The Bellagio was unusually quiet as I walked inside after dropping off my rental at the valet. It was a sunny Sunday morning in Las Vegas and mostly everyone was sleeping. The lobby was crowded with weekend warriors waiting in the packed check out line, ready to catch their 1pm flights back to the East Coast. The geriatric gamblers were addictively focused on their slot play and that seemed to be the only degenerate action going on. Even the Fontana Room seemed tame compared to how it had been all week. There were some die hard railbirds gawking, but there weren't too many big named pros left in the tournament to hold their short attention spans, so the turnover on the rail was constant. By mid-afternoon the spectators were several people deep as they tried to peer through the sea of reporters and photographers. The surly security guards in the maroon blazers make sure that only legit press got full access to the tables.
I spotted more wedding parties snapping photos and wandering the floor of the Bellagio. Between the conservatory and the veranda, the Bellagio is a popular place to take photos. I also saw the tail end of a wedding reception. The bride look disheveled. As I peered into her glassy eyes, she continuously puffed on a Menthol cigarette like David Williams sucking a hooker's big toe. She sipped on a light beer and looked like she was eight months pregnant. At least her cigarette was a menthol. I know that's as poor as an excuse as "But they were sooted!"
Pregnant and chain smoking chicks drinking cheap beer out of the bottle... this is what Britney Spears' wedding must have been like. Speaking of Britney, her husband K-Fed was seen at Pure the other night. Britney never bothered to show up. They are having marital issues. She realized she married a pot-head doofus, while he hit the lottery. Anyway, my favorite saggy pants-wearing, wife-beater t-shirt sporting pot fiend sang two of his new songs, and didn't perform Popozao which happens to be my all time favorite song from guys who have corn-holded Britney Spears.
The press now outnumbered the remaining players by a 3 to 1 margin. Plus the suits are out in record numbers. The WPT folks always come down on the day before the final table, which means that the normal WPT crew are extra-stressed out and the remainder of the press have to be on their best behavior.
The Scandis that are here covering the event for the European press were sitting on the veranda and playing backgammon. I think they were playing for 50 Euros a game or something like that.
Erica Schoenberg, Men the Master, and Vanessa Rousso
With Erica Schoenberg and Vanessa Rousso sitting at the same table, most of the photographers were camped out there. Rousso sported a gaudy white D&G hat. Sure it must have cost four figures for a designer trucker's hat, but it reeks of hipster poker fashion wear. I was digging part of Erica Schoneberg's outfit. She wore tight jeans with black hooker boots. She also wore a faded black Pink Floyd shirt. I wondered if she was a toker? I do know she likes French guys. She's recently been linked to WPT Paris champion David Benyamine and the too were seen canoodling during the early rounds.
"She's got a great body, but no butt," a female member of the media commented. She asked to remain anonymous and added, "But she's no 'sex on a stick' like that Patrik Antonius. I could nibble on him all day."
"I want a female to win the WPT Championship," said The Grinder. "That way women will think how easy it is to win poker tournaments and more of them will play."
I couldn't tell if The Grinder wanted to see more women at the tables or more dead money. And I don't want to catch any flack from feminists for that comment. The majority of deadmoney in poker happen to be middle aged guys with a Chris Moneymaker complex. Perhaps if Vanessa Rousso wins, there will be an influx of soccer moms and twenty-something women trying seeking fame and fortune in the poker world.
Here's the payout for the 2006 WPT Championship:You never know what's going to happen on the day before the final table. Play can go quickly or it could slow down to a snail's pace. I've had a 17 hour day at the Borgata once last September and that was brutal.
"Everyone is playing more careful today," mentioned Poker Wire Jen. "No one wants to make a crucial mistake."
That quote summed up the action. There was a thick cloud of tension filling the Fontana Room. Aside from the clatter of the chips and the clicking of cameras, there was very little chatter at the table. Even Vanessa Rousso who had been very talkative all week had toned down her act. Perhaps she was tired or just trying to conserve her energy.
Surrinder Sunar was the first player busted. Chad Brown took him out. The two Bronx boys were trying to make the final table. Both Chad Brown and Victor Ramdin are fellow Bronx boys so I've always been rooting for those guys who represented the "Boogie Down."
Joe Bartholdi picked up aces on consecutive hands and they both held up that started his run and he would end up being the first player to hit the $7 million chip mark. Patrik Antonius wished his Aces held up. He had them viciously cracked by Vanessa Rousso. On Day 5, Antonius took several tough beats and lost his massive stack. His bad luck continued on Day 6, when he found A-A. He raised preflop and Rousso smooth called on the button with 10-9s. She flopped top pair and raised Antonius all in. He quickly called but stood up and began to pace when Rousso flipped over her cards. I think he knew what was coming. Most of the media sensed the impending suckout as they converged on the table snapping photos or scribbling down notes. The turn was another 10 and the crowd erupted as Rousso turned trips. The Europeans grumbled as the Vanessa Rousso fans jubilantly cheered. Everyone roots for the hot chick in poker, even at the Bellagio.
