Monday, July 30, 2007

The $80 Tip and a Trio of Crazy Asian Ladies

By Pauly

I squeezed in a last minute binge in before I fled the defiled streets of Las Vegas for the plastic hills of Hollyweird. The last three places I played poker in Las Vegas were at Green Valley Ranch, Red Rock, and Planet Ho. At all three poker rooms, I encountered at least one Asian woman who played like a maniac. One rivered runner-runner quads on me. I tilted one with a junk hand and Michalski fell in love with the third one. Plus somewhere along the way, I managed to toss an $80 tip a Russian dealer named Svetlana after I won a high hand jackpot. These are among the random stories that went down post-WSOP.

* * * * *

Green Valley Ranch

As I waited for a 3-5 NL game, I sat down at a 4-8 limit table with a half kill. At mid-afternoon, the room looked empty with only five tables in play. I sat down at a nine-handed table filled with retired people, aside from myself, an overzealous kid from Minnesota to my left, and a cleavage-showing, bubbly housewife with a rock the size of a golf ball on her left ring finger.

The kid next to me talked shit the entire time and his stack fluctuated since he played every pot. He was the table captain and most of the weak-tight locals stayed out of his way. He had just moved from Minnesota and he said he was looking for dealing jobs. When I sat down he was bitching about a beat he took at the hands of the housewife. She was in her late 30s and looked like Agent 99 from Get Smart. She sipped a cranberry with rum drink and had a big stack. From the moment I sat down, she and the kid from Minnesota became my marks. The rest of the table didn't matter. if I was going to scoop a big pit, it was going to be against two loosest players at the table. They also happened to be the loudest as they dominated 90% of the conversation.

I got stuck early as I quickly got used to all the terrible players and suckouts. That's when I went to work. I looked to get into pots cheaply against the housewife (aka Agent 99) or the kid. I knew they played any two suited cards, any ace, and cold-called to any raise after the limped in with crap.

I tilted the kid when I raised from the button and he called from the small blind. The flop was 10-10-7. He bet and I raised with 6-6. He called. We both checked the turn when a Queen fell and the river was the 6. He bet. I raised. He three-bet and I raised. He called. I flipped over my pair of Sixes for a full house. He showed the 7h and tossed the other card at the dealer. He muttered something like "Nice catch."

"You're not in Minner-sowter anymore," I said as he dug into his jeans and pulled out $200 to rebuy.

After the third cranberry-rum cocktail, Agent 99 looked and sounded sloshed. That's when she began nipping out. Good lord. It got chilly quick in the poker room and you could hang a winter coat on the end of her nipples.

Anyway, the drunk chick kept dirty stacks which she'd occasionally knock over (with her hands but it's quite possible one of her nipples accidentally grazed a stack) when she picked up her cards or bet out at a pot. She began to bleed chips. I was ready to pounce. That's when I found Ks-Kc and she called my raise preflop. The flop was As-K-3 and we got into a raising war on the flop along with the Crazy Asian Lady (CAL) in short pants who played in her first hand since sitting down. I knew that Agent 99 called my raise with a weak ace and I hoped she would pay me off. The turn was the 9s. With two spades on the board and it was capped three-way. The river was the 6s. I got a sick feeling in my loins because I knew one of those two made a flush. I checked-called a bet from the CAL after she raised Agent 99 on the river. I tabled my black Kings knowing that a set was beat. CAL showed 7s-2s for the suited hammer. Agent 99 flipped 6-3o, She flopped bottom pair and thought her two pair was good on the river. I waited for an hour to flop a better hand than Agent 99 and the CAL swooped in and took that rather large pot away from me... on the first hand she played. Crazy Asian Lady 1, Pauly 0.

Two hands later, I flopped a flush with Ah-10h. Holding 4-4, CAL caught running 4s to scoop a monster pot since it was capped all the way to the river against a WWII vet who held Kh-Jh for a second-flush. Too bad we both lost to the CAL. Crazy Asian Lady 2, Pauly 0

Within a couple of orbits, the kid and Agent 99 went busto. I didn't get any of their chips. CAL went on a rush as she played close to twenty-three hands in a row. She vacuumed up chips from my marks as she built a monument of four columns of chips donated courtesy of the Minnesota kid's moving to Las Vegas money and the trophy wife who donked off her stack. Once CAL felted the dead money, she tightened up and shifted gears. She eventually left. Hitting and running. That was supposed to be my money she was racking up. No such luck.

* * * * *

Red Rock

I sat down at a 1-2 NL table at Red Rock and tilted one dude when I bluffed him with A-Q. The guy looked like Kevin Johnson (former point guard from the Phoenix Suns). He just walked off the golf course and went right to the tables. I sat down in mid-conversation. Actually, he was delivering a tear-jearking soliloquy about his demise. Like a tragic character in one of Shakespeare's plays, he had it all and then lost in. He was running bad ever since he had a big score in LA in February. He blew through his bankroll during an ugly run that began in March and would not stop. He took on a partner during the WSOP and only cashed once. He told us that his fiancee left him for someone she met in bible study. He owed his backer over 20K. And at that moment, he was down to last couple of hundred dollars donking around the 1-2 game at a local's casino.

The guy radiated loser vibes. He was broke, complaining about it, and an easy target. Whenever he limped, the sharpshooters at the table quickly raised him. They were putting him to the test. Sure they listened to his recent woes with a sympathetic ear as his reenacted bad beat after bad beat that cost him his bankroll. But they also knew he was vulnerable and exploited him every moment. Another lesson learned... never reveal how bad you are running at the tables. You just make yourself a bigger target. The locals can smell fear and some pay their rent on players embattled during a losing streak.

I found A-Q in MP and raised to 12 against two other limpers. Kevin Johnson raised to 30 from the small blind. The limpers folded and I called. Heads up. The flop was 7-7-3 and he shook his head. Everyone at the table knew he missed the flop. He emphatically checked. I said, "Check."

The turn was a red 10. He checked. I bet the pot. He folded and started a Hellmuthian tirade. The dealer pushed me the pot. I mucked my cards.

"I can't believe you called me with A-7. I can't win with Ace-King," he said.

As soon as I head him mention Big Slick, I quickly snatched my mucked cards from the dealer as she was about to pull them in for a scramble. I showed A-Q. If he really had A-K, that would put him even more on tilt. That showboating made him more angry. He eventually busted out two hands later when he open-shoved with 8-8 and ran into a guy with Kings. He stormed off and I switched tables.

I sat down at a new game... 4/8 limit with a half kill. I took Seat 3. A figidity Asian lady in Seat 1 sat down. Over the next hour, she would buy in for $100 at a time and piss through $500. She played almost every pot. I overheard her tell the dealer that she only had an hour left to play before she had to go pick up her three kids at the baby sitter.

I busted CAL when I flopped a straight with 6d-4d. She had A-4 and the board was 5-3-2. We were heads up on the river and with unlimited raises, I took the last of her chips. She cursed at me in her native tongue as she whipped a $100 bill out of her purse and slammed it on the felt. She threw the Ace of clubs at the dealers chest and threw the Four of hearts so hard at the middle of the table that it skipped off a chip and flew into the dealer's chin. Crazy Asian Ladies 2, Pauly 1.

* * * * *

Planet Ho

My flight from NYC arrived around 11pm and by Midnight I was drinking at the Palms with Benjo and Ed. They were telling me about their weekend in LA and I told them about my quick trip to NYC. We sat down at a Pai Gow table. The pit boss had just changed the table minimum to $25 instead of $10. There were two other players betting $10 since they were seated before the limits were jacked up. I started out at $25 a hand and got a little crazy after betting $100 after a while. I only ended up stuck $90 by the time we got bored of Pai Gow.

Benjo had grown tired of the pits so I suggested bowling at the Gold Coast. They had a late night special... $5.50 got you three games, free shoe rental, and a free drink at the bar. What a deal. The only bad thing was that they only comped you a domestic beer instead of an import. I have not had MGD in a bowling alley in some time. Although I'm not an avid bowling, I'm a fan of drinking excessively and hurling 12-15 pound objects at white pins with rednecks. Bowling was one of the few classes during college where I got an A. I had it scheduled after my southern politics class. A friend of mine (who hailed from the rough and tumbled streets of G-Vegas) was in both classes with me. We'd listen to Widespread Panic bootlegs in his car and blaze up on the way to the bowling alley. I'm convinced that's how I got an A.

Anyway, I bowled a 120 and a 130 during my first two games. Benjo wanted to wager on the last game. His average was 110. Mine was 115. I offered him a handicap of 20 pins and he eventually accepted the bet. He started out ahead over the first two frames but then went cold. I picked up a strike and never looked back. I ended up with my best game of 166. Benjo asked for a buyout after the 5th frame. I let him off the hook on the 6th. Ed thought I threw the first two games on purpose to shark Benjo. I didn't. I just got better as it got closer to dawn.

The next night was Benjo's last night in Las Vegas before he flew home to France. He had been in Las Vegas for a month too long and was eager to get home. I met him, Ed, and Michalski down at Planet Ho for some donkoliciousness. It happened to be a busy night at the karaoke bar next door. Drunken tourist after drunken tourist stumbled up onto stage and spewed out their unmelodic versions of random cover songs. I felt bad for the dealers in the poker room right next door who had to sit through that torture night after night.

I was seated at a 1-2 NL table with a gaggle of frat boys. It was one of the rare moments when I was the oldest player at the table. Two factions of friends sat at opposing ends of the tables. They both drank heavily and played way too many pots. It seemed like a fun game and the worst player at the table had the biggest stack. He became the focus of my attention.

Michalski sat down in Seat 2. I was across from him in Seat 4. We chatted for a bit and I ordered a beer from the waitress while he asked for a McCallum's. She told him that they couldn't comp him that, but he could get Dewer's. He agreed. A Russian woman named Svetlana sat down to deal. She spoke in a thick Russian accent and reminded me of one of the evil female agents from the Bond flick From Russia with Love.

On the first hand, she dealt me two black Queens. Michalski opened for a raise. I re-raised. Four callers including Michalski. The flop was Qh-10x-2x. Michalski bet and I raised. He called and everyone folded. The turn was the Qd. Michalski checked. I hoped that he would put me on a bluff, so I overbet the pot. He counted out the chips and thought for a few moments before he folded. He told me he had J-8 and almost called. I flipped over my Queens to show him my quads.

Planet Ho had a high hand jackpot. I had no idea. Quad Queens paid $188. When the dealer pushed me the pot, I tipped her $5 and looked at the big board in front of the room that listed the bonus hands and payouts. A few hands later, the floor manager walked over and made me sign some paperwork. He gave me $188 in casino chips and made me put them in my pocket because I had more than $200 at the table in my stack. Before I put the chips in my pocket, I picked out three green $25 chips. I tossed them to Svetlana.

"That's the biggest tip I've ever seen," said one of the frat boys.

"Oh my God!" shouted Svetlana the dealer. "Thank you!"

"That was for stomaching all those bad drunks singing horrible karaoke," I joked. "And for good karma."

Of course, the karma didn't fall my way. I made a move with As-10s. The flop was Queen high with two spades. I check-raised all in after four players limped in. The worst player at the table with a decent size stack called with Q-10. His hand held up as I pulled out some chips out of my pocket and rebought for $200.

Michalski had pushed me off a couple of pots. He's a cagey player who plays any two cards. He made me fold my pocket Queens with an Ace on the board. During that time, Benjo was quietly reading a Chuck Klosterman book at his NL table.

