Las Vegas, NV
Michael Stevens lost the use of his arms and hands during his senior year of high school after being diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy as an infant. But that won't stop him from chasing down the biggest prize in poker. As first reported in the Journal-Courier, a local paper out of Lafayette, Indiana, Stevens and his two best friends, Mike Buttice and Dave Hughes made the 30-hour drive from the home of the Purdue Boilermakers to Las Vegas, where Stevens took his seat to play Day 1A of the WSOP Main Event. However, given his unique circumstances, he'll be needing a big assist from his buddies.
Over on Table 335, Stevens is ensconced in the five seat, while his two friends are taking turns handling his cards and chips for him. The WSOP brass gave both Buttice and Hughes special dispensation to assist Stevens, much like legally blind Hal Lubarsky's "card whisperers" were given over the last several years. Like Lubarsky, Stevens calls all the shots, declaring his own action and bet sizes.
Stevens met Buttice and Hughes while playing poker at a local bar. The three played in a Main Event satellite earlier this year at the American Legion Post in Lebanon, IN and while Stevens was among the early eliminations, Buttice went on to win the $10,000 seat, and gifted it to his friend.
Buttice is currently the one on shift, seated on a small stool behind Stevens' left shoulder. With each hand dealt, Buttice carefully picks up Stevens' hole cards, cupping them on either side to protect them, and holds them up to Stevens' eye level before returning them to the table. Stevens then verbally declares his action while Buttice physically executes the play. After half a level of play, like many in the room he's still hovering around his starting stack with 29,200 in chips.
Needless to say, we'll be following Stevens' progress throughout the Main Event and hope the poker gods shine brightly on him today.