Sunday, May 24, 2009

The 2008 WSOP Review

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Here's an index of every daily recaps from the 2008 WSOP.
Day 1: Welcome Back to the Zoo... The 2008 WSOP has reached the pinnacle of greed and poker has become another casualty of the capitalistic mutation of all things cool in the world. If something is cool and deemed cool by the people participating in it, it's just a matter of time before the misanthropes swoop in and ruin everything pure about the game.

Day 2: 4,000 Donkeys to the Rescue?... There's the housing crisis and mortgage fiasco that has infected the Las Vegas valley. Several major construction projects have been delayed due to financing issues, such as Trump's latest vanity project a condo-hotel on the North Strip. He planned on building a second tower, but even Trump is having trouble raising capital. And the future of the $3 billion Cosmopolitan Casino project has yet to be determined since their developer defaulted on a $760 million loan from Deutsche Bank. Yeah, Vegas is in a bit of trouble and 4,000 donkeys are not going to save a sinking ship.

Day 3: Medic Cockblocks Bloch and Full Tilt Antonius... Mike Sexton. Patrik Antonius. Andy Bloch. Kathy Liebert. The Unabomber. Chris Bell. SowersUNCC. amak316. Nenad Medic. It reminded me of a final table from 2004 or 2005. And not like the final tables of the last couple of years where it was a bunch of unknowns, internet pushmonkeys, inbred nits, and the odd assortment of guys who said they were pros but who were really broke-ass mofos.

Day 4: Vultures and the First Mistake... knew one gal who worked marketing for Absolute Poker. Her sole job was to buy off final table players at the WSOP. She had two bags. One had stacks of cash. The other had Absolute Poker gear. Sometimes these negotiations get rough as online sites compete for players. All of this goes on behind the scenes during the hours leading up to the final table. That side of the business is cut throat, nasty, and is just pure anarchy. That's part of the reason why I have a bad feeling about the Final Table Delay. I know the ugliness that goes down the night before the final table. You can imagine all the shenanigans that will present itself during the months leading up to Main Event final table in November.

Day 5: Stakes and Shakes... with staking deals come a whole set of other problems. I've been staked and staked players in the past and it all comes down to a trust issue. Greed always fucks stuff up and that's what staking deals get a little hairy. During the first weekend of the WSOP, one somewhat popular bracelet winner owed another bracelet a six-figure make up. The guy who was stuck had a huge score at one of the PokerStars Sunday tournaments. He used some of his winnings to buy a new car and a trip to Hawaii with his girlfriend. The backer found out and was furious, while the slippery eel avoided him for three days until he got cornered in the hallway.

Day 6: Melting Eskimo's Igloo and Erick Lindgren Wins First Bracelet... Lindgren was one crazy muthafucka. And if he could transcend physical and emotional pain and surpass a rigorous challenge such as that death-defying golf bet, then he definitely had the necessary mental toughness to win a WSOP bracelet. He came close a couple of years ago and missed, but this year he managed to win his first bracelet against one of the toughest final tables in recent history. These days, you never know if you'll get a chance at making a final table, let alone winning a bracelet. Lindgren had his shot and followed through. He begin the final table fourth in chips. Although ZeeJustin held the lead for most of the final table, Lindgren jumped out to a slight lead once heads up pay began. It only took forty hands before Lindgren extracted the last of ZeeJustin's chips and he achieved his greatest moment in poker... a WSOP bracelet.

Day 7: Introducing... Tao of Pokerati, Tao of Five, and Billy Shears... Michalksi from Pokerati and I launched our first ever joint-podcasting venture called Tao of Pokerati. It's our very lazy and ghetto version of a podcast. Episode 1 is around three minutes.

