that Phil was on the way. "In the tank?" I said, craning my neck to hear for a growling diesel engine. Ah, no–there was no tank. That would’ve been, well, crazy, so instead Phil was coming in a jeep."Thank Christ," I thought.

Of course everyone knew that Phil was pulling some stunt and that there would be cameras everywhere, and as I looked over the scene I saw that there was a huge bus parked just beyond the drop-off area with a huge PokerStars banner silkscreened across the windows. Meaning, it would a trick filming Hellmuth without getting the bus in the background. "Nicely played, Otis," I said. "Nicely played indeed."

The Jeep pulled up with Phil standing in the back, dressed like General Patton. Jacket buttoned to the sternum, tie, trousers bloused into riding boots, helmet, gloves. The afternoon heat was suffocating and I thought,  "He’s gonna die," until I saw that the helmet was plastic, not metal. I gotta say, I was impressed at how much Hellmuth was willing to suffer for his art. It was frickin’ hot, man.

I took a bunch of pictures of Phil and the 11 ladies who formed his, um, military escort. When Phil actually made his grand entrance there were about a dozen photographers and camerapeople swarming about and I tried to stay out of their way…while getting as many good pics as I could. I figured there was a good chance my fat ass would be on TV when ESPN showed Phil’s entrance…but no. That episode just aired and ESPN didn’t show ANY of Phil’s arrival. They showed him taking his seat (after the other players wondered a few times where the hell he was) and they only showed him in "uniform" for about fifteen seconds. Once again, we see that ESPN is taking a different tack in their coverage of the Main Event. It raises the question, why make such a big production of your entrance if it ain’t gonna get on TV? And if ESPN had their cameras out there filming it (and they did), why not show it? Very interesting.

I got one decent shot of Hellmuth inside the Final Table arena. He was walking around the table shaking everyone’s hand and I panned as I shot in the hopes of getting at least one picture of him in focus. One was all I got.

Strange day. Even for the World Series of Poker.

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3 Responses to “Embrace the Silly”

  1. DuggleBogey Says:

    I’d bet that they’re saving it to do a feature on it later.

  2. BadBlood Says:

    Pretty sure that’s an out-of-focus Chuck Liddell in that last pic.

  3. Gene Says:

    It is. It was funny last night hearing everyone at the table joking with Chuck and asking him to clobber Phil…when everyone OUTSIDE the table was saying the same thing. People were openly praying for Phil to berate Liddell and see what the Iceman did to his facial structure.

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