Ghosts at the Table: Excerpt 4/4

Extract four from Des Wilson’s ‘Ghosts at the Table – the amazing story of poker’ published by Mainstream on October 4.

Ghosts at the Table
Ghosts at the Table

On entering Day Two of the World Series main event on the short stack

It is an extraordinary spectacle – the parade of players to the poker room for the start of the second day. All 6,358 players have had their chance; 4000 are out. We who are left are an army of survivors. As we march in our hundreds down the lengthy ‘avenue’ I’m reminded of those old Crusader films – armies of infantry, lined up with spears and shields, marching stoically towards the enemy, each of them knowing they will probably die this day.

We, the poker infantry, may not have suits of armour, but we have our uniform: the jeans and tee-shirts, the shades and baseball hats. However, for us, the enemy is not only in front but also at our side – we are each others’ enemy. No-one is our friend – even our friends are not our friends.

I often, when watching those films of ancient battles, wonder why anyone in their right mind would actually choose to be in the front line. I mean, why not hide away at the back ? Today, in the poker war, I am on the front line – but not by choice. We who have the short stacks are the front-line…the spear-carriers in the drama, the ‘people of poker’, the providers of the prize pool we will never share. But not fantasists; we know the odds. As we march onwards, most of us know there will be a massacre today…hopes and dreams will be shot to pieces… the overwhelming probability is that we’ll never come back.

Yet we know, too, that if this is the end, it is an honourable one: we’ve put up a fight, survived a whole day of battle, avoided the carnage.

As we march, we walk over the dead bodies of some of the most famous names in the game – for once the Officers and Generals are going down too, and in numbers. They are some of the best in poker, but their rank did not save them…they didn’t do what we did – they didn’t get through.

So it’s with pride, not fear that we march on…all resolved that if we are going to die the poker death then we’re going to go down fighting, not fade away at the dictate of the blinds.

We will not be blinded out; no matter what the hand, we’ll play it now.