Day 8: Trio of Final Tables, Vinnie Vinh Returns, and the Ghost of Brandi Hawbaker... Eight days into this year's WSOP, the headlines don't sound like something from a sleazy tabloid like Perez Hilton or Wicked Chops Poker. I guess the big story to start this year's WSOP was that there were three amazing tables and Erick Lindgren won his first bracelet. And the fact that the players haven't been bitching about Harrah's deserves some merit. Despite some minor ruffles, the first week of the WSOP rolled along rather smooth. As one pro said, "It took them four years but they finally got their shit together."

Day 9: The Rise of Vinnie Vinh and the First 2008 Ten Bracelet Winners... There were two faces of Vinnie Vinh. One was the masterful poker player who stayed at the front of the pack for most of Day 1 and Day 2 until he late night when he accumulated more chips to end Day 2 as the chipleader. Then there was the erratic side of Vinnie Vinh with random outbursts which obviously stem from whatever inner demons he's wrestling with. Individually the incidents were all minor such as standing up, muttering incoherent things, laughing fits, and other peculiar behavior at the tables. Most of the time I watched Vinh, he appeared in control of the monster within.

Day 10: The Archie Karas Comeback and Vinny Vinh's Final Table...
To final table any WSOP event is a major milestone. To achieve that daunting task under the close scrutiny of fans, media, players, Harrah's suits, and thick-necked thugs seemed almost impossible, yet Vinny Vinh pulled it off. It's a sad and tragic story in one sense and a total reminder of the heinous side of poker and addiction. The Vinny Vinhs, Stu Ungars, Eskimo Clarks, and Archie Karases of the world betrayed their craft. They were given a cherished and rare gift from the poker gods and squandered away their talents in a futile attempt to quench a thirst that can never be satisfied whether it was drugs, sex, craps, booze, or flipping coins.

Day 11: GLOW... It's totally asinine for men to try to buy into an event that is specifically designed for women. I cringe when I hear people bitching and moaning about that. It's like hearing about a flat chested chick trying to sue Hooters because she didn't get hired. The place is called "Hooters" for a reason. The Ladies Only event has the word "only" added for a reason.

Day 12: A Day in the Life of Phil Ivey... The game started right around 6pm. For the next three hours, Ivey could not sit still. He stood up a lot, paced back and forth, and constantly checked his crackberry. I had never seen so much emotion out of Ivey before. His usual expressionless face that was cool as a tenor sax solo from John Coltrane had disappeared and replaced by intervals of anxiety.

Day 13: Unlucky 13 and Mike Matusow Wins Bracelet... Sure, $537,857 was up for grabs. But for some of those guys that money is chump change. It wasn't about the money. It was about pride and bracelets. You see, pre-boom bracelets didn't really mean too much until the media starting hyping it up. We all know about how short-term luck affects poker tournaments, but bracelets are an indication of success over the long haul. The five or six guys who currently have the most bracelets have been regarded as some of the greatest poker players of all time.

Day 14: Daniel Negreanu Wins 4th Bracelet, Phil Ivey Loses 200K Prop Bet, and Vanessa Selbst Beats Aussie Strip Club Owner for PLO Bracelet... The moment after Daniel Negreanu clinched the Limit Hold'em tournament and won his fourth bracelet, he thrust his arms in the air in celebration. He lofted them as high as he could for a few seconds before he dropped them and quickly reached for his mobile device in his pocket. He texted Phil Ivey to tell him to pay up.

Day 15: Tao of Five with Wicked Chops Poker... What I love the best about WCP is that they just don't give a shit what anyone thinks about them and that attitude is why they managed to succeed over the years. Dozens of ripoff sites and hack wanna-bes tried to "borrow" from the WCP model, but they have come and left, since none of them have the snarky wit and an amazing eye for talent. For the last four years, Wicked Chops Poker is among the first couple of sites I read everyday. Doesn't matter if I'm in Las Vegas, Sweden, New Zealand, or Hollyweird... I love Wicked Chops Poker.