A dejected Antonius walked to the rail as his manager Wendy consoled him. 17th place for the kid from Helsinki. Despite his luck, Patrik Antonius could not make another final table. I think he's the one of the best young European NL players on the tournament circuit. He kicked ass in Barcelona. I watched him play when I announced the final table. He's not afraid to throw his chips in the pot. He also won the EPT Austria. The quiet kid has skills. And Finnish people are known to be stoic.
As that old joke goes... "A Finnish man loved his wife so much that he almost told her."
An Icelandic bartender told that joke to me and Senor in Reykjavik shortly before we went on a Midnight tour to find the Aurora Borealis. I'd been waiting to re-tell it for five years.
"That's a good looking kid," one member of the media said out loud pointing to Antonius.
"Maybe. But is he ruggedly handsome like me?" added Gavin Smith who was one of the random poker players who showed up to check out the action along with Gus Hansen, Young Phan, Jean Gaspard, Evelyn Ng, and William Rockwell.
PokerWire girls in action
I like the day before the final table in WPT events because that's when Courtney Friel hits the floor and shoots various promos. She wore tight jeans and a tight pink shirt and the entire casino went silent as she made her entrance. Her infectious smile always makes me melt.
Spaceman (or Spacemonkey as Gavin Smith calls him) and I headed to the snack bar on one of the breaks. We sat down with Steve Dannenmann and shot the shit. We wondered when his sex tape was going to come out. Since David Williams took second at the WSOP and made a sex tape, it seems natural that whoever comes in second at the WSOP must do porn.
I wanted to gamble on what Dannenmann ordered. He ended up getting a Rueben sandwich. I thought he was going to get the Omaha Burger, which is one of the better things to get at the snack bar next to the Poker Room at the Bellagio. The other night Dannenmann was at Pure and he kept getting recognized.
"You're that poker guy!" is probably the phrase he's heard the most since ESPN aired the WSOP main event.
By the way, back by popular demand...
Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next to at the Bellagio:I was wandering in and out of the tournament area taking photos and talking to the other reporters getting hands and specific information. At this point, these stats have more significance for me in trying to figure out the story and flow of the last two tables. The media reminded me a flock of pigeons in Central Park. When a crazy lady would toss bread in one spot, the pigeons would flock and peck away. That happened when pots would build or players moved all in. The attention flocked from one table to the other, back and forth, like pigeons in the park. When the flock went one way, I went the other. The other table would have more space for me to stand and I could get better pictures.
1. Men the Master
2. Johnny Bax
3. Chad Brown
4. Patrik Antonius
5. David Sklansky
The room buzzed when Erica Schoenberg busted out in 16th place by Victor Ramdin. She had hung on for the last few days and at one point was the top 10 in chips. Earlier in the day she tripled up to stay in the game. Victor Ramdin busted her when his pocket Kings held up against her A-Q. As she headed to the rail, the room filled with applause. She won $117,165 for six plays of poker.
At that point, all the eyes in the room were focused on Vanessa Rousso. She was the last woman standing. Everyone in the media had a collected hard on. Especially the suits at the WPT. With a pretty face and a feisty demeanor at the tables, she'd be a ratings bonanza. She was fodder for the media hounds. We all plastered her photos on the websites. That gets hits. She was something to write about. And the best part... she really came out of nowhere.
I never even heard of the chick. On Day 2, Jen Creason kept asking me, "Who's that girl? The pretty one. Why don't I know her name? Who is she? You know her. She's from New York City. She's friends with those Russian guys, right?"
Russian guys? Svetlana?
Jen thought she was Sweet Svetlana. Vanessa and Svetlana are two different people. Sweet Svetlana is an Atlantic City legend. She took third in a tournament at the Borgata and was so pissed when she got busted she refused to pick up her check for days. But Vanessa Rousso was a big question mark until we figured out who Vanessa Rousso was. Her manager, a slick law student wearing all black, befriended Spaceman early on. He clued us in on the facts of the bombshell from Miami. We knew a little bit, but only what he told us. That's when Jen recalled that they were at Duke at the same time.
James Van Alstyne came into Day 6 as the chipleader. Joseph Bartholdi jumped out to the lead. He caught cards in a flurry like a Russian submarine sailor catches the clap in a Bangkok whorehouse. Bartholdi made an impressive move when he took down a monster pot. He bluffed with Queen high and showed it. After he scooped the pot, he had over $5 million. He'd build his stack up over $7 million with 13 players remaining.
