"Do you have a good story?" I asked Amy Calistri.
"God, I wish," she lamented.
Even the gossip queen of the WSOP had a tough time digging up dirt. She knew that I must have been hard up to keep pestering her.
"Maybe I'll write about staring at asses for the last hour," she said.
Calistri and I sat at the media desk right next to Gus Hansen's table. The Great Dane was in the middle of getting massage when Nolan Dalla announced that he was the chipleader with 420K. At that moment every media rep in the room converged on Hansen's table. ESPN's film crew nearly pancaked a Swedish girl snapping photos of Hansen for a Scandi poker mag. A blanket of darkness blanketed us as a dozen people obstructed out view of the table which also featured a PokerStars guy named Rain Khan and one of the most well-known online gurus in Sorel "Imper1ium" Mizzi.
Hansen started building his stack during the first level of Day 2. He busted two players including one that I titled, "Gus Hansen Likes Sick Puppies" in a post for Poker News. I stumbled up this hand by accident. I was only at his table to get a chip count. Instead, I picked up an interesting hand to write about.
Hansen was seated at a table with a bunch of unknowns. He raised on the button. The small blind (with a short stack) called. The big blind moved all in for 46K more. Hansen went into the tank as an ESPN camera crew began to film Hansen as he sat and pondered a decision for a few minutes. He counted out 46K, mostly in orange 5K chips. He took a few deep breaths before he tossed his chips into the pot. The small blind instantly folded. The big blind flipped over Ad-Js.
"I have a small pair," said Hansen as he tabled his cards... the 2d-2c.
"You're one sick puppy," said Hansen's opponent.
The flop was Kd-9c-8h and Hansen still led. The turn was the 6h. The river was the 3d. Hansen's pair of deuces held up as his opponent busted out. On camera too. You know that's going to be immortalized and repeated three hundred times before the year is up. Hansen increased his stack to 165K after that hand.
As I walked away, one of the guys serving drinks said, "Sick fuckin' call. That guy is crazy. Who calls there with fuckin' deuces? Sick. Just sick. I don't know if he's a fuckin' moron or my hero."
Hansen's table broke and as the tournament progressed he increased his stack. Just before dinner he reached 420K and I wrote a post for Poker News called "Gus Hansen Likes 420."
After dinner ended, Nolan Dalla got wind of his big stack and made the announcement. Media crowded the table as they stood for or five people deep. That's when I moved to another part of the Amazon Ballroom to find a more peaceful place to write about the fact there's nothing to write about.
I wandered out to the new media pen, the area roped off in front of the media room, where Harrah's set up spillover tables. I sat down and told them about my inability to find a story. I was worried that I had been here for too long that what used to seem interesting and fascinating was banal and uneventful. Maybe I'm officially jaded and can't motivate myself to find a compelling story for consumption of the folks following the Tao.
"I gotta say, I'm having a difficult time finding a story too," add Michalski.
Over the last three WSOPs, Michalski and I seek each other out when we need the writer's shove. We stepped outside by the loading dock. He chainsmoked while we brainstormed. Lucky for him, he had the Donkey Bomber story to keep him busy over the last few weeks. Since Donkey Bomber writes for Pokerati and won two bracelets, Michalski had a major story fall into his lap. And we both agreed that if the Vinnie Vinh story did not exist, we'd have nothing to write about.
"It's been a boring World Series even with Vinh," another media rep added.
Before Day 2b started, everyone had been speculating and gambling on whether or not Vinh was going to show up on Day 2. I took a picture of Vinh's stack before he arrived.
Vinh has a habit of skipping Day 2s. He did it twice in earlier events, but that was after he made the money. Then he disappeared for a few days before his empty chair resurfaced on Day 1b. We spotted his name on the player's list yet he was absent. It turned out that Vinh was in a hospital and his friends pleaded for a refund. TD Jack Effel agreed. More rumors flooded the hallways and the intertubes that said Vinh was in rehab. I even alluded to the fact that "hospital" was a code for rehab.
We thought that might be the end of the Vinnie Vinh story. We'd all go home after the series ended and we'd forget about the ghost of Vinnie Vinh until he resurfaced again... at a circuit event or perhaps a WPT event. That didn't happen. Vinnie Vinh magically appeared on Day 1d. He sat down and slowly built up a stack. Even Chops was able to snag an interview with Vinh for Raw Vegas TV. When he was asked why he skipped Day 2s, he mumbled something about a dispute with his backer.