Day 16: Archie Karas Makes Final Table, Italian Pirate Wins Bracelet, and 125 Pounds of Razz Fury... Pesactori is well on his way to becoming the greatest poker player from Italy. Ever. Valter Farina and John Spadavecchia are legends and a part of the old guard. Farina was the first Italian to ever win a bracelet and Spadavecchia is number one on the all-time money list. Both had been crushing games since Max was a little one playing football with his school mates in Milan. But with his second bracelet, Pescatori has the most bracelets out of the Italians. And by the end of the 2008 WSOP, Pescatori should take over #1 on the All Time money list for Italy.

Day 17: Pros Continue Dominance as Barry Greenstein and Kenny Tran Win Bracelets... Perhaps karma was in play tonight. The poker gods knew that the money won on Sunday would go to good use since Greenstein and Tran would be sharing the money with those less fortunate. If a young kid won it, he'd blow it all on strippers and blow and other material items. If a guy like TJ Cloutier or Archie Karas won, they money would get lost at the nearest craps table.

Day 18: Never Trust a Junkie... Action. The rush. The buzz. The sustained high. Doesn't matter the medium. Craps. Poker. Slots. Blackjack. Baccarat. Dog races. NBA games. Video poker. It's the anticipation of the outcome that gets everyone fired up. The moment of truth when life sizzles through your bloodstream and you're jacked up on so much adrenaline it takes you days and weeks and months to come down from the cosmos. The anticipation... the crest of the gambler's high... where nothing else matters as the entire world pauses during that millisecond before your fate is determined.

Day 19: Looking Through a Glass Onion... My inner action junkie is the size of Gary Coleman and wrapped up deep and deep inside buried behind so many layers of complicated phobias, addictions, and other unresolved mental health issues. It takes years and decades to peel off all of the excess layers before we get to the source. But if our souls were glass onions and you could peek through all the layers, we'd see the true essence of existence... and that's to constantly challenge and prove to yourself that you're truly alive. And gambling is one of those opportunities when ordinary activities take on a role of vital significance by simply wagering on the outcome.

Day 20: Scandi Ghosts, Degenadario, and the Tao of Deutschland... I first met Dario Minieri at the 2006 WSOP, when I covered the Main Event for PokerStars. I recall saying something to Otis that some kid (who looks like he's 15, doesn't even shave, and may or may not be a girl) had a shitload of chips. Cardplayer had the official media coverage that year and listed him as Dario Roma. Almost, but not quite. He was Dario Minieri and hailed from Rome, Italy. I asked him his name and he said in a very dramatic and flamboyant voice, "I am Dario! Me English not so good."

Day 21: Donkeys, Pigeons, Possums, and Kangaroos... She could have 'big timed' it and blew off security by entering through the back door like Jen Tilly, Howard Lederer, and Phil Ivey have done many times before. Not for Kathy. She wanted to be treated like any of two thousand other players in the event. She also brown bagged her lunch instead of paying for overpriced kangaroo meat that they pass off as food in the Poker Kitchen. When you lather it in hot sauce and dip it in Ranch dressing it tastes just like chicken.

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

Day 23: The Killing Fields, Benyamine Wins First Bracelet, and the Corridor of Hookers... Location is the key to any successful business. That's why the Hooker Bar was such a popular hang out. But a few girls are hustling in the hallways leading up to the Amazon Room. That's what is great about that long corridor. Inside of thirty seconds you can crash a Mexican wedding reception, buy a cold overpriced personal pie from Pizza Hut, pick up a copy of Bluff Magazine, and negotiate a hummer from a hooker.

Day 24: Belgium Bracelets and Spanish Sundays... 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.

Day 25: Save the Eskimo, Save the World... Attention Hippies, The Eskimo needs your help. Put down the bong. Stop campaigning for Obama (Dick Cheney already rigged the November election, the Beijing Olympics, and the next two American Idols) and get your patchouli-smelling ass down the Rio Casino in Las Vegas because the Eskimo needs your help.