I felted Michalski with Ad-Qx. He opened for a raise. I re-raised and we were three-handed with one of the blinds. The flop was Qd-Jd-10x. Everyone checked to me and I et the pot. The big blind folded. Michalski moved all in and I called. He flipped over 9d-5d. He missed all of his draws.

Michalski bluffed me out of another pot. I had 3d-2d and raised in MP. I got two callers including Michalski. The other player was all in and there was a side pot of $2.The flop was 5-4-4. Michalski and I both checked. The turn was the 8. He checked. I bet the pot and he called. The turn was the 2. He bet about 1/2 the pot and I folded. He flipped over As-7s for a complete bluff. I folded the better hand. We both lost the main pot.

After I flopped Quads, the table loosened up even more. A young Asian woman wearing Lisa Lobe glasses sat down at the far end of the table. She straddled a pot and we noticed she was almost in every hand. When the seat in between Michalski and I opened up, she asked the dealer for a change. He let her move next to us and she said she was happy because we looked like we were having a good time at our end.

"My end is too boring," she explained. "I'm here to gamble."

Michalski admitted later, "I think I have fallen in love with the Crazy Asian Lady. There's something about her..."

We straddled each others blinds and got a couple of big pots going. Sadly, none of us won any of them. The last big hand I played was a losing effort to the CAL. I held Kd-10d and caught an enticing flop of Qd-Jd-4x. I couldn't get her off the hand on the turn with a big bet that she just called. I missed all of my outs a her set of Js held up. Crazy Asian Ladies 3, Pauly 1.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Unusual Dysfunctional Gambling Tales

By Pauly

I was kinda/sorta forced into a week-long hiatus. I intended to take a few days off from the grind of blogging and writing to escape to New York City for a three-day weekend before I returned to Las Vegas to take care of post-WSOP stuff, business meetings, saying good-bye to friends, random poker, and eventually moving out of the Del Bocca Vista. One of my favorite bands (Widespread Panic) was booked to play Radio City Music Hall in NYC and I didn't want to miss another epic concert. Working a seven-week assignment in the middle of the summer means that I get to miss out on several of my favorite bands touring around Colorado, California, and the Pacific Northwest. That's something I had done since my teenage years. When the summer came around, I hit the road and followed the Grateful Dead until I ran out of money or their summer tour ended... whichever came first. After Jerry Garcia died, I spent most of my summer hours during my late 20s following Phish over North America and even once to Japan. Now in my early-30s, I spend my summers drinking away my work-tilt with Otis and wandering around the Rio in a half-baked daze getting chipcounts on Phil Ivey and making lists like "Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next To..."

I caught one Panic show in Las Vegas before the main event started. Beat up by sheer exhaustion, the show at Planet Ho was about average but I didn't have an amazing time. I fought to stay awake. Alas, I knew that the Radio City Hall show would be a lot more energetic. I flew to NYC with Change100 and we partied hard for three days with Derek and The Rooster before we reluctantly flew back to Las Vegas on Monday.

I used to get excited when I sat around in front of the gate in the JetBlue terminal at JFK airport moments away from boarding a flight to Las Vegas. These days, I get the same feeling that used to consume my battered soul when I waited on a subway platform for an express subway to whisk me downtown to the Wall Street station. The definition of Las Vegas has evolved for the worse over the last three years. I equate the two words with "work and depravity." Aside from trips for March Madness with Derek and Senor, most of my time in Las Vegas is relegated to work. Someday that might change, but for now it's a bitter reality. I didn't want to leave NYC. I wanted to stay for ten months to write and hang out with my brother watching the Yankees or Knicks or Rangers or the Jets.

When I had to make a decision on when to leave my apartment in Las Vegas, that date kept getting moved forward. I'm the type of traveler who often stays extra days in a place and incurs extra charges to switch flights because I'm having such a good time in the moment that I don't want to leave. But all I kept thinking about was how much Change100 missed California and how badly I needed to get out of the Las Vegas valley. My work assignment was done and I didn't have anything else until mid-September when the WSOP- Europe kicked off in London. My body was in Las Vegas, but my mind was thinking about spending time in LA, New York City, Holland, Belgium, France, England, and Miami over the next two months. Writing and reading and catching up on my friends' lives were more important than staying in Las Vegas for two more weeks. I called the guy who rented me the place at Del Bocca Vista and asked him to check me out early.

My laptop had died the day after the WSOP ended. Good timing. But, it left me without something to work on and I was forced to have less than an hour a day online over the past week. As much as I was frustrated at times trying to get my connection fix (the desire to be connected and to waste endless hours surfing the web and fucking around in solitary confinement), the lack of access was a positive thing for me because it forced me to think about the future and reflect on the previous seven-weeks of insanity. So that's the other reason for the blogging hiatus. I was a blogger without a laptop which is kinda like a gunslinger without a gun or more like a stripper without a pole, or even a televangelist without a pulpit.

I bought a new laptop and in about a week, I should be back in the normal routine of writing regularly. For now, my time online and endless hours handcuffed to my laptop has been reduced as I'm forced to share Change100's laptop. Over the last few days, I made preparations to leave and in the meantime, played random poker during the last week or so that I was in Las Vegas. The previous two summers, I stuck around for a while after the WSOP ended and played as much poker as I could. And like the last two years, I left Las Vegas with a padded bankroll for the duration of the trip. Having a winning trip to Las Vegas is not hard to do, but when you are stuck in the middle of the desert for up to two months, the relentless heat and recycled casino oxygen warps your brain. Most friends that I know who are working media have awful sessions during the WSOP. Covering poker turns you into an action junkie. I had a couple of bad days but thanks to a couple of timely prop bets (on Erick Lindgren's insane golf prop and the gambling on overall totals of the main event) along with the cash in a $1,500 donkeyfest, I'm leaving Sin City with a nice profit. I should want to stay, but my wayward soul has been pleading me to cash out.

Anyway, here are a few stories of last few days in Las Vegas that involved lurking around the tables with international journalists and getting caught in between an intense discussion between David Sklansky and Paul Darden.

* * * * *

Treasure Island

The day before the final table, I ventured down to the Treasure Island and I played in their 7pm tournament with Simon (British journalist working with Otis at PokerStars Blog), Change100, and Benjo (from and other various French outlets). I had played that TI tournament once before on Jen Leo's birthday. I cashed and took third (Jonno ended up in second and Change100 cashed in fifth). I know those tourist-friendly tournaments are crapshoots with plenty of inexperienced drunken and sunburned tournament players. Bad beats circle around and infest the TI poker room like those crazed flying monkeys in Wizard of Oz. But if you managed to go deep and make a final table, you're guaranteed a decent payday for a $60 investment.

Over the last three summers, I have played my share of low buy-in Strip tournaments. Grubby and I went nuts trying to final table the nightly 7pm Sahara tournaments, although I suspect that we only went because Grubby liked the free sandwiches they gave at the first break. The Sahara along with the TI allowed you to buy back in as a new player if you busted. I had a good record going where in the dozens and dozens of Strip tournies that I played (Sahara, Aladdin, TI), not once did I buy back in as a new player because I always survived to the first break and the end of the registration period (usually an hour after start time).

That all ended at the last TI event I played. Yeah, I bought in twice for a total of $125 (I made it to the first break during my second buy-in and got extra chips for a $5 add-on). Anyway, I was seated at Benjo's table. On the third hand, I found 8s-7s and limped in for 50 from EP. The big blind raised to 300. I looked up and saw the prototypical LA douchebag looking at me. He wore knock-off designer sunglasses and an overpriced shirt from Fred Segal. He was a fake tanner with hair that Derek would describe as perfectly messy. If I was taking notes, I would have scribbled down the keywords "vain assmuncher." By the lack of smoothness of his chip tricks, I figured he had been playing for probably six months max. I wanted to move all in but just called. Two players. Me versus the LA douchebag fake baker.

The flop was Ah-8d-7c. I knew one of us was getting felted. I had that feeling. I checked and he bet 300. I check-raised to 900. He waited ten seconds then called. The turn was the 3d. I moved all in for my last 1800 in chips. He called and flipped over A-Q with no diamonds. The dealer burned and then dealt the river card. The Qh spiked and I was eliminated. Felted on a five outer. Nice catch, cumstain.

Benjo looked stunned and couldn't believe that hand. We had a last longer for $20 and had swapped 10% of each other. He said that he mucked a Queen and the guy next to me said that he folded an Ace. Hearing that I had less outs always makes the beat feel much better. It's like finding out that your cheating girlfriend sucked 3 more cocks than you had originally thought.

I left the table and pulled $60 out of my pocket by the time I got up to the front desk. I bought in as a new player and the floor guy led me over to Change100's table. She had won a pot or two and was raking in another as I sat down. I made a couple of moves and tried to quickly build a stack. I raised a lot of hands from early position and took down small pots on the flop with continuation bets. I won a medium sized-pot on the turn bluffing with a straight flush draw. No action. I made it to the break and was just below the average stack. That's when the LA douchebag was moved back to my table... with my chips.

Change100 bluffed a pot with the Hammer, but she busted out before me. I headed to the rail when I took another sickly beat. Old guy raised 3x UTG and the button called. I found Js-Jc in the small blind and moved all in for almost 9 times more. The old guy called and the button folded. He showed K-Jo. He flopped a King and I couldn't catch the case Jack for a resuck. Busted before I had a chance to get my chips back from the LA douchebag.

After that awful showing in the TI tournament we played Pai Gow. Benjo is addicted to the game and I feel bad that I taught him how to play it at the $5 tables in Bally's during the WPT Championships. I have been enabling his inner action junkie. But I've since shrugged it off. He gets paid in Euros and he's gambling with the faltering US dollar. It's like Monopoly money for those European fat cats. Last time I checked, a $100 bill was worth like 14 Euros or something outrageous like that. Last time I was in Amsterdam, I cashed in $1000 US and only got back enough Euros to buy a stale croissant and a couple of doobies.

Anyway, Change100 went on SPGT (Semi-Pai Gow Tilt) and had violently mucked her hand on two instances after the dealer pulled a few massive hands out of his ass. I think I walked away with a slight profit but left somewhat early to head home to write final table bios. When I left, Benjo had wandered over to the blackjack tables.

* * * * *


The day after the main event, Change100 and I wandered over to the Bellagio's poker room. We bumped into Miami Don and the SNG Machine, who were both on their way out. They had a killer session at the 2-5 NL and I headed inside and quickly found a seat at a 2-5 NL table. Change100 got a list for 8/16 as I sized up the players at my table. I lost about 30 in the first two orbits trying to see a couple of flops with low pairs.

That's when Benjo and Ed from Gushot tapped me on the shoulder. They were on their way out of town after renting a Hummer to drive to LA. I would have gone with, but I was supposed to fly to NYC for the weekend and declined. Change100 found Dixie and I also spotted David from Gushot and Andrew Webking playing a big NL cash game. Cyndy Violette and David Sklansky was playing 400/800 Stud in the high limit area, while Paul Darden was up there too.

When they spread a new 8/16 Limit table, Change100 told me that they were only five-handed. I didn't like my NL table so decided to play 8/16 until they got a full table and then I'd get on a different NL table. I never made it back to NL because inside of an hour or so, I ran over the table and left with close to a $500 profit.

I sat in Seat 8 next to an old guy from Florida with a golf tan. He said that he was married three times.

"My ex-wives each have a house," he lamented explaining to me why I should not get married.

He was a nice guy and I took on the role of the chatty guy. I ordered beers for guys on my end and tipped the waitress jacked up on happy pills for them. Change100 would have described me as "Crazy Pauly" where I would raise so much and hit flops with junk hands that I would tilt the entire table in ten minutes.

