Las Vegas, NV
Flashback to June 2007. Everyone was bitching about the food, the cards, the poker tent, the Sequesterium, and the long lines. DonkeyBomber had just won his first bracelet and took his first step towards winning Player of the Year.
The Vinnie Vinh story broke on Day 8 last year. His empty chair garnered most of the media's attention and became the symbol of his myserious disappearence. The Vinnie Vinh saga was something right off the pages of a Raymond Chandler novel. Gossip about his disappearance swirled around in the hallways.
After I first heard about Vinnie Vinh's empty chair, I went home and wrote...
Many players and media speculated on his disappearance as lurid tales made their way around the Rio. He was supposedly staying at a sister property of the Redneck Riviera. Anything can happen in those roach motels. He could have been robbed by tweakers, rolled by a crack whore, or he could have overdosed in the john on a bad batch of "cheese", face down and ass up like fat Elvis was found...When I wrote those haunting words, I specifically had Vinnie Vinh in mind.
The Amazon Room is filled with junkies. Everyone is addicted to something aside from poker. If it's themselves, power, money, sex, drugs, religion, popularity... people are hooked. Vinnie Vinh is just one in a several thousand players who have been walking that fine line between life and death in Las Vegas. This is a gloomy town where your insecurities and weaknesses are exposed on a daily basis. In a city full of temptations, the weak ones are gobbled up by the nebulous side of the universe. Some spiral into that darkened abyss never to return. And the few that do manage to survive, are never the same.
I fear that Las Vegas has claimed yet another casualty.
As I reread them I was very suddenly clear to me that those words were not for Vinnie Vinh. They were about Brandi Hawbaker.
On Day 7 of the 2007 WSOP, Brandi Hawbaker was spotted playing in Event #2 $2,000 NL. I was covering a different event on the other side of the Amazon Room, yet everyone was talking about her. I understood why... she had freak appeal.
Here's what I wrote...
I also checked out the $2K NL event. Brandi Hawbacker was in the event but I was too busy with other things to check out the Lindsay Lohan of poker.Hawbaker went deep in that event and finished in 55th place for $8K and change. That was her first and only WSOP cash. According to Hendon Mob, it was also her last tournament cash of note.
You could easily spot her table with a slew of railbirds and media lurking in her section like sleazy paparazzi. She had a $1,200 Louis Vuitton bag underneath her chair (Change100 told me the retail price) and I must say she's a much more attractive person in real life. She has a certain energy about her that sucks you in. That's why women like her are dangerous.
"She's so crazy," said Benjo. "I'm trying to ignore her."
All eyes in the Amazon Ballroom were on Brandi. For several hours, nothing else existed as she was the center of the poker universe (much tot he chagrin to other pros particularly the female veterans) as everything she did was gobbled up by the voracious media covering the WSOP. Plenty of rumors and jokes swirled around the Rio and the media room about Jamie Gold's backing, David Sklanasky, and of course... Capt. Tom's Penis.
"You know the saying," mentioned Snake from Wicked Chops Poker. "Once a stripper, always a stripper."
The girl who had a brief stint as a dancer at Spearmint Rhino amassed chips early on and ended the day as one of the big stacks.
By now, you know how the rest of the tragically ends.
The ironic twist in the Vinnie Vinh story is that he returned to play in the 2008 WSOP. Brandi Hawbaker did not. The schizo-hustling-kitten took her own life before both Eskimo Clark and Vinnie Vinh expired.
Eight days into this year's WSOP, the headlines don't sound like something from a sleazy tabloid like Perez Hilton or Wicked Chops Poker. I guess the big story to start this year's WSOP was that there were three amazing tables and Erick Lindgren won his first bracelet. And the fact that the players haven't been bitching about Harrah's deserves some merit. Despite some minor ruffles, the first week of the WSOP rolled along rather smooth. As one pro said, "It took them four years but they finally got their shit together."
I was surprised by the high caliber players at the first eight final tables of the WSOP. They included a mixture of established veterans and lots of young internet players - who have been dominated the online tables and finally met the age requirement to play in live tournaments in Las Vegas.
Shaniac described the final table in Event #4 as "sick." BJ Nemeth said that the final table for Event #1 had an "incredible lineup." I agree on both accounts.
Here are the three final tables that I would not want to be seated at...
Event #1 $10,000 PLH:The bracelets won by Nenad Medic, Erick Lindgren, and Anthony Rivera were all well earned. A decade from now, people will look up those guys in Hendon Mob and see the high caliber of players that comprised the final tables that they had to beat en route to their first bracelets.
Seat 1: Mike "SoweresUNCC" Sowers (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Seat 2: Chris Bell (Raleigh, North Carolina)
Seat 3: Amit "amak316" Makhija Brookfield, Wisconsin
Seat 4: Patrik Antonius (Monte Carlo, Monaco)
Seat 5: Andy Bloch (Las Vegas, NV)
Seat 6: Mike Sexton (Las Vegas, NV)
Seat 7: Phil Laak (Parts Unknown)
Seat 8: Nenad Medic (Canada)
Seat 9: Kathy Liebert (Las Vegas, NV)
Event #4 $5,000 Mixed Hold'em Final Table:
Seat 1: Howard Lederer (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Seat 2: Roland de Wolfe (London, UK)
Seat 3: David "Chino" Rheem (Los Angeles, California)
Seat 4: Pat Pezzin (Toronto, Canada)
Seat 5: Isaac Haxton (Syracuse , New York)
Seat 6: David Williams (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Seat 7: Justin "ZeeJustin" Bonomo (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Seat 8: Andrew "Good2cu" Robl (East Lansing, Michigan)
Seat 9: Erick Lindgren (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Event #8 $10K Mixed Championship:
Seat 1: James "mig.com" Mackey (Columbia, Missouri)
Seat 2: Matt Glantz (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Seat 3: Sam Farha (Houston, Texas)
Seat 4: Mike DeMichele (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Seat 5: Tom "Durrr" Dwan (Edison, New Jersey)
Seat 6: Eli Elezra (Henderson, Nevada)
Seat 7: Anthony Rivera (Henderson, Nevada)
Seat 8: Jeff Madsen (Los Angeles, California)
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