Day 26: The Bucket List, Dumb Hookers, and Phan 2.0... Benjo told me a hilarious story about how Bellagio hookers were trying to cash tournament chips at the cage. Apparently, a couple of horny and angle-shooting poker players removed $1,000 denomination tournament chips out of play. They used those chips to pay off hookers, who were not very bright and accepted the chips in return for sexual favors. Of course they did not read the fine print on the chips where it said it's not legal tender and only a tournament chip.

Day 27: HORSE - Day 1... You've seen those "feed the children" commercials where a bloated and emotionally high-strung Sally Struthers openly weeps for the cameras and guilt trips you into sending her foundation money after seeing photos of emaciated African kids covered in flies. For only the cost of a cup of coffee, you can feed all the starving children in the world. There are campaigns where you send $8 a month or roughly $100 a year. At that equation, one buy-in to the HORSE event could feed 500 starving children for one full year.

Day 28: Horse Day 2, The Procedure Part II, and More Existentialist Conversations with Strippers... Former gymnast. Majored in English at some college in Denton, TX. Got knocked up at 20 and dropped out of school. Had a botched back-alley abortion and can't have kids. Her step-father murdered her mother and knocked up her half-sister. She was a real life Jerry Springer episode gyrating on my lap and spilling Grey Goose all over my Ecco shoes.

Day 29: HORSE Day 3 - Texas Dolly... Shortly after midnight, with the camera happy blooming Friday night crowd on the rail, the grizzled gunslinger took over the chiplead with 27 players remaining in the $50,000 HORSE World Championship. With his trademarked white Stetson cowboy hat, Doyle Brunson was sitting plush with the biggest stack in the room and welcomed all challengers as he flashed a wry smile. One hour earlier, the legendary Texas Dolly limped past the press box with the assistance of his crutch. Brunson made his way out into the hallway and was besieged with autograph and picture requests from dozens of rabid fans who wanted a piece of their hero.

Day 30: HORSE Day 4 - Erick Lindgren and the Killing Floor... One side of the Amazon Ballroom was flooded in the carcasses of the losers in the $1,500 slaughterfest. Call them whatever. Donkeys. Emus. Pigeons. Fish. Pigs. Dogs. Rats. They were causalities and within hours of taking their seats, they ended up on the killing floor. When the survivors trudged through the HORSE area, they tracked donkey blood all over the carpet. Harrahs cleaning crews worked around the clock using an extra-strength extract from special Guatemalan fruit (previously used by porn stars in Hollywood in increase the distance of their cum shots) which helped erase the blemishes.

Day 31: Scotty Nguyen = Horsemaster... The agents were swarming. The media were circling. The backers were licking their chops. A couple of hookers strolled the hallways. Just another night at the WSOP. Around 1:30am, Lindgren made a heroic comeback to almost pull even with DeMichele and Scotty. That's when Scotty lost his shit for a full level. He was drunk and irritated. Happy Scotty was gone and Evil Scotty took his place. He was out in the deep end and he berated dealers and started to head down the path towards utter tiltdom.

Day 32: Whore's Horse Afterthought... If the UIGEA never gets overturn and the U.S. economy continues to go into the shitter, it's a matter of time before the Game Show Network shifts their programming philosophy and broadcasted cage matches live from Costa Rica where Erick Lindgren and Phil Ivey fight each other to the death and then the winner wrestles a grizzly bear with Doyle Brunson booking action. Those poker cage fights are a fusion of UFC Friday Night Fights meets a benzy-induced Philip K. Dick short story. Of course they are sponsored by PokerStars, where you can trade FPP points for a chance to wrestle an alligator. Otis will live blog the action.

Day 33: First 51 Bracelets and More Tao of Pokerati Poker Podcast... Yeah, this might be the year of the pro. Plenty of familiar faces and big names won bracelets this summer, including John Phan who won two. 51 bracelets were awarded to 50 different players.

Day 34: Bluff Party and the Stripper on Ecstasy... Then one honed in on me. Fantasia was her name. Nubile blonde from Texas. She rushed over and hugged me. I could tell by the way she was dancing and slurring the words to the Beastie Boys song Girls that she was deep into a ecstasy trip. Maybe two or three rolls. She gigled every time I touch the back of her neck. She gave me a lap dance or five. She was too wasted to keep track and only charged me for one.