I flopped The Wheel with 5-4o and my pocket Aces held up. I can't recall too many other hands. I didn't take notes. I know that I caught a flurry of mediocre cards (which go up in value in shorthanded games) and hit my draws. Change100 was up $300 at one point and then was down to about even when I cashed out.

The funniest moment happened in the bathroom next to the sports book. To set the scene, a young woman sat behind Sklansky in the high limit area. She barely looked 21. Everyone that reads 2+2 knows Sklansky's penchant for young women. Anyway, I wandered into the bathroom and walked over to a urinal. I spotted someone to my left as someone walked up to the urinal on my right.

"Yo, David. Is she a dancer?" Paul Darden said.

I turned to my left and realized that I was pissing in between Sklansky and Darden.

"I met her when she was 17," said Sklansky.

"Is she a dancer?" asked Darden a second time.

"She's a nice girl from Las Vegas. She's in the medical field now."

"Shit, David. You're not answering the question."

"She used to be," Sklansky finally revealed.

"I thought so," said a content Darden.

"She has a great body, right?" said Sklansky as they left the urinals and headed over to the sink.

"I dunno," shot back Darden. "I haven't seen her naked."

Less than an hour later, we spotted Sklansky and the former-stripper turned nurse who were canoodling on a bench outside as they waited for the valet to bring around his car.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Truckin - July 2007, Vol. 6, Issue 7

I totally spaced out and forgot to mention the latest issue of Truckin'. July features a couple of veteran Truckin' authors such as Change100 and Clay Champlin. Dingo returns with another sordid Las Vegas tale and I'm happy to introduce Johnny Hughes to the mix.

1. Snapshot by Paul McGuire
Some people find the truth in photographs. It's a person's soul captured at one moment in time and space. The picture cannot lie like a human can. A couple of months ago, I sorted through an old box and I came across an envelope with several photos of a trip that I had taken to New Orleans... More

2. Hard Luck Harry and the Owl by Johnny Hughes
Harry believed in luck more than any gambler you have ever met. If the Cowboys lost in the final seconds of a football game, Harry thought it was because he'd spilled the salt shaker at the Truck Stop... More

3. Decades by Change100
I turned 10 in Belmar, New Jersey. My grandfather had fallen ill and my mother decided to move my sister and I out there with her for most of the summer of 1987 so she could take care of him. The three of us squeezed into the pullout couch at night in the living room of my grandparents' doublewide trailer on Route 71... More

4. Bingo by Clay Champlin
I developed a hatred for bingo at an early age. In third grade we played every Friday. Sister Mary Grace would give each kid a bingo card, and a handful of dry navy beans that she kept in a Folgers can, to mark the cards... More

5. Randi the Schizo Hustler by Dingo
Randi had a thick eastern European accent, straight blonde hair and a mischievous smile. Tatyana wore her hair in waves/curls and was very serious and often depressed. She would cry about nothing in particular and from the whopper stories she told and her sniffling I concluded Twin 2 was a heavy coke head... More
Thanks for your support.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

2007 WSOP Epilogue: A Leap of Faith

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Courtesy of Flipchip

When I visited Australia earlier in the year, for the first time since the UIGEA rippled through the American poker scene, I saw a glimmer of hope for the future of poker. The entire poker room (aptly called the Las Vegas Room) at the Crown Casino in Melbourne was packed with players. They were not just Australians and Kiwis but plenty of players from surrounding Asian-Pacific countries. That's when I knew that poker took a big hit in America, but overseas they were on a cusp of a poker gold rush.

When I flew out to Monte Carlo to cover the European Poker Tour Grand Finale I was more than impressed with the set up. Their media room was five times the size of the one at the Rio for less media reps. The participation numbers had been way up across the board during the third season of the EPT. And even when France cock-blocked one of their events, two other countries stepped up and wanted to add stops on the EPT.

Poker had also been popular in the UK, Ireland, and France for a few decades and over the last few years it has been rapidly sweeping through parts of Europe such as Germany, Italy, Russia, and the various Scandinavian countries like a viral phenomena. Depending on who you talk to, the Swedes will boast that per capita, they are the best poker players in the world. The Fins, Danes, and Norwegians will tell you otherwise. Right now in Norway, there are 16-year olds with bankrolls approaching seven figures. Not only are they're routinely crushing the competition, but after they felt you a couple of times in ring games, they cash out. They're not hitting and running or ratholing your money. They simply have to go to sleep and wake up to go to school the next day. What happens when they turn 21 and come to Las Vegas for the first time?

When it came to betting on main event players, I leaned towards the Scandis. Over the last few years, a Swedish player went deep at the WSOP. I expected unknown Scandi wearing capri pants and $600 designer sunglasses would amass a monster stack late in the tournament. That ended up being Philip Hilm from Denmark. I wasn't the only one thought Hilm had a great shot at winning the WSOP main event. Oddsmakers had him the favorite on their board. He had all the chips at the time and his playing style was difficult to adjust to. The reputations that Scandis have are that they are wild, erratic, constantly switching gears, and unable to read. They love playing big pots and will shove all in on any street and at any moment. However, what makes Hilm such a tough competitor also ended up being his down fall. He's the type of player would would see a flop with 8d-5d out of position after a player raised in front of him. And he's also the type of player who would try to semi-bluff his opponent off a pot with bottom pair and a weak flush draw.

Hilm did just that on the 15th hand of the final table. Instead of persuading Jerry Yang to lay down TPTK with A-K, Yang called. And just like that, the young gun from Denmark was standing off to the side and conducting an interview with ESPN, while Yang slowly stacked up all of his chips. The Hilm elimination would end up being an indication of things to come. Hilm would be one of seven players that Yang would knock out on his way towards the 2007 WSOP championship.

The first 60 hands went by faster than anyone imagined. A wave of giddiness swept everyone in media row. They wanted to go home. Badly. The space in front of the media room became a refuge for luggage. The European press was set to catch cabs to the airport and fly home as soon as the last hand was dealt. Plenty of other friends were dying to escape the Rio after seven weeks of insanity. Otis had that look in his eye that he was wrought with anguish. His hearts and mind was with his family back in G-Vegas, but his physical being was shuffling around the Rio, like a dead man walking back and forth from the ESPN stage back to the media room.

Everyone secretly wished for a fast final table. I also do in whatever event that I cover. I accept the fact that it will go late and often will take the over when anyone sets a line on ending time. It's win-win for me. If the table ends early, I win and get to go home. If the event runs late, at least I get monetary compensation for my troubles. Unlike a football game or timed sporting event, poker can be over super quick or become a marathon session like Chip Reese and Andy Bloch's heads up battle at the $50K HORSE event in 2006.

However, I knew history was a good indicator that I should not get my hopes up too high. The last two main events last anywhere from 13 to 14 hours. When BJ set the line at 3am, I quickly took the over. I figured it would go to about 3 or 4am. Phil Gordon had set the line at 5:32am (or something like that). Nolan Dalla wanted action. I heard that the amount of the wager was anywhere from $500 to $5,000. Gordon knew the event would go late, but he set his line a couple of hours too long. The final hand was actually completed around 3:46am.

With just four players remaining it appeared that everyone might get done by Midnight. My veteran experiences knew better. It's not the how fast the first five go... it's how fast that the last five go which matters.

Yang busted the most well-known pro at the table in Lee Watkinson on Hand #21. Yang was ahead on that hand and his better Ace held up. On Hand #28, Yang sent Lee Childs to the rail. Yang was trailing on that hand, but got caught up in the battle of the blinds with Childs. Alas, Childs was ahead until the turn when Yang spiked an 8. Childs could not improve and he was the third player to be busted by Yang.

Rain Khan was very quiet at the final table. I'll have to check the broadcast to see if he was playing passive or just card dead. He made a move with A-Q and unfortunately Yang woke up to pocket Jacks. Khan went out in 6th place and aside from Hilm, he was my pick to take it down.

On Hand #60, South Africa's Raymond Rahme picked up Jacks and won a race against England's Jon Kalmar's Big Slick. At that point, four players remained. Alex Kravchenko was shortstacked for the last three days and he managed to squeeze into the final four players. He survived all of his all in attempts and doubled up during the right spots. Players with much bigger stacks busted out before him. When it got down to 11 players, everyone expected Alex KGB to bust out next.

Unfortunate for Scotty Nguyen, he imploded and bluffed off his chips when he should have probably left the table and hung out in the hallway posing for autographs, smoking ciggies, and downing Coronas. But Nguyen made a few moves which cost him his third final table at the 2007 WSOP and a shot at $8.25 million while finally trying to quell his inner demons surrounding his previous world championship and the death of his brother.

When four-handed play began on Hand #61, Jerry Yang had over 70M and over 55% of the total chips in play. Alex Kravchenko was the super short stack with around 8M. But the Russian showed everyone why he's one of the toughest and baddest motherfuckers on the block. Once it got five-handed, Kravchenko was guaranteed to become #1 on the All Time Russian Money List surpassing Kirill Gerasimov. He had won a bracelet earlier in the WSOP and had stuck around to play a slew of events. You couldn't miss him wandering around the Amazon Ballroom during preliminary events. He carried a cold and blank expression on his face and glanced at you with the eyes of a sniper. Usually clad in an Adidas jumpsuit, I expected to see the old Soviet regimes' CCCP stamped on the back.

We started developing wild theories that Kravchenko was a hitman for the Russian mafia and came out to Las Vegas to whack Vinnie Vinh or collect a monster debt from Eskimo Clark, but he liked playing poker much more than extinguishing deadbeats, so he gave up his day job and settled on poker instead.

Joking aside, Kravchenko played the best poker at the final table when compared to the other eight players. How he survived with a short-stack is beyond me, but he managed to help slow down the action. It would take 107 hands before he would bust out. It another classic race, Yang ended up winning a coinflip. Kravchenko raised with Big Slick. Yang shoved with 8-8 and Kravchenko quickly called. Yang flopped a set and Kravchenko could not improve.

Two hands later, Raymond Rahme busted out on Hand #169 courtesy of Yang who outflopped his pocket Kings. The heads up match between Tuan Lam and Yang lasted 36 hands. That was much longer than Greg Raymer-David Williams; Joe Hachem-Steve Dannenmann; and Jamie Gold-Paul Wasicka's battles.

Lam played extremely passive at the final table. He gave Yang a walk at least four times (I'm too lazy to read my notes to confirm) in the big blind. Lam only won 12 out of 36 hands they played and aside from one double up, they were small pots. Yang won the one hand that counted the most. On Hand #205, Jerry Yang took out Lam. Yang would end up winning 91 out of 205 dealt hands at the final table. I wondered how many hands he was actually involved in? Again, I'm too lazy to check, but I'm guessing he was involved in more than 50% of the total hands at the final table. Talk about forcing the action.

The final table definitely had an international flavor to it as an Asian-born player eventually won this year's WSOP. The railbirds for the other final table players where showing their nationalistic pride. You could see flags from Canada, Russia, and South Africa proudly displayed. Lee Watksinon's fiancee busted out an American flag but she had it upside down, which is a symbol of distress. Perhaps she was foreshadowing Watkinson's early exit?

The final table was boring at times and filled with excitment during the other moments. When the audience was awake usually during big hands, the scene resembled a soccer match. There was plenty of singing, chanting, and rowdy railbirding going on in the crowd. The South African contingency was the most visible wearing green shirts that read "Everybody Loves Raymond" in support of their local hero Raymond Rahme. Several of the guys in the crowd had South African capes drapped over their shoulders. They had a cool chant which they would sing after Rahme won a hand. They also would scream, "Ship it to Africa!" as the dealer pushed him pots.

