Saturday, June 21, 2008

WSOP Day 22: Layne Flack Six Pack and the Luckiest Man

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

After winning consecutive bracelets in 2002, Layne Flack picked up the moniker "Back-to-Back Flack" and was dubbed the next big thing in poker. In 2003, Flack won two more bracelets for a total of five. That was more than Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu. Flack had the poker world by the balls and then lost his grip.

When you fall in Las Vegas, you fall hard. Eventually the perilous demons had Flack by the balls and his world spun out of control.

Since the end of the 2005 WSOP, Layne Flack earned $111,737 in tournament winnings. The one time WPT champion and five-time bracelet winner was dropped as Full Tilt pro somewhere along the way during his spiraling descent into Hades. I don't have to cut a paste a blurb from Wikipedia to tell you that Flack liked to party. Hard. Like Keith Richards and Keith Moon.

You've heard the story before. The classic rise and fall of the hero. Regular every day poker dealer from Montana heads to Las Vegas to try to make it as a pro. He quickly succeeds and gets caught up in a whirlwind of threesome of drugs, sex, and rock and roll. He loses his friends, family, and the love of his life before he crashes hard and hits rock bottom before he finds salvation and then attempts a comeback.

Will Flack stay on course and fulfill the destiny that so many poker pundits laid out before him? Or will he revert back to his old self and plunge deep into the Dionysian lifestyle which Las Vegas caters to 24 hours a day?

Anyone can get up on a soapbox and judge get on someone for being a drunk or a druggie. Unless you've been there you really don't know how much easier it is to give in to temptation than to make a stand and wrestle with those intoxicating demons. Everyone has a weakness. Puggy Pearson told Flipchip that "Every man has a leak." And if you are a vulnerable person living in a city like Las Vegas, it's only a matter of time before you self-destruct. Implode. Lose your mud. Dive into the abyss.

I have walked in the valley of the shadow of death many times. It's hell on Earth. I see thousands of people rush in every day, yet only a handful actually walk out alive.

After winning his first tournament in five years, it looks like Layne Flack took his first step out of the darkness and into the light.

Flack had a decent run at the 2005 WSOP and made two final tables including a second and fourth place finish. Flack was at the histroic final table when Doyle Brunson won his 10th bracelet in a shorthanded NL event. I sat in the front row covering that final table which also included Scotty Nguyen and Jason Lester.

At one point during one of the TV breaks, everyone left the stage with the exception of Flack and Brunson. The two played heads up Chinese Poker for $100 a point for the duration of the break. Of course that was Doyle Brunson's night and he was the eventual winner. Brunson got the glory as Flack headed to the rail in fourth place. Little did Flack know that he'd get shut out of a WSOP final table for another three years.

Flack finally had his opportunity in Event #34 $1,500 PLO with Rebuys and made the best of it as he won his 6th bracelet. Flack didn't have an easy table either. Tim "TMay420" West is one of the premiere online players in the world. Dario Alioto won his first bracelet in PLO at the WSOP-Europe in London last September. Jacobo Fernandez has been on a tear at the WSOP this summer with five cashes and three final table appearances.

And don't forget about Ted Forrest. He has been on a mission this summer and made a $1 million bet with Phil Ivey that he'd win a bracelet this year before Ivey did. Forrest made one final table already this year in Omaha 8, but he bowed out in second place. He was not happy about his performance and barked at a friend the next day when he was asked about the outcome.

"Yeah, I came in fuckin' second," shot back Forrest.

The pressure was on for the Suicide King. Pride. Bracelets. Prop bets. Forrest failed in his quest for his sixth bracelet and finished in 5th place. And when Alioto busted out in 4th, it was a matter of time before Flack slapped his six bracelet across his wrist.

Flack is tied with Jay Heimowitz, Men the Cheater, and T.J. Cloutier with six bracelets apiece. Only Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Moss, Erik Seidel, and Billy Baxter have more bracelets than Flack.

Yeah, six legendary figures in poker have more bracelets than Flack. So what's that say about Flack's ability?

When Flack is sober and focused, he's one of the best players in the world. It's his decisions away from the felt which cost him a bracelet or two or three.

Is Flack back from the dead?

I don't know Flack and never partied with him, but I heard plenty of notorious stories. The guy has an unquenchable thirst for life and there were times over the last three or four years when I saw him at different spots on the circuit and he looked like he's been up for three-straight days on a blitzkrieg of a bender.

Hopefully, Flack made peace with his demons and can concentrate solely on poker. If he does, he's a definite lock for ten bracelets.

And if Flack fails? Then in five years he gets grouped together with the rest of the deadbeats, freaks, junkies, has-beens, and never will-bes. Flack will be the butt of everyone's jokes and roaming the hallways jacked up out of his mind looking for sympathetic friends to buy him into events.

Wasted talent. The Rio is filled with guys who could have been the next big thing but faltered along the way. The road to excess is cluttered with the Layne Flacks of the world. It's entirely up to him to choose the proper path back to absolution, otherwise he's just making a momentary pit stop before he speeds off down the highway to hell.

* * * * *

People say I'm the luckiest man.

That's a lyric from a Wood Brothers song called Luckiest Man. Never knew how much it applied to me until 3:02pm on Friday. When you walk away from a car wreck without a scratch, the desire to gamble away money evaporates into the harsh desert air.

Thanks to everyone for their kind words and good vibes. I'm the luckiest man because of you guys and gals. For that, I'm eternally grateful.

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

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