Day 35: Main Event Day 1A - Cokeheads, Crybabies, and the Green Box Conspiracy... One incident happened in the men's room across from the Brasilia Room which I mentioned in the live blog. I overheard one guy sitting in one of the stalls and making odd sounds. I assumed that he was taking a rough dump because I thought I heard squealing in agony. Actually, he was sobbing and telling a loved one his bad beat story of how he busted out of the WSOP. Wow, that blew me away. A grown man brought to tears over one little poker tournament. There's no crying in poker! Alas, he was yet another helpless soul violently crushed in the existentialist meat grinder of the WSOP. If you want a happy hobby, try a ceramics class. If you want to have your balls shaved by a cheese grater every couple of hours, then poker is for you.

Day 36: Main Event Day 1B - Yawn... Varkonyi busted Phil Hellmuth at the 2002 WSOP main event. Hellmuth ranted and raved and said Varonkyi was an awful player. Yeah, some things never change. Hellmuth then made a ridiculous bet that if Varkonyi won it all, then he would shave his head. Well, Varkonyi won and everyone held Hellmuth to his word. At the end of that telecast of the final table, Hellmuth sat down and Becky Binion took an electric razor and shaved it all off as Gabe Kaplan tooled on him and Matt Savage milled around in the background and Devilfish was mugging for camera time.

Day 37: Main Event Day 1C and the Tao of Five with Flipchip... It felt like Ground Hog's Day. The third Day 1. 38th day in a row. My brain is/was/is/was fried. Anyway, the biggest field showed up so far at the WSOP world championship and when action ended on Day 1c, Harrahs dodged a bullet and got more entrants signed up than last year with one more flight to go.

Day 38: The Kitten Fields... The majority of their brethren never made it out alive and perished in the existentialist meatgrinder of the world series of sadism. That's why every PokerStars 'premium' schwag bag can be converted into a makeshift body bag. Poor Otis and Howard and Bartley scrambled across the killing floor every hour to retrieve the leftover carcasses from the plethora of online qualifiers. The bottom of the PokerStars shuttle bus was a makeshift morgue which Otis and his crew constantly filled up every inch with the leftovers. You could see the malnourishment in Otis' eyes. The sorrow. The misery. The agony. And you wonder why Otis writes such sad posts. He can't shake the post-traumatic stress syndrome of being the first on the scene after the initial slaughter. If you have to slosh around knee deep in the fish guts and animal intestines for 15 hours a day, you'd be in a somber mood as well.

Day 39 - Off

Day 40: Main Event Day 2A - Isadario... We are what we are... a gaggle of sex-crazed degenerate gamblers. But that's what I love about America... is that or founder fathers laid out the groundwork so that we can become what we choose to be without the government interfering in our lives. Fly to Vegas. Play in the WSOP. Get sucked out by a donkeyfish. Get wasted. Gamble until sunrise. Fuck a hooker. Eat a buffet. Piss next to Johnny Chan. Buy an ashtray. Buy a tube of cream for that rash you picked up. Good bye Vegas. See you next time.

Day 41: Main Event Day 2B - Formula of Donkey Liquification... You can drink beer while playing poker so it's not a sport. Scotty Nguyen. Men the Master. Minneapolis Jom Meehan. They all like a good cocktail at the tables. Sure, old school professional athletes drank during games like Night Tran Lane and Babe Ruth probably knocked back a cold one in between innings while he stuffed his face with hotdogs. Joe D used to smoke in the dugout and the bat boys used to make sure he had a lit ciggie waiting for him when he came off the field and into the dugout. But today? You couldn't see Pedro Martinez walk to the back of the mound, bend over, and take a huge pull off of a tallboy. I'd love to see Mikael Samuelsson do a shot of tequila on the bench before a line change. But that's just not gonna happen.