Tuan Lam's friends and family had miniature Canadian flags and one big one. They constantly waved those during the few hands he was in. At one point, Lam was draped in the Canadian flag after he doubled up against Yang during heads up play. He had some of the loudest railbirds and would break into a chorus of "O, Canada" whenever he won a pot.

Alex Kravchenko had a substantially smaller cheering section, but they brought along the Russian flag. They too would chant something. My Russian is bad and I couldn't make out what they were saying.

As I described, the stands surrounding the final table was devoted railbirds of the final table players. Jon Kalmar had to give his drinking buddies a talking to before the final table started. They showed up in a much behaved manner than on Day 6 when one of his mates was yanked out of the No Limit lounge for too much consumption of shitty beer which made him act belligerent.

Jerry Yang had his family and friend sweating him as well. Jen Creason pointed out one of his crew who sat on the floor and constantly prayed. Yang is a very religious person and he could also be spotted praying during big hands.

During his post-victory interview with ESPN, Yang constantly spoke about how he could not have achieved what he did without the help of God.

"I had a feeling inside," said Yang as he fought back tears. "I kept praying. If God could help me, I knew I could win. I had a funny feeling inside that I could do it. I thank the Lord. The glory goes to him. Thanks to the heavenly Father, I am here today and victorious. With this money, I can do a lot of good for people out there who need the help."

When Norman Chad asked him if he was having the best day of his life, Yang mentioned that when he came to America for the first time, "It was the first day I found freedom. My family tried to escape Laos and we failed. They (communist regime) hunted us down. Then we escaped to Thailand. When I found out that we were going to America was the happiest day of my life."

"Do you think this is the most poker that the Lord has ever watched over?" joked Chad.

"The Lord was watching over me," replied Yang. "When I had 4-4 and I was all in I prayed, 'Lord, give me a set.' Then the flop had a 4 and I survived that hand. I have seen the miracles of God at the World Series of Poker."

Yang also mentioned about his strategy. He knew that the only way he could win was to play aggressive.

"I did a lot of bluffing, trust me," he joked. "I played a lot of bad hands. 7-2o even."

You gotta love Yang for dropping the Hammer. He never showed it, but I hope the ESPN hole cams caught at least one of those hands.

When he was asked about his future, Yang joked, "When I made the final table, I called my boss and told him I needed a few extra days off. I plan to go back to work... to give my two weeks notice."

I think Yang was also holed up at the Redneck Riviera for a while because he said that he did not move to the Rio until he made the final table.

"I was staying at a local motel. I won't say its name. It's bad. Trust me. You don't want to go there."

Then he got serious when he said, "My wife works the night shift. I told her that she doesn't have to work anymore. We have six small children and we want to make sure they get the best life and education."

Yang will be donating 10% of his winnings to various charity including the Make a Wish Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, and Feed the Children. I suspect that he's going to use some more of that to help other people in his community. I'm glad that Yang won on that account. Instead of donking it off at the tables and pissing it away on high stakes games, he's going to use it to help ease the burden in people's lives that need it the most. Before the final table started, I wrote that Yang has all the karma points on his side because of his social consciousness. Maybe the poker gods were paying attention after all.

Yang's victory is good for poker because he will be an amazing goodwill ambassador. Check out the interview that Jerry Yang did with Tiffany Michelle. He's an honorable, articulate, and humble man. I really hope he does some good over the next year, not just for poker but for the people in his life.

Poker is dominated by the dark side of humanity. It doesn't help when the WSOP is held in the middle of flashiest blackest hole in the universe... Las Vegas. But sometimes, there are rays of hope. Guys like Barry Greenstein (Children Inc.) and Phil Gordon (Bad Beat on Cancer) are working hard to help charitable causes. Plenty of Asian players like Kenny Tran, Scotty Nguyen, and Liz Lieu donate their winnings to help their family and communities back home in Vietnam. The guys over at PokerStars teamed up with the cast from Ocean's Thirteen and helped raise money and awareness for the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

We live in a time in America when the religious right has infiltrated our government and backed certain politicians who stiff-armed online poker. A devout Christian and religious man like Jerry Yang can help draw positive attention to the poker community. Poker can be a conduit for goodwill. Sure it's a form of gambling, but so is beating the stock market. Heck, praying for an imaginary being (aka God) is the ultimate gamble. What's the difference between shoving all in with a Big Slick vs. a middle pair and believing in God? There is none. Both are coinflip situations. God either exists or doesn't. That's a race situation that church goers gamble with every single Sunday.

I've long given up the quest to determine if our original creator is Allah, Buddha, Jesus' dad, or some alien scientists cross breeding themselves with apes. There is a more powerful force out there. Or maybe there isn't. The existentialist in me believes that this is a darkened, random, and godless universe. Spending too much time in Las Vegas makes you abandon hope and the entire notion of God.

The most important conversation I had the entire summer was with a French journalist named Benjo. And we talked about lobsters. He got me off of work and life tilt. Here's what I wrote at the end of June:
During one of the breaks of the HORSE event, I went outside for a few minutes for a smoke break. It was around 3am and Benjo told me a weird story regarding John-Paul Sartre. I actually started the conversation by asking him something about Sartre. I think it was about him banging Simone de Beauvoir. Anyway, Benjo told me how Simone de Beauvoir made him take a holiday in Southern France because he was too burnt out after experiencing hallucinations, specifically one about a lobster following him around. He had been doing too much mescaline and was feeling the residual effects of that drug. For years the lobster would follow him around and he made the decision that he was not going to see the lobster any more... and the lobster vanished and ceased to exist.

I had a moment of clarity and finally figured it out. Everything. Especially what Sartre was trying to teach us... that we have to make a choice in life. And not just about what we do, but what we believe, and the values we hold. Those choices are not going to be made for us or nor should they be dictated by those around us. He decided to stop seeing the lobsters and they were gone.
If Jerry Yang thinks that he won the WSOP because of God's help, then so be it. Was it God or luck that brought him the 6 on the river to beat Tuan Lam? I'm not going to debate him on that fact. After all, it's great publicity and PR work for all of poker. You see, according to the new WSOP champion, the Lord loves poker. God is helping the good guys take away money from the bad guys to be distributed among the poor and needy. Maybe the Jesus freaks out there will see that there is some good to be made with poker and they will ease up on pressuring the government to keep online poker on the sidelines.

Just when I was ready to give up on humanity, I got a lesson in faith... in the middle of a casino in Las Vegas of all places.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

WSOP Day 47: Jerry Yang Wins the WSOP Main Event

By Pauly

Jerry Yang took down the 2007 WSOP. He might not be the best player in the Main Event, but he had the most faith and had the biggest heart out of the 6,358 players. He won $8.25 million and will be donting 10% of his winnings to three different charities.

The Final Hand - Yang's 8-8 rivers Lam's A-Q

Yang is the epitomy of the American Dream. He escaped Laos after the communists invade. He lived in a refugee camp in Thailand before he was able to come to America. And now, he took down the World Series of Poker.

He was humble when he spoke in his post-victory interview.

"I know what it's like to be poor and I want to give back to the people," Yang said as he was on the verge of tears.

The poker world is full of assholes, scumbags, and deadbeats. It's a sincere pleasure to see a true gentleman take down the WSOP. I'm happy to know that some of his winnings will be devoted to chairty and to help his family and people in his community.

2007 WSOP World Champion Jerry Yang

Don't forget to check out LasVegasVegas for Flipchip's WSOP photos and there's the Poker Prof's cool 2007 WSOP Info page.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

WSOP Day 46: The Main Event Final Table Bios

By Pauly

There are moments in life that define your existence. Winning the most prestigious poker tournament in the world, outlasting a field of 6,358 players, and collecting $8.25 million for first place is definitely one of them. One person is going to become immortalized as he joins an elite group of champions who can claim that they have won the World Series of Poker main event. This is what every poker play dreams about. And tonight, someone's dreams are about to become a reality.
Here's the final table of the 2007 WSOP:

Seating Assignments:
Seat 1 - Jon Kalmar
Seat 2 - Lee Childs
Seat 3 - Philip Hilm
Seat 4 - Jerry Yang
Seat 5 - Raymond Rahme
Seat 6 - Tuan Lam
Seat 7 - Alex Kravchenko
Seat 8 - Lee Watkinson
Seat 9 - Hevad 'Rain' Khan

Final Table Chip Counts:
Philip Hilm - 22,070,000
Tuan Lam - 21,315,000
Jon Kalmar - 20,320,000
Raymond Rahme - 16,320,000
Lee Childs - 13,240,000
Lee Watkinson - 9,9250,00
Hevad "Rain" Khan - 9,205,000
Jerry Yang - 8,450,000
Alex Kravchenko - 6,570,000

Final Table Payouts:
1 - $8,250,000
2 - $4,840,981
3 - $3,048,025
4 - $1,852,721
5 - $1,255,069
6 - $956,243
7 - $705,229
8 - $585,699
9 - $525,934
Poker will be crowning a new world champion as the final table gets underway at Noon local time on Tuesday. The next champion will be one of nine players collectively representing America, Canada, Vietnam, England, Denmark, Laos, South Africa, and Russia.

If you want to find out who wins, stop by for live updates starting at Noon. I have one of the best seats in the house, only ten feet from the final table, and I've been waiting for this moment for over 46 days.

In case you never heard of any of the final table players, here's a run down of who's who including chip counts and the latest odds to win set by BoDog. In case you were wondering, all of these photos are courtesy of Flipchip.

* * * * * *
Seat 1 - Jon Kalmar
Chip Count: 20.32 million
Hometown: Chorley, UK
BoDog Odds: 4-1

Jon Kalmar

Kalmar is a 33 year old from England who is married with one kid. He's a professional poker player but had a stint as a singer in a punk band. He listed "drinking" as a hobby and his railbirds were definitely partaking in his favorite hobby over the last couple of days. I expect his contingency to be a rowdy bunch.

He learned poker by playing online, which he started to do to curtail his other gambling (sports and casino). He's been playing for four years and this is his third WSOP. He flew to Vegas to play a bunch of preliminary events. He didn't cash in any of them and had blown through his bankroll. Due to his catastrophic lost of his bankroll, he was ready to give up poker for good. Like most tortured souls who go broke in Sin City, he tried to book an earlier flight back home. The cost to England was too high so he decided to stick around and play the last mega-satellite at the Rio. He won his seat to the main event at the last minute. Not only did he cash, he made the final table and is trying to return to England a millionaire.

When asked about the one thing he wanted the audience to know about him, he wrote, "I'm not really a Britney fan."

Kalmar has a sense of humor and is second in chips. According to BoDog, he's the second favorite to win. The Brits would love nothing more than to have the next WSOP champion be one of their own.

Seat 2 - Lee Childs
Chip Count: 13.24 million
Hometown: Reston, VA
BoDog Odds: 8-1

Lee Childs

The 35 year old Virginia native recently left his computer systems job to devote more time to poker. He has his dad in the crowd who's way more nervous than he is while sweating his son. He learned how to play poker from the internet, books, and attending WPT boot camp. He's been playing for about five years and bought into the WSOP main event directly. He said, "I wouldn't have gotten here without my incredible wife, dad, and all the support of family and friends."

Seat 3 - Philip Hilm
Chip Count: 22.07 million
Hometown: Cambridge, UK
BoDog Odds: 14-5

Philip Hilm

Philip Hilm is originally from Denmark and currently resides in Cambridge, UK. He's a poker pro and I first took note of him when he played on the feature table at the EPT Grand Finale Championships in Monte Carlo. He's played in the WSOP during the last three years and bought in directly. He has one previous WSOP cash. Fellow Danish pro Lars Bonding was on the rail sweating him.

