Friday, July 28, 2006

Almost There: On the Cusp of the WSOP Championship
"A fuckin' monkey is not, nor will ever be playing in the World Series of Poker." - Nolan Dalla
A very short Asian woman brought out three huge party trays of sandwiches and placed them on one of the banquet tables in the media room. I picked up a can of soda and noticed it was cold. These were too odd things for me to see in the media room. Over the past five weeks I was used to warm soda and one tray of stale pastries. Since Thursday at the WSOP was media day, Harrah's pulled out all the stops including feeding all of the fresh blood decent food.

The farce continued during the press conference. Last year, it was held near the final table area. This year it was moved to one of the "showrooms." Flipchip described the first hour as an infomercial for Jeffrey Pollack. He was dead on. Pollack also dissed the rich history of the world series calling it a "start-up" for the last 35 years until Harrah's took over.

The Hall of Fame ceremony was rushed. They could have done a better job with that especially when paying homage to two superstars of poker. But I'm happy for Billy Baxter and TJ Cloutier. They both deserved Hall of Fame status. Supposedly when Becky Binion was running the Horseshoe, she lied to TJ on two instances telling him that he'd get included the upcoming year. TJ has won over 100 tournaments and took second twice at the WSOP main event. He's won six bracelets and said that getting into the Hall of Fame was one of his three major goals as a poker player. The other two were winning the WSOP main event and the $50K HORSE.

Billy Baxter spoke slowly in his Georgia drawl during his brief acceptance speech. He's cashed 36 times at the WSOP and won seven bracelets... all in Low Ball. Back in the day, when Baxter crushed anyone who sat at the same Lowball table as him, the other pros in that WSOP event nicknamed it "The Billy Baxter Benefit" since they knew they were there just to donate their entry fees to Baxter.

During the Q&A with Joe Hachem two reporters fucked up completely. I guess they were poker newbies or just plain stupid. One guy incorrectly said that Hachem won his seat by a satellite. Hachem quickly put him in place and told him he needed to get his facts straight and that he bought into last year's championship event with his on money. A second reporter forgot Billy Baxter's name. What a shame.

CC asked the two best questions. And of course, when CC asked Harrah's spin doctor Jeffrey Pollack what he thought the three biggest problems with this year's WSOP was, Pollack dodged the question and in his best Slick Willy imitation talked about three improvements he made this year about the bathrooms, the food, and the smoke filled hallways. He would have been foolish to comment on the pissed off players, the terrible decision by the floor people, the fiasco with the dealers, and that the overall safety at the WSOP was sketchy at best. Players have been robbed both in the parking lot and have had their chips stole from them at the tables. I should have grown a pair of balls and asked those questions myself... but I didn't. I know better than to mouth off to a casino executive in the middle of the desert. One verbal fuckup and I'm buried deep in no man's land somewhere between Barstow and Stateline.

The second half of the press conference involved the newest poker flick Lucky You, which is totally going to bomb. The director Curtis Hason (LA Confidential, The Wonder Boys, 8 Mile) and Drew Barrymore came out to speak. We also got to see a trailer and one scene. Yeah it's totally gonna bomb. The scene they showed was horrible but Sammy Farha stole the show during his three seconds of face time.

Media/Celebrity Event featured some of your favorite C-list celebrities like Shannon Elizabeth, Penn (but not Teller), Dick Van Patten, John Kelley, Brian McFadden, Jim Garner, Robin Telly, Ron Jeremy, Boston Rob, and Cindy Margolis. I caught Cindy Margolis and Change100 chatting about purses at one point when Change100 was moved to her table.

Congrats to Otis who won the blogger last longer and also made the final table finishing in 9th. CJ followed the action on his blog Up for Poker, so take a peek.

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Mr. Goss sent me an email and asked me who I thought could win the main event. I don't think a pro is going to win because the numbers are against them. As of Thursday afternoon, 7,630 players were registered. That $76 million prize pool is more than the entire prize pools of the first 38 events (which is around $73M.) First place in the main event will get at least $10M. And the top 12 players will go home with at least $1 million each.

So who do I think has a shot of winning? Here's nine players that I think have a shot this year.
1. Phil Ivey
2. Phil Hellmuth
3. Carl Olson
4. Jeff Madsen
5. David Singer
6. Bill Chen
7. Greg Raymer
8. Joe Hachem
9. Isabelle Mercier
You can't ever go wrong with picking Phil Ivey. During a Full Tilt press conference when they announced tht Gus Hansen was joining Team Full Tilt, someone asked him who he thought was the best Full Tilter. He quickly answered... Phil Ivey.

Hellmuth is coming off a high after winning his 10th bracelet and he'd love to be the first player to get #11.

Carl Olson is just a cool guy and I'd love to see him win. This is the same guy who played beer pong with his friends after finishing 6th and making a final table last weekend.

Jeff Madsen is the 21 year old wonderkid who set a record by being the youngest player to win two bracelets. He's the hottest player at the 2006 WSOP. He's at top of the Player of the Year standings after he made a final table the other day and took 3rd.

You have to consider the other 2006 double bracelet winner Bill Chen also. He's one of the smartest players in the room with a ridiculous IQ.

David Singer had been running well prior to the WSOP. He was always in the hunt in the last few WPT events that I covered him in. He made the final table the year that Moneymaker won. This could be his breakout year.

Greg Raymer is one of the best big field tournament players in the history of poker. If his performance during the last two main events is any indication, he should go deep again this year.

I was impressed with how Joe Hachem played this year. He made two final tables and was cockblocked from winning his second bracelet via two bad beats... from John Gale and Dutch "Tool" Boyd. He had been playing in the biggest NL cash game at the Rio and I was fortunate to watch him play a few times.

I'm picking Isabelle Mercier because know that Otis goes on mega tilt by just reading her name. She made one final table this year when Hellmuth had his first shot at #10.

Alas, I think the winner will be someone we never heard of before. Unless a monkey sneaks into the field... then I got big bucks on the fuckin' chimp.

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I had two pieces published recently. Fox Sports ran an article called Serious Business (whch also was on the front page of MSN). Plus I published my first post on PokerStars Blog called The Calm Before the Storm.

Don't forget to check out some of Flipchip's 2006 WSOP Photos and take a peek at Flipchip's Poker Gaming Lifestyle and Expo photo gallery.

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