The Penn & Teller Theatre at the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino has been transformed. No comedians – except ESPN’s Norman Chad. No illusionists – except the people who believe Kelly Kim won’t be the first player out. The stage has been replaced by the Milwaukee’s Best Light No Limit Lounge and the most hyped up final table in poker history.
The players have arrived and friends and family have filled the 1,000 available seats. The November Nine is about to be no more. In less than 48 hours poker will have a new World Champion.
Dennis Phillips is the chip leader, and judging by the dress code of a number of people in the stands, men and women alike, he’s the fan favorite as well. Showing support for the truck salesmen from St. Louis at least 100 of his friends and family have littered the theatre with the trademark white dress shirt and St. Louis Cardinals hat that he wore on his run to the chip lead in July.
The atmosphere is more like the annual NFL draft than any final table. Fans are cheering, cameras are rolling, sponsors are handing out thundersticks and, like any good sporting event, somebody brought an airhorn. The most vocal supporters are those for Phillips, Kim and David “Chino” Rheem.
A number of formal world champions are also in the building, including outgoing champion Jerry Yang. In only minutes the cards will be in the air and WorldSeriesofPoker.com will have hand-by-hand live updates throughout the day.