When there were 50 players left in the Main Event, I offered to bet Change100 that he'd win the WSOP at 20-1 odds and she could take the field. She declined. He's the current chipleader and will make me look like a genius if he wins. I said a Scandi would win this year and he's their last hope. Like most Scandi's he's hard to read, aggressive, and could play any two cards. With a chiplead, he's even more dangerous.

Seat 4 - Jerry Yang
Chip Count: 8.45 million
Hometown: Temecula, CA
BoDog's Odds: 9-1

Jerry Yang

Jerry Yang is originally from Laos. The forty year old lives in California with his wife and six kids. He's a psychologist and social worker that earned a master's degree on health psychology. He's been playing poker for two years and this is his first WSOP. He won a $225 satellite at Penchanga. He's got the most karma points coming into the final table. He will be donating 10% of his winnings to the Make a Wish Foundation, Feed the Children, and the Ronald McDonald House.

Jerry Yang is one of the most deliberate players at the final table. He always takes his time to make decisions. He's been successfully using his skills as a psychologist at the table, analyzing his opponents behavior in order to make a better decisions.

Seat 5 - Raymond Rahme
Chip Count: 16.32 million
Hometown: South Africa
BoDog's Odds: 7-1

Raymond Rahme

Rahme is the oldest player at the final table. He's 62 years young and hails from South Africa. He's married with six children and is an avid golfer. He's a self taught poker player who's been playing for about two years. This is his second WSOP. He's made final tables in tournaments overseas. On the bio sheet question... What's the one thing you want the audience to know about you? He wrote, "Never give up."

Rahme missed time when the final table was set with ten players. Out of the 36 hands, he was there for less than half of them. One media rep suggested that he had bladder issues. Change100 suggested that he might have been interviewing with the South African film crew. He has a documentary film from ALL Africa TV following him around. One of their channels shows poker 24/7. He's going to be having his own show. He happens to have the most loyal railbirds that chant and sing and sway back and forth and yell things like, "Ship it to Africa!"

Seat 6 - Tuan Lam
Chip Count: 21.315 million
Hometown: Canada
BoDog Odds: 7-2

Tuan Lam

Tuan Lam is originally from Vietnam and currently lives in Canada. The forty-one year old's birthday falls on January 1st. He used to be a poker dealer and is now a full time poker player. He's married with two kids and enjoys soccer. He's been playing poker for 17 years and learned from friends. He's played in the WSOP three different times and he bought in directly.

According to Otis at PokerStars Blog... "Known as BABYHAN on PokerStars, you'll find him regularly playing the high-limit cash games to a lot of success. Lam finished runner-up in the 2005 World Championship of Online Poker $200 short-handed no-limit hold'em event."

Seat 7 - Alex Kravchenko
Chip Count: 6.57 million
Hometown: Moscow, Russia
BoDog Odds: 9-1

Alex 'KGB' Kravchenko
...taken during his bracelet winner's photo a few weeks ago

Alex Kravchenko listed that he was born in Archangel, Russia. He's married with two kids. He's not a pro poker player and makes his living as a businessman, but if you've seen him play, he's all business. He displays the least emotion at the table and you can't get a read on him because he gives off the same intimidating blank stare, like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.

He's a self-taught poker player who's been dabbling in the game for over a decade. He's won over $219K in tournaments held in Europe and starting playing smaller buy in tournaments about six or seven years ago in Moscow. He bought into the WSOP main event directly and could definitely afford it. He's is the only other WSOP bracelet winner at the final table aside from Lee Watkinson. Kravchenko won an Omaha 8 event and beat Bryan Devonshire heads up to win. This is his third final table at the WSOP and hr's cashed five times (not including the main event) for about $269K. He's also cashed in two previous WSOPs and cashed four times on the WPT.

My nickname for Kravchenko is Alex KGB. He totally looks like a throw back from those 1980s cold war flicks like Fire Fox, Gorky Park, or Red Dawn. I could picture him wearing a red jump suit with the CCCP initials across the back. He seems quiet at the table and never cracks a smile, but I saw him chatting with his Russian friends on the rail and he seemed extremely friendly and animated.

He'd get better odds if he had more chips. Everyone thought he was going to bust out once it got close to the final table bubbles. But he hung on with a short stack and survived as Scotty Nguyen busted in 11th place. Once the final ten were set, he was the super short stack and doubled up to advance to the final nine.

Seat 8 - Lee Watkinson
Chip Count: 9.925 million
Hometown: Cheney, Washington
BoDog Odds: 7-2

Lee Watkinson

Lee Watkinson left his bio sheet empty, aside from his phone number. The forty year old made four final tables at the WSOP and won one bracelet in the $10K PLO last year. He also made two final tables on the WPT and took second place twice, once to Doyle Brunson and the other to Eli Elezra (which also happened to have Scotty Nguyen and Gabe Kaplan at his table.) Lee Watkinson is Derek's least favorite player have he felted him in a 2/4 NL game on Full Tilt. Watkinson is the biggest named pro at the table and he has monkeys.

"He's fleecing the donkeys to save the monkeys," explained Benjo.

Watkinson and his fiance rescued retired chimps that have been exploited in show business or for research. They have taken them in and provide a safe haven for them. Part of his tournaments winnings goes to fund that and he also does his part to raise awareness for various aninal rights groups.

Seat 9 - Hevad "Rain" Khan
Chip Count: 9.205 million
Hometown: Poughkeepsie, NY
BoDog Odds: 7-1

Rain Khan

Rain Khan is a 22-year old online poker pro from upstate NY mostly known as RainNKaHN on PokerStars. He listed that he was homeless on his bio sheet. He attended SUNY Albany and wrote that his hobbies are "eating subway and bulldozing." This is his second WSOP and has two previous cashes in the $1,500 donkfests. Khan won his seat to the main event via an satellite online. He's the guy who was accused of being a bot for playing 40 SNGs at once. His personal record is 43 and after PokerStars frozen his account, he sent them video proof that he was not a "robot." He's claimed to have played over 35,000 SNGs on PokerStars. Unreal.

Rain Khan is quiet most of the time with outbursts of feral energy. He jumps up and down. Shakes his head back and forth like the chick in The Exorcist and screams out random things. He's been seen running around with a chair on his head. But ask Otis and he'll tell you that he's one of the nicest guys you would ever meet.

Rain Khan completely shifted gears on Day 6. He played with less crazed aggression and picked his spots to go nuts. Aside from Hilm, he's my pick to take it down.
* * * * *

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.

And come back at the Tao of Poker for daily recaps and head over at PokerNews for live coverage and updates of the final table including chipcounts, photos, and videos.

For all you fantasy sports junkies, check out our new site... Fantasy Sports Live.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Monday, July 16, 2007

WSOP Day 45: Main Event Day 6 - The Final 9

By Pauly

Less than twenty minutes ago, Scotty Nguyen bused out in 11th place at the WSOP main Event. I had not been that dejected in a tournament since I saw Fossilman bust out in Benny's Bullpen during the 2005 WSOP. Deep down, I was rooting for Scotty Nguyen. I think we all were.

Scotty started the day 27th in chips out of 36 remaining players. He went on a run and doubled up as the field started to hit the rail quickly. After the dinner break, Nguyen won a couple of pots to jump into 5th place in chips. He sat at the feature table with a big smile and quickly became the crowd favorite. Harrah's suits, ESPN execs, and the majority of the media were rooting for a Scotty Nguyen final table.

"It's good for poker," Laurie the dealer said.

She was right. Scotty Nguyen is one of the more animaed characters in poker. It seemed as though he could have folded into the final table. With 11 players remaining, he was a lock. Then things got ugly. Fast.

Tuan Lam raised from the small blind to 480K. Scotty Nguyen reraised from the big blind to 1.48M and Lam called. The flop was Kh-5s-4h with over 3M in the pot. Lam checked and Nguyen fired out 700K. Lam called. The turn was the Kd and both players checked. The river was the Jd and Lam bet 1M. Nguyen went into the tank before he raised to 3.5M. Lam sat and went into the tank for several monutes before he called with 10s-10h. Scotty Nguyen tabled 4d-3d. Lam took down the pot woth close to 11.5M.

Scotty Nguyen was visibly rattled. He looked pissed and had that look like, "How the fuck could you call me, baby?!?"

Then Nguyen lost a big hand to Philip Hilm from Denmark in another battle of the blinds. Scotty Nguyen raised to 530K from the small blind and Hilm called from the big blind. The flop was Qc-6h-5d. Nguyen bet 600K and Hilm called. The turn was the Kd. Nguyen checked and Hilm fired out 1.2M. Nguyen moved all in and Hilm could not have called any quicker with 5s-5c. Nguyen flipped over Ah-Qd. He was drawing dead and by the look on his face, Nguyen knew that. The river was meaningless and he slipped to 2.35M.

Just a couple of hands earlier, Nguyen appeared as though he was going to make his third final table of the 2007 WSOP. Instead he busted out in 11th place. When he missed his flush draw against Philip Hilm to get eliminated, Nguyen shook Hilm's hand and made a quick exit off the feature table. His diappeared for a while.

When Nguyen returned to the final table to tape his interview with ESPN. According to BJ Nemeth, after that was complete, Nguyen took the microphone and said...
"First, I want to congratulate all the players here, and I wish the best to all of you. But the most important thing is, I want to thank the fans. Without you guys, we wouldn't have Scotty Nguyen. We're disappointed, but let me tell you, you guys gave me all I need."

At this point, a woman screamed out, "We love you!"

Scotty continued:

"I want to thank ESPN, the Bluff, the whole crews, the whole staff, and everybody here. I wish I could give you more, but for 2007 [he pronounced it as "two-thousand-oh-oh-seven"], that's the end of me. I'll see you back here in 2008."
Flipchip told me he saw Scotty Nguyen leaving the Rio with a armed security guard and a plastic bag with bricks of cash. He won $476,926 for 11th place.

I heard a sad story about Scotty Nguyen, which probably is why he was totally crushed after busting out of the main event. When he won the WSOP in 1998, his brother back in Vietnam was so excited that he jumped on his moped and drove around their village telling everyone the good news. Sadly, his brother died in an accident when he was hit by a car. To this day, Nguyen lives with a tremendous burden of guilt. He honestly believes that he caused his brother's death by winning the WSOP. Had he not won, his brother never would have been riding around and would have averted that fatal accident.

The final table was set as the ten remaining players were consolidated to the feature table. They would play down to nine. Here's the final ten players:
Seat 1 - Raymond Rahme - 12.875 million
Seat 2 - Alex Kravchenko - 2.81 million
Seat 3 - Lee Childs - 18.05 million
Seat 4 - Jerry Yang - 6.13 million
Seat 5 - Lee Watkinson - 11.715 million
Seat 6 - Steven Garfinkle - 4.925 million
Seat 7 - Tuan Lam - 20.1 million
Seat 8 - Philip Hilm - 19.31 million
Seat 9 - Jon Kalmar - 20.2 million
Seat 10 - Hevad "Rain" Khan - 11.035 million
Hevad "Rain" Khan is one interesting dude. I first read about him on PokerStars Blog. Actually, what caught my eye were the deranged look on his face on multiple photos that were captured by Stars photographer Neil Stoddart. I heard rumors that Stars froze his account because they thought he was a bot. Why? Because he was playing 40 SNGs at once. He videotaped him doing that and sent a copy to Stars support. They quickly unfroze his account.

