Dara O’Kearney: Reliving the Seniors Event at the WSOP 2022

  • O’Kearney returned to the Seniors at the WSOP 2022 after some bad previous experiences
  • This year’s Seniors saw an increase in strategy discussion and self-deprecating humor
  • One player left with chips on the table, prompting panic from staff when he later cashed 
  • An 82-year-old recounted an unforgettable tale regarding a particularly unique tell
Poker chips
VSO News writer and poker pro Dara O’Kearney returned to the Seniors at the WSOP 2022, and he noticed a change from previous editions. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Some senior moments

The first tournament of my 2022 World Series of Poker campaign was the Seniors. It’s fair to say I have a love-hate relationship with Seniors events. In my first one back in 2015, I found myself at a table of MAGA types debating which they hated more, the Communist Republic of Colorado (as they called it) or the Communist Republic of California. I responded with a hail storm of B words: I used backdoors and blockers as reasons to bluff off most of my stack in the first 20 minutes.

the best strategy is to make the best hand and bet the bejaysus out of it

In the intervening years, I have learned to rein it in a bit in tournaments where the best strategy is to make the best hand and bet the bejaysus out of it. That has led to a still less than stellar record of a couple of min cashes, so I guess it’s not actually fair to say I have a love-hate relationship with Seniors events. It’s more hate-hate interspersed with occasional moments of love.

That said, there were more of the latter in my latest event. When a lady at my Day 2 table despaired out loud at the overturning of Roe versus Wade, I could tell from the bristling and squirming of some of the men from red states at the table they were on the other side of the issue, but they all kept it to themselves.

Old dogs and new tricks

I recently noted in my piece on the Ladies event that Vanessa Kade noticed a trend toward more genuine strategy discussion and less talk of bad beats in the women’s game. The same was true of the Seniors this year, and in actual fact, the level of discussion was light years ahead of what I’d previously experienced. Instead of the usual guff about knowing you were at it, putting you on a hand, and putting you to the test for all your chips, the talk of blockers backdoors and range advantage led me to conclude that a lot of Seniors had spent the pandemic in the lab.

The tenor of these events seems to have changed over the years too. Where they used to be occasions to complain about younger people and express enormous satisfaction that there were none in the event, there are now more jokes and self-deprecating dark humor about what it means to be old. When one gentleman expressed annoyance at the early 10am Day 2 start, another pointed out:

“They could start it at 7 because, let’s face it, we are all waking up to pee at 6.30.”

When they sent us on dinner break near the bubble, we questioned whether the break length was sufficient for enough of us to die and break the bubble.

Leaving chips behind

One gentleman who didn’t see the funny side of our joke went bust near the bubble, or thought he had. He hadn’t played a hand all day, leading us all to think he was following the “blind into the money” strategy. He lost his mind thinking his small pair was good enough to call when Ms Roe v Wade shoved for 20 big blinds. When he failed to overturn her kings, he stormed off like a January 6ther.

none of us felt strongly enough about the matter to risk a broken hip

It looked to most of us like he still had chips left. A few of us even went to the trouble of shouting “wait you might have chips left” after him, but none of us felt strongly enough about the matter to risk a broken hip running after him. By the time the dealer had counted down the stacks and ascertained he had some shrapnel left, he was long gone.

About 20 minutes later we are hand for hand on the bubble and his last chips are all in the big blind. Because he’s not at the table his hand is dead so he can’t win the pot, but several players on other tables simultaneously bust, meaning he wins a share of some min cashes. The floor descend on our table alarmed by the fact they don’t know the name of one of the players who has technically cashed the tournament. After they ask and ascertain that none of us knew him, I remember that he was there from the start, so they can identify him from the seat draw.

An obvious tell

My favorite story from this year’s Seniors came from one of my Day 1 tables. It stars the oldest player I played with, an 82-year-old from a red state with a good dry understated sense of humor. This guy had clearly seen it all in his time but didn’t feel the need to keep telling us. The talk at the table at the time was about tells, and how big a factor they were. A minority thought they were everything, another minority thought they were nothing, with most of us somewhere in between, holding a view they were a thing but not that big a thing. The elder statesman of the table kept his opinion to himself until he was directly asked:

“Well, they are a thing, but most of the time it’s just a thing folks use to excuse a bad call or fold. But there is one guy in my home game who has a very real one.”
“What is it?”
“Well, he doesn’t bluff but once in a blue moon, but when he does and you stare him down he sh*ts his pants.”
“You mean he looks very nervous?”
“No sir. He sh*ts his actual pants. It’s a very reliable tell. Well, not so much a tell as a smell I guess.”

I’ll look out for that one next year.