The setting: the Horseshoe Grand Ballroom is full up with poker players waiting for the Day 4 restart of the 2023 WSOP Main Event. The field has been trimmed to 1,517 from the original 10,043, and only ten more eliminations are needed to get the remaining 1,507 into the money. Those first ten eliminations take an hour and a half, which was to be expected, as slow play, a bit of stalling, and finally a half dozen hand-for-hand deals bring players into the money.
Before then, though, as players waited for Day 4 to begin, PokerOrg checked in with a variety of players to find out how they’d play the bubble. As you’d expect, “Tight, tight, tight!” rules the day. But within that overriding mandate, there’s some variance among what players want to do, especially players who are about to earn their first-ever Main Event payday.
First stop, Heather Alcorn. Alcorn, shown above, is a former long-time WSOP dealer turned poker player who dealt at numerous feature tables over the years. She’s never played on a WSOP Main Event feature table herself, or even cashed in The Big One, though she has won a Circuit main event ring.
“I’m feeling pretty good; I finally got some rest last night,” she begins. Alcorn started the day with 518,000 in chips, in the top third of the field, so she didn’t have the short-stack considerations many other players faced. Still, Alcorn didn’t plan on being radical as Day 4 began, and she wants to — and did — lock up that first career Main Event cash. “I’m just going to play my game and not get into too many spots early on. I’ll still play my hands and not get too crazy.”
A couple of tables over, “Storage Stars” star and official Friend of ACR Poker Rene Nezhoda faces a tighter spot, starting with just 125,000 in chips. “It’s my second Main Event and would be my first Main Event cash,” he says. “I think I should be able to make it. I just really hope the WSOP goes hand-for-hand right away with the ten players left so we don’t have to play the stupid tanking game. I don’t want to do that; I think it’s crappy.”
Across the way, music and film producer Tony Mercedes doesn’t plan on squeezing into the money on fumes. “I don’t have a lot of chips, about 250,000,” he tells PokerOrg. “But it’s okay, a chip and a chair. Anything can happen. I’m super excited just to be in the midst of some great poker players…. I came here to win; I didn’t come here to win a min-cash. It’s all or nothing for me. Fortunately for me, the money doesn’t mean a lot.”
Not far from Mercedes sits four-time bracelet winner Adam Friedman, who’s been through all the hullabaloo several times before. Friedman spent much of his Day 3 at a feature table with Tom Dwan on his immediate left, and he made it through to Day 4 while Dwan busted. Still, Friedman is short, with just 115,000 in chips. “After the summer I’ve had, I can say that a min-cash would not be my #1 priority. If a spot comes up, I’m going to take it, and if I bust, I bust.”
Several rows across the way we find Camille Brown, who’s run well in this event for the second straight year. Brown is mid-pack to start with 306,000. Brown isn’t even thinking about the bubble at the moment. “I had a wild Day 1 and 2,” she explains. “I’m just happy to be here. So grateful that I didn’t get coolered out of it. I could have busted three or four times.” Did Brown plan to sit tight on this year’s money bubble? “I’m going to have to. I’m kind of forced to. I know some poeple who come in and act like $15K isn’t important, but I’d be very happy. I don’t want a min-cash, I didn’t come here for that, but it’s important to cash and then you go on from there.
Then there’s David Moses, the guy famously known for wearing his greenish “Grinch” hat at the tables. It’s not Moses’s first Main Event, it’s his fourth, but as he explains, “This will be the furthest I’ve ever gone in it.” Moses is in the top 50 as Day 4 begins, with 1,181,000 and he’s being cagey about his strategy early on. “Whatever will be, will be,” he muses. “I’ve been very fortunate so far.”