Rain Khan

Khan has been screaming a lot, almost always at the top of his lungs. On Day 4, he kept yelling, "Bulldozer!" as he ran over his table.

I caught one hand that might have been one of the biggest hands for Khan thus far in the WSOP. Jerry Yang limped and Hevad Khan raised 500K. Yang called. The flop was Ad-Ks-Qd. Yang checked. Khan counted out his chips and gently pushed out a 650K bet. Khan had been deliberate about how he bet the entire time. Most online players have a big flaw and that's how they handle their chips. Seasoned pros will pick up on the slightest variation on how you bet when you have a strong hand, a weak hand, a drawing hand, or a stone cold bluff.

Khan had been unusually quiet for most of Day 6. He sat in dead silence as Yang counted down his chips then announced a raise to 1.65M. Khan looked at Yang, then looked at the board, before he moved all in for 1.825M more. Yang stood up as Khan sat in silence looking down at his cards. He avoided eye contact and sat still holding his breath as Yang went into the tank for a few minutes and stared at Khan.

"Get a read yet?" shouted someone from the rail.

Yang sat down before he said that he'd call.

"I got two pair," said Khan as he flipped over Kc-Qs

Yang shook his head as he sheepishly turned over Ac-6c for just top pair. Then Khan unleashed his inner monster.

"Hold. Hold. Hold!" screamed Khan as the volume of his voice increased as Laurie the dealer burned and then dealt the 5d. Yang was praying to the poker gods for help as Khan prayed that he would avoid elimination and double up. The 8h fell on the river and Khan went berserk. He jumped up and down and ran over to his friends on the rail. He looked like a player at Lambeau Field who just scored a touch down and dove into the stands at the end of the endzone. Khan looked as though he was ready to dive into the spectators and start crowd surfing like Kurt Cobain at a Nirvana concert circa 1992. Khan jumped up and down several times before he returned to the table.

"Thank God!" he screamed as he looked into ESPN's camera. "I play this game to win, not to lose!"

That hand pushed Khan over the 7 million. After being card dead for most of the afternoon, Khan woke up. He made the final table and when his name was announced he stood up and let loose with a few spastic moves and loads of screaming.

"I bet that guy Rain is amazing in bed. I hope he doesn't live in an apartment," joked Tom Sexton.

Moving on...

It took 36 hands before Steven Garfinkle bubbled off the final table. He was busted by Ray Rahme in 10th place.

Here's the final table of the 2007 WSOP:
Seating Assignments:
Seat 1 - Raymond Rahme
Seat 2 - Alex Kravchenko
Seat 3 - Lee Childs
Seat 4 - Jerry Yang
Seat 5 - Lee Watkinson
Seat 6 - Tuan Lam
Seat 7 - Philip Hilm
Seat 8 - Jon Kalmar
Seat 9 - Hevad "Rain" Khan

Final Table Chip Counts:
Philip Hilm - 22,070,000
Tuan Lam - 21,315,000
Jon Kalmar - 20,320,000
Raymond Rahme - 16,320,000
Lee Childs - 13,240,000
Lee Watkinson - 9,9250,00
Hevad "Rain" Khan - 9,205,000
Jerry Yang - 8,450,000
Alex Kravchenko - 6,570,000

Final Table Payouts:
1 - $8,250,000
2 - $4,840,981
3 - $3,048,025
4 - $1,852,721
5 - $1,255,069
6 - $956,243
7 - $705,229
8 - $585,699
9 - $525,934

Day 6 Money Winners:
10 Steven Garfinkle $476,926
11 Scotty Nguyen $476,926
12 Ray Henson $476,926
13 William Spadea $429,114
14 David Tran $429,114
15 Bob Slezak $429,114
16 Kenny Tran $381,302
17 Kevin Farry $381,302
18 John Armbrust $381,302
19 Scott Freeman $333,490
20 Mikkel Madsen $333,490
21 Jason Welch $333,490
22 Stefan Mattsson $333,490
23 Bill Edler $333,490
24 Ryan Elson $333,490
25 Daniel Alaei $333,490
26 Roy Winston $333,490
27 Jeff Bryan $333,490
28 Paulo Loureiro $285,678
29 Ron Kluber $285,678
30 Jason Koshi $285,678
31 Peter Darvill $285,678
32 Kevin Kim $285,678
33 Christian Togsvard $285,678
34 Hoa Nguyen $285,678
35 Allan W. King $285,678
36 Robin Bergren $285,678
The chipleader is Philip Hilm with over 23M. BJ Nementh and I will be live blogging the final table for starting at Noon on Tuesday.

* * * * *

Bouncin Round the Room on Main Event Day 6...

The uber-drunk railbirds returned. They could really be heard after the final ten players were seated. The TD had to say something more than once. One guy let loose a few f-bombs. A few of them were cheering for Scotty even though he had busted out almost an hour earlier. Lightweights could not hold their liquor. EVentually, Nolan Dalla got sick of the drunk and 86'd him. A security guard escorted him from the Milwaukee's Best No Limit Lounge.

In the World Series of Online Poker Branding, Full Tilt edged out PokerStars. It was like 10-7 at last time I checked.

Rain Khan wore a PokerStars SuperNova shirt that looked a little tight. I think it shrunk. Hey Otis, hook the brother up with a new shirt!

I tried to throw a wadded up paper towel at Feldman from ESPN while he stood in the hallway and I nailed a security guard in the face by accident. He wasn't happy.

Otis finally won something at Lime Tossing. He almost nailed it in the trash. Alas, he still hit the garbage can and I lost $20.

Jesus was in media row hanging out, while Phil Gordon looked like he was doing prep work for his ESPN PPV final table broadcast.

There was a Johnny Chan sighting at one point. I wonder who he had a piece of.
Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next To...
1. Alex KGB Kravchenko
2. Kenny Tran
3. Chris Jesus Ferguson
4. Lee Watkinson
5. Scotty Nguyen
* * * * *

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.

And come back at the Tao of Poker for daily recaps and head over at PokerNews for live coverage and updates including chipcounts.

For all you fantasy sports junkies, check out our new site... Fantasy Sports Live.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

WSOP Day 44: Main Event Day 5

By Pauly

The temperatures in the Amazon Room vary from boiling hot to frigid. It fluctuates every twenty minutes and varies depending on where you are sitting or standing. It was freezing on Day 5 and I caught a cold. I got sick at he start of Day 5 and went home at the dinner break. I needed to rest up for Day 6 and the final table.

For the first time during the entire Main Event, I had to follow along with the live updates on I experienced the WSOP like most of you get to do. I finally had that perspective and it was both entertaining and interesting. I don't want to jinx our coverage, but so far it's been pretty good. I'm biased but I also know the difference between last year's coverage and what we've bee cranking out.

What you don't know is that there's a rotating group of 30 or more people who have been busting their asses during the main event. While no one is perfect and since you can't please everyone out there following along, I'm more than pleased with the effort and content. For the last two days, we're hoping to step it up even more. And the final table is going to be a ton of fun. It will be much easier than the 50K HORSE event and I'm looking forward to doing the color commentary while BJ does the play-by-play.

Of course that's not until Tuesday night. And there are 36 players left in the mix. On Sunday, we'll find out who the final tables will be. On Saturday, we sat and watched as the field thinned down from 112 to 36. The action started out fast. Thirty players busted out fairly quickly, then the eliminations slowed down to a trickle.

The plan was to play five levels or until 27 players remained, whichever came first. If there were more than 36 players left after five levels, action would not stop until there were 36 players. That ended up happening... and at 2am, Ayaz Mahmood busted out in 37th place. Day 5 was complete.

Maria Ho was the last female standing. She busted out in 38th place. I'm sure she'll get some ESPN face time. Her bustout hand ended up being shrouded in ugliness. Here's what Jonno wrote:

When Maria Ho busted, needless to say she was disappointed. To add insult to injury, Kevin Farry's supporters are two-deep on the rail and are extremely intoxicated. When the river card fell, they screamed *very* loudly and leant all the way over the ropes to high-five Farry.

The rail is very close to the table and Farry is in the 5 seat, however Maria is in the 4 seat and was unable to stand up due to the arms hanging over her head, holding her captive.

Scenes of joyous celebration are nothing new in poker, however what we just witnessed showed a total disregard for the player whose tournament life has just come to an end, and a complete lack of respect for the great game we all love.

Yeah it sucked that Ho had to sit right next to a bunch of drunk idiots. The last two days featured a ton of railbirds. For the first time during the main event, everyone had access. However, I also noticed that there were several people who were not just drunk... but shitfaced, shithoused, and downright sloppy.

The No Limit Lounge offered up free cans of Milwaukee's Beast on Friday night and everyone up there got shitfaced. A 90 year-old woman was two fisting Beast Lights for a while and even an ESPN camera man captured that on film. I hope that ESPN shows that clip.

Anyway, I assume that since it's the weekend, there were more drunks around than normal. It sucked having to sit at the media desk and have drunks pester you about stupid things. But to be playing for $8.25 million in cash and have to sit at a table and be harassed by drunks is something that I'd complain about if I was still in the tournament.

Several of the big names headed to the rail on Day 5 including Huck Seed, Gus Hansen, Humberto Brenes, Kirk Morrison, Chad Brown Julian Gardner, Cory Carroll, Isaac Haxton, and Brandon Adams. Former chipleaders Dag Martin Mikkelsen, Jeff "Mr. Rain" Banghart, and Dario Minieri failed to advance to Day 6.

Dario Bustarino

The biggest name who advanced to Day 6 was none other than Scotty Nguyen. He's had a fantastic WSOP with two final tables. He's looking to win his second world championship. He's towards the back of the pack but anything can happen on Day 6. Danny Alaei and Lee Watkinson are among the other big names still in the main event. 2007 WSOP bracelet winners Bill Edler and Alex Kravchenko are also alive and seeking their second bracelet on the WSOP.
Here's a list of the remaining 36 players with chipcounts:
David Tran 10,280,000
Philip Hilm 9,950,000
Ray Henson 8,250,000
Hevad "Rain" Khan 7,585,000
Kevin Farry 7,400,000
Scott Freeman 7,360,000
Lee Childs 6,520,000
Jerry Yang 5,090,000
Kenny Tran 4,955,000
William Spadea 4,575,000
Tuan Lam 3,600,000
Lee Watkinson 3,500,000
Stefan Mattsson 3,260,000
Raymond Rahme 3,100,000
Bill Edler 2,680,000
Ron Kluber 2,6750,00
Jon Kalmar 2,665,000
John Armbrust 2,600,000
Peter Darvill 2,430,000
Hoa Nguyen 2,205,000
Bob Slezak 2,115,000
Jason Welch 2,115,000
Steven Garfinkle 2,115,000
Jeff Bryan 2,100,000
Mikkel Madsen 2,080,000
Christian Togsverd 2,030,000
Daniel Alaei 1,995,800
Scotty Nguyen 1,960,000
Ryan Elson 1,785,000
Paulo Loureiro 1,645,000
Alex Kravchenko 1,555,000
Jason Koshi 1,175,000
Allan W. King 1,080,000
Roy Winston 1,071,000
Allan King 1,000,000
Kevin Kim 610,000
Robin Bergren 520,000

* * * * *

Quick Stats
Players Remaining: 36
Chipleader: David Tran

Day 5 Money Winners:
37 Ayaz Mahmood $237,865
38 Maria Ho $237,865
39 Rep Porter $237,865
40 Philip Yeh $237,865
41 Jeff Banghart $237,865
42 Dag Martin Mikkelsen $237,865
43 Avi Cohen $237,865
44 Senovio Ramirez III $237,865
45 Stig Tap Rasmussen $237,865

