Monday, June 23, 2008

WSOP Day 24: Belgium Bracelets and Spanish Sundays

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Quiet day... until the pharmies kicked in.

Several people used "quiet day" to describe a mellow Sunday at the World Series of Poker. There were only four events running instead of six and only one final table. The weekend warriors flew back home as several pros took the day off to relax before the HORSE event on Wednesday. The vibe in the Amazon Room was mellow and everyone seemed to be on autopilot. The day was so bland that I almost pulled a trick out of Hemingway's play book wrote about the weather.

"How could you not be bored?" asked Bond18 who wandered up to the press box a couple of times.

Boredom is the hobgoblin that gets me into the most trouble. When I'm bored in Vegas, I head to the nearest sports book where I can do some real damage.

I was on a head full of pharmies. Watson 368. I know them well. Too well. Some of you do too. Yeah, I'm talking to you closest pill-poppers, which I have a feeling makes up about 82% of my readership. It takes a junkie to know a junkie. After all, America is a nation of pill-popping used car salesmen. And if you ain't popping pills, you're dangling death sticks between your lips, or swallowing poisonous cups of coffee, or donking off your last paycheck at the tables.

The Watson 368s have been dissolving throughout my bloodstream for several straight days. They help numb the pain so I can function. I headed over to the sports book to watch the European Championships. Spain and Italy played for a spot in the semi-finals. I had several bets on Spain (to win the game and a hedge to win it all) and eagerly sweated the action like the deviant junkie that I am. The sports book was standing room only and I didn't have enough room to pace around, so I wandered over to the Hooker Bar where I watched the end of the second half. It was also super crowded ironically with more soccer fans than hookers.

Although Spain was the favorite, Italy played them tough and the match was tied at the end of regulation. The final result would be decided in a dramatic shootout. Italy won the World Cup against France in 2006 on penalty kicks but fell short on Sunday. Spain won and my bet hit.

I barreled through the crowded casino on a mission. I weaved past the zombies anchored to the slot machines, and ran by the muppets at the craps tables, and rushed by the slow-moving tourists. I was nearly out of breath when I arrived at the window to cash my ticket. Nothing is sweeter in Las Vegas than cashing a winning sports bet ticket. It's a natural high especially after getting jacked up on adrenaline while sweating the results.

Of course, the enablers at the cage asked me if I wanted to let my winnings ride. I pondered a couple of bets before I came to my senses and I opted for the cash.

Fuck you, bitch. Pay me.

With Spain's victory, the final four for the European Championships is set. Spain plays Russia and Germany takes on Turkey. Russia and Turkey knocked off the two favorites (Holland and Croatia) going into the quarter finals.

I turned into a soccer freak only because I figured out how to bet on it. Soccer was utterly meaningless to me until I bet on it and thereby gave it some sort of significance. I have been betting heavily on something I have very little knowledge about... and winning. Sounds like the story of my poker life.

I barely knew soccer existed. Here's proof... I can only tell you the names of three players; Pele, Mia Hamm, and David Beckham.

Everything I know about soccer, I learned from Hollyweird. One of my favorite flicks as a kid was Victory! starring Michael Caine, Pele, and Sly Stallone as the goalie. And one of my favorite flicks as an adult is Bend It Like Beckham because I often fantasize about the nimble Keira Knightly frolicking around with other teenaged girls.

Once the Spain/Italy match was over, I reluctantly shuffled back to the convention area. I was bummed that I had to return to work. I had so much fun watching soccer than I wanted to avoid the lackluster excitement in the Amazon Room.

The 5pm Mixed Hold'em event attracted a decent sized-field compared to the star-studded field in the Triple Draw event which in turn attracted all the slack-jawed railbirds. Several pros busted out of Triple Draw and quickly bought into the Mixed Hold'em event. And the ones that didn't play, probably went home to play online.