Here's some pics that I took on Day 6:
Hat of the Day
James Van Alstyne's stack
Espen Saltnes, the dude from Norway I started calling "ESPN" busted Johnny Bax aka Cliff Josephy. Then the first Bronx boy was eliminated. Victor Ramdin failed in his attempt to win back-to-back events on the World Poker Tour. He took 11th place at the WPT Championships after winning the Fowoods event a few weeks ago. Vanessa Rousso added to her stack when her A-Q busted Ramdin's A-10. Rousso flopped a Queen to seal his fate. Rousso jumped to 4th in chips with $4.3 million. The erections in the crowd grew stronger than the junk of a porn star from the Valley who's jacked up on two hits of Cialis.
Vanessa Rousso is a great story I love typing her name. Sometimes I cut and past names because it's quicker than typing it out. Not for Vanessa Rousso. I get enjoyment with every key stroke.
Vanessa Rousso is the Cinderella story of the year. She's the unknown who walked into the Bellagio and sat at the same table with Doyle Brunson, the Babe Ruth of poker and biggest swing dick in poker history... and the 23-year old law student held her own. Her mere existence gives me something to write about. It gives all of us hope that really anyone has a shot at the big time in poker. Anyone fool with $25,000 could have sat down and played. Some pros skipped the event. They knew it was -EV and stayed away.
Vanessa Rousso gained more confidence after each player was busted. It's like getting into a fight. After you take the first and second punch you realize that it hurts, but that's the worst it's gonna hurt. You can take the pain and you're ready to dish it out.
So is she lucky or good? It doesn't matter when it comes down to the final ten players. It's about who gets cards and who makes the best laydowns at this point.
Final Table Chipcounts:Carlos Zambrano the poker player finished in 10th place when his A-Q ran into James Van Alstyne's Hilton Sisters. Carlos Zambrano took down $175,750 as Van Alstyne jumped into the chip lead with $6.4 million.The other Bronx guy Chad Brown went out in 9th place. He won $205,040 and promised a portion of his winnings to charity. Davidson Matthew flopped a boat to send Brown to the rail.
1 Joe Bartholdi $6.2M
2 James Van Alstyne $5.47M
3 Davidson Matthew $4.41M
4 Vanessa Rousso $4.315M
5 Claus Nielsen $3.7M
6 Espen Saltnes $2.465M
7 Men "The Master" Nguyen $1.555M
8 Roland De Wolfe $1.27M
9 Chad Brown $700K
10 Carlos Zambrano $685K
Espen "Espn" Saltnes lost most of his stack when his 7-7 ran into WPT Paris champion Roland De Wofle's J-J. Davidson Matthew eventually finished him off in 8th place, winning $234,330 for 8th place. Matthew continued his rush and took control of the game as he jumped to the front of the pack with a momentary chiplead.
With seven players remaining, it appeared that Vanessa Rousso was extremely close to breaking out as a huge poker star. The entire room tucked its collective erection under their waistbands and prayed that Vanessa could survive one more bustout. If she did, then she'd make it to the final TV table. Like a fresh starlet rolling into Hollyweird, the vultures swarmed around the brushfire success of Vanessa Rousso. If she made the final table, endorsement deals and partnerships were just around the corner. Pretty faces sell magazines too. She hadn't even made the final table yet everyone was lining up to exploit her and take a piece of her action.
The Cinderella story would end as Vanessa Rousso bubbled out of the TV table. She won $263,625. That's not a bad paycheck, especially for 7th place. She was bad beated too. With A-K, she got all her money in the pot against James Van Alstyne's A-J. The turn paired his Jack and that was it. Rousso had failed to improve and she was sent to the rail.
The final table was set and Vanessa Rousso is not going to be at this one. The entire crowd filtered out with the largest case of blue balls after Vanessa Rousso's run. She failed to advance and a lot of media reps were bummed out that she's not going to be on TV.
The final table of the WPT Championship will start on Monday at 4pm PCT. Here's the final table chip count:
1 James Van Alstyne $8.07MVan Alstyne started the day as the chipleader and ended the say as the chipleaer. Check back here on Monday at 4pm PCT for live blogging updates of the final table as long as there are no techical difficulties.
2 Joseph Bartholdi $ 7.135M
3 Claus Nielsen $ 5.875M
4 Davidson Matthew $ 5.765M
5 Roland De Wolfe $ 1.86M
6 Men 'The Master" Nguyen $1.49M
Someone is going home $3.7 million richer. And it's not going to be me.