46 Reagan Silber $190,053
47 Nicolas Atlan $190,053
48 Markus Gonsalves $190,053
49 Adam White $190,053
50 Ken Smith $190,053
51 Lamar Wilkinson $190,053
52 Tom Peterson $190,053
53 Mickey Seagle $190,053
54 Richard Harris $190,053

55 Paul Kershaw $154,194
56 Kirk Morrison $154,194
57 Hyon Kim $154,194
58 Naseem Salem $154,194
59 Floyd Clark $154,194
60 John Spadavecchia $154,194
61 Gus Hansen $154,194
62 Jeff Tunkel $154,194
63 Matt Keikoan $154,194

64 Julian Gardner $130,288
65 Bjorn-Erik Glenne $130,288
66 Ryan Lawrence $130,288
67 Diego Cordovez $130,288
68 Dennis Perry $130,288
69 Brandon Adams $130,288
70 Warren Karp $130,288
71 Ed de Haas $130,288
72 Billy Willis $130,288

73 Huckleberry Seed $106,382
74 Rich Murnick $106,382
75 Leonard Pruzansky $106,382
76 Josh Evans $106,382
77 Willie Tann $106,382
78 David Names $106,382
79 Tommy Le $106,382
80 Sven Niklas Heinecker $106,382
81 Thierry van den Berg $106,382

82 Francis Cagney $82,476
83 Humberto Brenes $82,476
84 Mark Ellerbe $82,476
85 David Wells $82,476
86 Justin Sadauskas $82,476
87 Jeffrey Weiss $82,476
88 Jared Hamby $82,476
89 John Bird $82,476
90 Francois Safieddine $82,476

91 Cory Carroll $67,535
92 Charis Anastasiou $67,535
93 Michael Zinna $67,535
94 Isaac Haxton $67,535
95 Kelly Jo McGlothin $67,535
96 Dario Minieri $67,535
97 Chad Brown $67,535
98 Alan Levin $67,535
99 Joe Shield $67,535

100 Cody Slaubaugh $58,570
101 Pete de Best $58,570
102 Alan Keating $58,570
103 Brian Tracy $58,570
104 Richard Crowell $58,570
105 Zhuang Han $58,570
106 Travis Belles $58,570
107 Jimmy Blevins $58,570
108 Paul Spitzberg $58,570
109 Christopher Lovelace $58,570
110 Andreas Krause $58,570
111 Andrew Gunderson $58,570
112 Thomas Koo $58,570
I'll post official end of Day 5 chip counts as soon as I have access to that data.

I wish I could write more, but the Nyquil has kicked in and I'm feeling a little loopy. Best to head off to sleep and wake up in the morning to add more to this post. And hey, you never know... I might be doing some random "semi-live" updates from the floor of the Rio on Day 6.

* * * * *

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.

And come back at the Tao of Poker for daily recaps and head over at PokerNews for live coverage and updates including chipcounts.

For all you fantasy sports junkies, check out our new site... Fantasy Sports Live.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

WSOP Day 43: Main Event Day 4 - Dealing for Dario

By Pauly

One of my favorite scenes from Goodfellas is the Copacabana tracking shot that starts from the street from the point of view of Karen's character as she's taken inside the famous club to the back entrance through the kitchen, past tight spaces and winding corridors and eventually at a private table to the front of the stage. Very few directors could pull off a long tracking shot like Scorsese.

There are instances where I get that same feel in Goodfellas when I embark on a similar route from the emergency exit from the media room. I sneak out into the service corridors. I don't know if I should be back there, but I haven't been caught in two years. Wil and I discovered them last year and it was an amazing short cut to the floor and to the bathrooms since we avoid the crowded and congested hallways in front of the Amazon Ballroom and in front of the poker kitchen and the media room. I've also called that spot in front of the poker kitchen... Bad Beat Alley. I've never heard so many bad beat stories as I have in that spot.

Anyway... as soon as you step into the back corridor, you see a couple of huge refrigerators, bins of ice, and plenty of shelves with condiments, shiny coffee pots, stacks and stacks of Diet Pepsi, and several cases of energy drinks. There are caged steel shelves with boxes of apples and oranges and crates filled with bananas and potato chips. A separate steel shelving unit holds hundreds of pieces of linen and table clothes for the various banquets rooms. If I took a banana would anyone notice?

As I pass the sparsely populated dealers room, I almost always trip on three large jugs of water sit on the ground along with scattered empty coffee cups and a copy of Poker Player Newspaper. There's also a TV set, broken lights, and even a plate of half-eaten buffalo chicken wings sitting on the edge of a chair. After I turn the corner and pass the Bluff Production room, I have to squeeze by a few large wooden crates before I reach ESPN's area. The hallways by their control is cluttered with various equipment boxes, right next to chairs that are stacked twenty high next to several ladders that are locked up. I guess people steal ladders more than anything in the service corridors. That's the only thing locked down.

I don't see too many people walking around back there. Perhaps the occasional dealer with a cushion tucked under their arm rushing back from a break or a guy in a black Rio shirt picking up the garbage. I've seen Norm Chad roam the corridors at random times and he's never said hello once to me so I always snub him back. I say, "What's up Lon?" from time to time just to tilt him. Lon on the other hand is always cheerful and I've seen more of him at the 2007 WSOP more than the last two years combined.

There's the graveyard for broken and wobbly chairs along with poker tables with limp legs and large spills on their felt, and a few comfortable dealer's chairs that I'd sit in to make phone calls. Sometimes I'd sneak into the hallways to write for ten minutes to avoid the insanity of the floor.

The hallways would be perfect to shoot scenes from any Aaron Sorkin drama or a PT Anderson long tracking shot with long and narrow walkways with high ceilings and random shit all over the place with plenty of random doorways and unexpected confrontations with angry cameramen, overworked floor supervisors, or half-baked media reps.

When I finally reach the doors that leads into the Amazon Ballroom underneath Puggy Pearson's portrait, I take a deep breath. Then I jump into the tumultuous waters. The sounds hit you in the face. The chip clattering nearly pierce my eardrums as the corner of the room was jam packed with media and spectators.

Day 4 was one of the busiest since it was one of the most important. The field started with 337 players after a full day of poker, a little more than a hundred would remain. We're getting closer and closer to the final table and the group of notable players gets thinner and thinner. The short stacks are trying to hold on long enough until the next money jump or looking to double up to stay alive. The medium stacks are trying to not make any stupid mistakes and slip under the average stack or some of them are seeking edges that will propel them to the front of the pack. And the big stacks are worried about conservatively maintaining their lead while some are throwing their weight around bullying the table as their stacks get bigger and bigger. And some wait for that one knockout punch where they double up against an overzealous big stack and take over the chiplead.

By this time in 2005, Greg Raymer became the first player past the 1M mark. Matusow would jump to 1.4M with under 100 players to go.

Last year with about 135 players left, at the 2006 WSOP Jamie Gold was the chipleader with 3.7M and led by over 1.4 million.

At the 2007 WSOP, there is no clear cut leader. When things started to matter the most, Gus Hansen ended Day 2 as the chipleader and failed to hold onto it. Dario Minieri snagged the chiplead on Day 3 and he also failed to protect it. Day 4's chipleader was Dag Martin Mikkelsen from Norway. We'll see if he can hold onto it as the field goes from 112 to the final 27 or 36.

Random Scandi chipleader - Dag Martin Mikkelsen
(Photo courtesy of Flipchip)

In my last post, I suggested that a Scandi would take over the chiplead late on Day 4. Nice catch, eh? Just after dinner break, Norwegian Dag Martin Mikkelsen jumped past the 3M mark after he took down a mosterpotten with a flopped straight. His opponent Jeff Weiss flopped second pair and a flush draw... and missed.

When Day 4 ended there were two ladies left in the field.... Mario Ho and Kelly Jo McGlothlin. There were also two previous world champions remaining. Scotty Nguyen and Huckleberry Seed were trying to win their second championships. Berry Johnston busted out on the last hand of the night. Just before dinner break, Carlos Mortensen and Robert Varkonyi also headed to the rail as their attempt to repeat came to an abrupt ending. Hey, at least Varkonyi cashed and got that monkey off his back or in poker terms... get that hook out of his mouth.

And don't forget about Porsche Boy. Dario Minieri went to the ESPN feature table with the chiplead and his Harry Potter scarf. He bled chips away with hyper-aggressive play. He slowly built his stack back up when he was moved out onto the floor. He was constantly getting a massage as most of the media kept their eyes on his table. Tao of Poker reader and Las Vegas pro Mark Muchnik was on his table for most of the day. Muchnik would bust out in 147th place. He had a pretty good WSOP and missed out on winning his first bracelet when he took second in a preliminary event.

Dario Minieri is an interesting example the struggle between rival online poker sites and the ambush marketing strategies that they employ. As long as I've been in the business, PokerStars and FullTilt have been fighting for players while Party Poker sits on the sidelines. Aside from Mike Sexton, there's really not any other pros attached to their site. As one of the official sponsors of the WSOP, they get enough exposure, but the two big dogs are constantly wrestling over the same players. At the same time other sites are getting into the mix going for the second or third rate players.

At this stage of the tournament with about ten or eleven tables left, the marketing folks strategically try to pick the guys that they think will go deep or get camera time. In the past, once a player was affiliated with one site, they were unofficially off bounds. That changed at the 2005 WSOP when Full Tilt made a last second deal with Noah Boeken and Marcel Luske. They were scheduled to play on the ESPN feature table and FT was able to get them to wear their hats and shirts for a wad of cash. That irked the suits at PokerStars and rightly so. Boeken had qualified for the main event through Stars and had been wearing their gear for the entire WSOP.

Dario got the friggin Porsche after he cashed in 3 million FPP points from PokerStars. And yet FullTilt reps were lurking the hallways and wooing his friends and translator. For a brief moment, Dario wore a Full Tilt patch on Day 4. He felt conflicted due to his relationship with PokerStars and took it off. Marco Traniello gave him the FT patch. Not only is Traniello a fellow Italian, he's friends with the Italian Pirate Max Pescatori (a FT player) and Traniello is married to Jen Harman one of the members of Team Full Tilt. Since Dario Minieri was also Italian, the Italian pros were sweating him hard to join the FT stable. Sweet sweet Dario became the latest pawn in the never ending battle for the quest of online poker dominance.

Dario sporting a FT patch

Ambush marketing among online poker sites has become a multi-million dollar a year business. I knew one woman who worked for an online poker site last year. She had two gym bags. One was filled with cash. The other was filled with hats and t-shirts. Her job was to find out who made TV tables and buy them off. Unknowns were worth $10-20K while well named pros went for $40K and up. During the later stages of the main event, the price tags go up.

With unscrupulous second rate poker agents corrupting the scene as well, things are even uglier. They're jacking up the prices and gobbling up dozens of the remaining 100 players promising them to hook them up with sweet endorsement deals. Some naive amateurs and inexperienced pros often get fucked over twice ... by shady agents signing them up to crappy deals with third rate online rooms that only insomniacs in Iceland play on.

Whoever gets Dario to wear their stuff on Saturday will be hoping that Dario survives another day and not repeat last year's performance when he donked off his big stack.

Moving on...

How about some numbers?
Players Remaining: 112
Chipleader: Dag Martin Mikkelson

Players who might have heard of that advanced to Day 5... Bill Edler, Lee Watkinson, Julian Gardner, Gus Hansen, Huckleberry Seed, Dario Minieri, Jeff "Mr. Rain" Banghart, Kirk Morrison, Humberto Brenes, Scotty Nguyen, Warren Karp, Daniel Alaei, Chad Brown, and Brandon Adams.