Benjo told me an interesting story about David Benyamine. Instead of going out to celebrate his bracelet victory on Saturday night, Degenyamine went directly to the Bellagio where he sat in Bobby's Room and played in a big cash game. And the very next day at noon, Benyamine was back to the Rio to play in the Triple Draw event. He even signed up to play in the 5pm event. When Triple Draw went on a ninety minute dinner break, Benaymine headed over to his Mixed Hold'em table and played his stack there.

I was punchy and floated around about a foot off the ground for most of the day. There were moments when I was a puddle and just mush. The lights above the tables had a groovy aura around them. I could have stared at the light for four straight hours and that would have been more interesting that watching the restart of the donkament stuffed with a couple hundred unknowns in the Brasilia Room.

I lurked around the final table for a bit which was being aired on ESPN360. I sat in the crowd in the David Kitai fan section which included several French and Belgium pros. I covered Kitai in Spain when he took 11th place at the EPT Barcelona. His only other significant poker accomplishment was a 404th place finish in last year's Main Event, but he was on the verge of making history. Only Chris Bell stood in his way.

Kitai is a sponsored player for Winamax, a French online poker site that Benjo works for. He had to cover Kitai's run at the final table and sat with his friends who were sweating Kitai.

Benjo was on a natural high from the Benyamine's victory from the night before.

"Well, now you have to remember what was my answer when you asked 'Who do you think is the best French player in the world?'," said Benjo.

On Day 7, in the Tao of Five interview, Benjo said that David Benyamine was the best French player. Period. Benyamine backed up Benjo's statement by cashing in four different types of games (O8, Stud 8, Deuce-to-Seven, and PLO). He also made three final tables, finished in 10th place in another event, and won a bracelet in Event #37.

"I do this job for moments like that," explained Benjo. "Pure emotion. Overwhelming. I've been fortunate to feel this kind of emotion three times this season... Arnaud Mattern in Prague, ElkY in the Bahamas, and now Benyamine in Vegas. Just wow. What a great day."

And he said that to me before Kitai made a run at the final table and got heads up with Chris Bell, a seasoned pro from North Carolina, who already made one final table earlier this year.

The French guys were having fun so I joined them in the audience. They were all knocking back beers and having a good time supporting Kitai.

"Allez! Allez!" they'd shout in between sips of room-temperature Milwaukee's Beast from the can.

At the time Bell held a sizable advantage, but Kitai battled back to take the lead. Bell had some famous railbirds, but they were preoccupied playing Chinese Poker in the second row of the stands. That group included Nordberg, Michael Gracz, and Layne Flack. When Gavin Smith and Chris Fargis busted out of Triple Draw, they started up a second game. Erick Lindgren stopped by during his dinner break. Bell was one of Lindgren's horses and he was just checking up on his investment.

Chinese Poker on the rail...
Photo credit: Flipchip

The heads up battle lasted over 187 hands and almost five and half hours in length. On one side of the stage, Kitai's merry Frenchmen drank and joked around while on the other side, Bell's buddies were too busy gambling. Ah, I love the contrast in cultures.

When it was all over, David Kitai won the bracelet. He made history by becoming the first WSOP bracelet from Belgium. With his $244,546 payday, Kitai moved into second on the All Time Belgium money list.

David Kitai also became the third consecutive European player to win a bracelet. He's the fourth European bracelet winner in the last six final tables. Since Event #22, Europeans have won nine bracelets in total, and five bracelets in the last ten events. The 2008 WSOP started out as the "Year of the Pro" but the Europeans have made a legitimate run over the last two weeks.

* * * * *

The best part about my assignment this year is that I can write whatever I want on Tao of Poker. I'm the warden, the guards, and the criminal all rolled up into one. So I have no one telling me that I can't write about the wasted guy in the bathroom who stumbled out of the stall after blowing rails of coke. He furiously rubbed his nose and asked me for the time.

"1:30," I said.

"What day is it?"

"Monday morning. It's 1:30am."

"Shit. I missed my flight."

He ran out of the bathroom and I never saw him again.

A few hours earlier a drunken Mark Vos stumbled into the bathroom wearing his shades. A Rio security guard stood next to him and he began taunting the guy.

"If I pee on you, will you shoot me?"

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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