Then according to Lance over at The Poker Biz, Vinh had some more interesting things to say...
"I can't win," said Vinh. "If I win this year, I die. So I’m not gonna win."A few hours after that, I got an anonymous email. Usually they are from Nigerian email scammers that want me to help get a large sum of money stuck in a bank somewhere. This one was different. I couldn't tell if the source was legit, pure bullshit, or if I was getting set up. That's for you to decide. Here's a summary of what I was told.
When asked to elaborate what that meant Vinh was somewhat cryptic.
"These Vietnamese guys, they find me if I win," said Vinh, before sitting down to his stack of 3,200. "So I'm not going to win this year. Next year though, I win."
"This year I'm too crazy."
The guy who emailed me said that he ran into a Vietnamese pro last week in Las Vegas. He had played in tournaments and side games with that pro and they were friendly enough that he could ask him about the Vinnie Vinh story. That's when the pro said to expect Vinh back during the main event because...
"The people he owed money to would make sure he was there because that was the only way they ever figured to get any money from him."Vinh was stuck with a couple of people including several well known pros and bracelet winners. According to the email...
"They have taken everything he owns, beaten him, locked him up, drugged him, chased him between Vegas and wherever he is from. They have also tried to make sure he has no money so he can't get anywhere... I think that he was locked up with no access to anything but drugs, including very little food."The email also mentioned that the well known pro said that he expected Vinh to show up for Day 1 then skip out. The series would be the best place for him to find other people to loan him money to get unstuck with the person(s) who had been tormenting him.
The last thing my anonymous emailer said was that Vinh skipped out on Day 2 because he knew that they'd put aside his prize money and he could come back and collect at a later date when his backers were not around. It's an old trick that plenty of old school gamblers used to do in order to avoided of making good with backers who were sweating them.
Like I said before, I couldn't tell you for sure if there was any truth in that email or if I was getting set up. I was given names and chose not to publish those just in case the emailer was trying to get those pros in trouble. I have not verified the story and that's been my mission ever since I got the email. I guess I'd like to get to the bottom of the Vinh story. Maybe he's not a complete junkie like we thought. Maybe his backers helped spin that story in the media to deflect their tactics in trying to get their money back.
We're not talking about the little spat where Newhizzle kicked an empty chip rack at Neverwin and then wrote a lengthy post about their situation on his blog since Neverwin owed him up to 200K. This was a tad more serious. And now those comments he told Lance made more sense...
If I win this year, I die. So I'm not gonna win.When he didn't show up on Day 1 after the dinner break, I though Vinh took a nap and never woke up. If that email is correct, he skipped out. That's when they called in the bodyguards to make sure Vinh showed up on Day 2. I don't see the point. With only 3,200 to play with, Vinh was a virtual goner.
He showed up, to everyone's surprise. He was eating an ice cream bar as he looked over his table as the rest of his opponents unbagged their chips. He moved all in on the second hand of the day... and busted out. Then he vanished into thin air. No one has seen him since.
So was Vinh a junkie who couldn't pay his debts? Or was he just in a bad spot which got made worse by his backers? Those are questions I'm hoping to find out answers. Maybe I'll reveal them in my book someday.
Here are some stats.
Day 3 Top 10 Chips Counts:There are around 797 players remaining with Gus Hansen as your chipleader.
Gus Hansen (Monaco) - 622,300
Hevad Khan (Poughkeepsie, NY) - 592,500
Jeff "Mr. Rain" Banghart (Bennington, NE) - 570,100
Jeff Weiss (Davie, FL) - 550,000
Jon Monves (Los Angeles, CA) - 549,800
Brent Sheirbon (The Dalles, OR) - 549,300
Tuan Lam (Canada) - 538,500
Markus Gonsalves (San Diego, CA) - 512,400
Bradley Ellis (Midland, TX) - 509,400
Robert Nehorayan (Los Angeles, CA) - 505,700
Bonus Code: Pauly
Don't forget to check out LasVegasVegas for Flipchip's WSOP photos and there's the Poker Prof's cool 2007 WSOP Info page.
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