Players that you might have not heard of who advanced to Day 5... Alex Kravchenko, Rep Porter, John Spadavecchia, Matt Keikoan, Cory Carroll, Willie Tann, Philip Hilm, Maria Ho, Kenny Tran, Isaac Haxton, Francois Safieddine, Ayaz Mahmood, Jared "WacoKidd" Hamby, Mickey Seagle, and Andreas Krause.

Notable bustouts on Day 4... Berry Johnston, David Levi, Peter "Nordberg" Feldman, Neal "Bad Beat" Channing, Billy Baxter, Thor Hansen, Mark Muchnik, Mathew Brady, Nick Binger, Donnacha O'Dea, Robert Varkonyi, Donna Blevins, Hal Lubarsky, Sorel Mizzi, Matthew Hilger, Jason Lester, Amanda Baker, Gary Benson, Tobey Maguire, Carl Olson, Mimi Tran, Hans "Tuna" Lund, Darrell "Gigabet" Dicken, and Hasan Habib.

Day 4 Money Winners:
113 Berry Johnston $58,570
114 Edward Betlow $58,570
115 Bart Hanson $58,570
116 Zackary Clark $58,570
117 Justin King $58,570
118 Matt Stout $58,570
119 Jonathan Moonves $58,570
120 Ang Pang Leng $58,570
121 David Levi $58,570
122 Sylvester Geoghegan $58,570
123 Rajesh Verma $58,570
124 Andrew Barnes $58,570
125 James Williams $58,570
126 Kenneth Evanowski $58,570
127 James Kasputis $58,570
128 Patrick Huse $58,570
129 Tim Begley $58,570
130 Claude Cohen $58,570
131 Neil Channing $58,570
132 Vadim Trincher $58,570
133 Peter "Nordberg" Feldman $58,570
134 Thor Hansen $58,570
135 Bryan Swanson $58,570
136 Billy Baxter $58,570
137 Robert Lauria $58,570
138 Wolbert Bartlema $58,570
139 Greg Huffman $58,570
140 Jay Benjamin Franklin $58,570
141 Michael Mills $58,570
142 Samuel Cadget $58,570
143 Phillip Liow $58,570
144 Martin Miller $58,570
145 Adam Weiss $58,570
146 Robert Nehorayan $58,570
147 Mark Muchnik $58,570
148 Alin Rapoport $58,570
149 Justin Rollo $58,570
150 Imran Ahmad $58,570
151 Karim Vegas $58,570
152 Mark Weitzman $58,570
153 Marco Mills $58,570
154 Brent Catalano $58,570
155 Bo Sehlstedt $58,570
156 Benjamin Lamb $58,570
157 Daniel Elizondo $58,570
158 Sean Boles $58,570
159 Mathew Brady $58,570
160 John Dutchak $58,570
161 Man Montgomery $58,570
162 Mark Kim $58,570

163 Tristan Wade $51,398
164 Gonzalo Flores $51,398
165 Nick Binger $51,398
166 Clint Schafer $51,398
167 James McCrink $51,398
168 Joseph Brandenberg $51,398
169 Kenny Rundh $51,398
170 Fernando Reyes $51,398
171 Donnacha O'Dea $51,398
172 Clifford Pappas $51,398
173 Yuval Friedman $51,398
174 Brett Kimes $51,398
175 Terry Kane $51,398
176 Deborah Blair $51,398
177 Robert Varkonyi $51,398
178 John Parker $51,398
179 Donna Blevins $51,398
180 Alex Michaels $51,398
181 Joe Pharo $51,398
182 Henry Ma $51,398
183 Priyan Demel $51,398
184 Randal McLoughlin $51,398
185 Sven Abelsson $51,398
186 Jonathan Campbell $51,398
187 James Lucas $51,398
188 Michael Souza $51,398
189 Michael Laing $51,398
190 Alen Patatanyan $51,398
191 Robert Damiano $51,398
192 Richard Klein $51,398
193 David Cowan $51,398
194 Robert Starkey $51,398
195 Laughlin McKinnon $51,398
196 Conor Tate $51,398
197 Hal Lubarsky $51,398
198 Trey O'Brien $51,398
199 Christopher Overgard $51,398
200 Randall Holland $51,398
201 Karlo Lopez $51,398
202 Phivan Tran $51,398
203 Jason Sell $51,398
204 Kenneth Lawrence $51,398
205 Esfandiar Dara $51,398
206 Karga Holt $51,398
207 Matthew Olim $51,398
208 Sorel Mizzi $51,398
209 Adam Noone $51,398
210 Oyenson Benoit $51,398
211 Gary Friedlander $51,398
212 Tristan McDonald $51,398
213 Bobby Poole $51,398
214 Evan Marshall $51,398
215 Alexander Dietrich $51,398
216 Justin Sellers $51,398
217 Carlos Mortensen $51,398
218 Stephen Austin $51,398
219 Richard Weisman $51,398
220 Stephen Ma $51,398
221 Matthew Hilger $51,398
222 Antonio Arce $51,398
223 Tinten Olivier $51,398
224 Frank Schram $51,398
225 Kenneth Stead $51,398

226 Jason Heidema $45,422
227 Jose Padillo $45,422
228 Steven Lynch $45,422
229 Steven Jacobs $45,422
230 Jason Lester $45,422
231 Sebastian Zink $45,422
232 Theodore Park $45,422
233 Matt Cohen $45,422
234 Jeffrey Dambrosia $45,422
235 Steven Guiberson $45,422
236 Terris Preston $45,422
237 Sully Erna $45,422
238 Matthew Sterling $45,422
239 Richard Munro $45,422
240 Mao Qui $45,422
241 Cyrus Farzad $45,422
242 Roy Vanderswis $45,422
243 Timothy Debenport $45,422
244 Moritz Hopfner $45,422
245 Takashi Takil $45,422
246 Rami Bookai $45,422
247 Guang Lu $45,422
248 Daniel Quach $45,422
249 Brad Mills $45,422
250 Michael Yoshino $45,422
251 Kristian Obbarius $45,422
252 Noah Schwartz $45,422
253 Amanda Baker $45,422
254 Toc Helness $45,422
255 Elie Said $45,422
256 Brian Miller $45,422
257 Keith Ogren $45,422
258 Roger Tichenor $45,422
259 Thomas Barnard $45,422
260 Christopher Lines $45,422
261 Sang Kim $45,422
262 Rodney Knight $45,422
263 Bryan Curtis $45,422
264 Zachary King $45,422
265 Dorman Atchison $45,422
266 Randall Jacobson $45,422
267 Albert Riccobono $45,422
268 John Matwey $45,422
269 Ketul Nathwani $45,422
270 Qing Sun $45,422
271 Kit Mander $45,422
272 Jacques Arama $45,422
273 Gustav Ludholm $45,422
274 Douglas Gehring $45,422
275 David O'Neil $45,422
276 Stephen Crockett $45,422
277 Ut Nguyen $45,422
278 Gregory Owen $45,422
279 Kenneth Gacek $45,422
280 Jason Mellross $45,422
281 Daniel Melan $45,422
282 Craig Edwards $45,422
283 Gary Benson $45,422
284 Wayne Johnson $45,422
285 Laurence Hughes $45,422
286 Daniel Smith $45,422
287 Jason Peed $45,422
288 Mark Sanchez $45,422

289 Alex Melnikow $39,445
290 Mitch Garshofsky $39,445
291 Suk Sung $39,445
292 Tobey Maguire $39,445
293 Kevin Howatt $39,445
294 Petri Pollanen $39,445
295 Stephen O'Dwyer $39,445
296 Christoph Stiehler $39,445
297 William Wood $39,445
298 Robert Preston $39,445
299 Ira Mazie $39,445
300 David Terry $39,445
301 Jim Geary $39,445
302 Sean Walter $39,445
303 Roy Thung $39,445
304 Carl Olson $39,445
305 Ryan McLean $39,445
306 Christopher Viox $39,445
307 Alfred Merabyan $39,445
308 Derek Thorpe $39,445
309 Kenneth Weiner $39,445
310 Scott Mayfield $39,445
311 David Smart $39,445
312 Nasser Hamedani $39,445
313 Lewis Pilkington $39,445
314 Veronica Dabol $39,445
315 Vinod Jadav $39,445
316 Sverre Sundro $39,445
317 Mimi Tran $39,445
318 Jason Glass $39,445
319 Hans Lund $39,445
320 Steven Miranda $39,445
321 David Flusfeder $39,445
322 Nicholas Botta $39,445
323 Darrell Dicken $39,445
324 Abdul Fadeyi $39,445
325 Matthew Shepsky $39,445
326 Patrice McLean $39,445
327 Arthur Cole $39,445
328 Hasan Habib $39,445
329 Samuel Simon $39,445
330 Steven Dargenio $39,445
331 Kenny Dickenson $39,445
332 John Eckerd $39,445
333 Salatore Passariello $39,445
334 Peter Hill $39,445
335 Eddit Stutts $39,445
336 Daniel Schleben $39,445
337 Steven Prentky $39,445
* * * * *

Bouncin Round the Room on Main Event Day 4...

Otis and I have had a tradition where we drink a beer at the start of the last level on the night. In Monte Carlo, we'd retreat to the bar overlooking the Mediterranean and wait up to ten minutes to be recognized by surly French waiters. We've been doing that this year and engaging in high stakes Lime Toss at the same time. Over at Pokerati, Michalski wrote up his experiences watching us gamble on Lime Tossing and also posted photos. He wrote... "As mentioned before, there's so much action going on a dwindling number of tables that it's hard to keep up with it all. But that doesn't stop Pauly and Otis from sneaking away for a little lime tossing."

I was busy writing up a couple of hands when a spectator wandered over to the media desk in a specific area he was not supposed to be in. Here's a snippet of our conversation.
Spectator: Is Doyle Brunson here?
Pauly: He busted out on Day 1
Spectator: So is he playing today?
Pauly: No, he was eliminated,
Spectator: Is Phil Hellmuth here?
Pauly: He also busted out on Day 1.
Spectator: Can you tell me what table he's playing today?
Pauly: (frustrated at all the stupid question) he's playing on Table 166.

FYI... Table 166 is an empty table in the cash game area
At 2:01am, Michalski sent me a text..."When we are done with poker, wanna go blog from Iraq?" Flipchip said the same thing a few months ago. Could be interesting. I heard Flipchip is a good shot and has excellent survival skills after surviving the jungles of Vietnam. Since Michalski is from Texas, he's heavily armed at all times. Before I got into poker, I was seeking jobs as a war correspondent. At some point, I'd like to cover a war and the Olympics. Oh and those elephant polo matches in Sri Lanka. I heard the side action on those games get out of hand. My buddy Senor won like 80 million rupees on one match alone. That's worth like $4 US, but that's enough to get you a handjob from a couple of local hookers.

Of course, the Vegas working girls are at the start of their slow season. They have been trickling down to the WSOP hallways and at the hooker bar aggressively seeking clients who just cashed in the WSOP main event and are looking for some bad beat therapy. After seeing some of the tabs that poker players run up with the massage therapists during the WSOP, I wonder how much some of those high rollers spend on hookers per month?
Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next To...
1. Humberto Brenes
2. Willie Tann
3. Mickey "Mouse" Mills
4. Huck Seed
5. Chad Brown
* * * * *

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.

And come back at the Tao of Poker for daily recaps and head over at PokerNews for live coverage and updates including chipcounts.

For all you fantasy sports junkies, check out our new site... Fantasy Sports Live.

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