Day 42: Main Event Day 3 - Bubbles... An assortment of 1,307 people from all different areas of life... online pros, Vegas pros, amateurs, semi-pros, guys who are muppets who think they are pros, and straight up dream chasers... each walked into the Amazon Room with one thing on their minds... survive Day 3 and advance to Day 4. The simple goal? Be among the 666 players who cashed in the 2008 WSOP Main Event. Once you sign your slip at the end of Day 2 and bag up your chips, all you can think about is making it to the end of Day 3 to almost guarantee a $21K cash. And for online qualifiers or satellite winners, the rest of the WSOP is a freeroll. Almost all of their earnings are pure profit.

Day 43: Main Event Day 4 - Early to Bed and Iggy's Run... Once the cameras are in position, the producer tells the dealer to proceed. Not a floor person or Harrah's staff... but someone from ESPN. The big crowd attracts more people. Staff, players from adjacent tables, media reps. Even the occasional rule breaker who sneaks inside the ropes to check out the action. A massive circle engulfs the table. When the hand is over,one player is usually sent to his death, while all of the vultures disappear and flock to another table where a familiar situation is arising. It's almost like watching pigeons in the park peck and fight over a couple of crumbs. Throw the bread in one direction (all in and a call) and hundreds of pigeons (hungry media) will go apeshit and peck each others' eyeballs out just to grab a crumb. A morsel. Anything they can get their beaks on. As that song goes, birds of a feather are flocking outside.

Day 44: Main Event Day 5 - The Wretched Squall of Hellmuth and Matusow... I waited 44 days for the sure thing. The defining moment of the summer. The one incident that would set the 2008 WSOP apart from the previous four years that have blended into one long blurry flashback of bracelet winners, bad beat stories, excursions to strip clubs, binge drinking at the hooker bar, pot-bellied mulleted children running amuck at the Redneck Riviera, and lime tossing out back with a sad, tilty, and often suicidal Otis. I stumbled upon a story that could have wrote itself before I even got out of bed in the morning. Phil Hellmuth and Mike Matusow. At the same table. Right next to each other. With Hellmuth having position on Matusow. At the featured TV table in front of hundreds of drooling, blood-thirsty fans. They were starving lunatics. Broke dick swine. Some drunk on cheap swill. Others mentally imbalanced. And those were my friends. It was almost like the Romans waiting for the Christians to get tossed to the lions. The featured TV table was standing room only. The spectators were spilling out of the Beast Lounge with limbs dangling over metal rails waiting... waiting... for a meltdown. For a blowup. For the bloodshed.

Day 45: Main Event Day 6 - The Battle for Tiffany Michelle's Breasts... I would not want to be Tiffany Michelle right now. The entire fate of poker and all of Western Civilization has been thrust upon her supple shoulders. Should a 24-year old have that much pressure on her? Tiffany Michelle is poker's most marketable asset right now. Michalksi said that out of the last 27 players, she has the potential for the biggest "Moneymaker Effect." In three years, will I be writing about another poker renaissance in America and citing the "Tiffany Michelle Effect?" Come to think of it, that wouldn't be a bad thing. The poker world could use an influx of young women.

Day 46: Main Event Day 7 - Nonagon... I have seen what money does to people. It destroys lives. It tears friends apart. Too much money and it poisons your soul. Too little money and it makes you do desperate an unthinkable things. And during the pursuit of huge sums of money in the seven and eight figure ranges... your once astute judgment becomes clouded in the fog of war. Poker is a simple game. Played among friends, it can be one of the most entertaining experiences in life. But when poker is played in a tournament for millions of dollars in a forum where dozens and dozens of corporations can profit from it... things can get ugly. There is no longer white and black, just shades of grey. Working for four plus years in the poker industry taught me that the more money that is involved... the more complicated things can get.
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Nothing can top my first WSOP in 2005, so it is hard to compare to that experience. However, the 2008 WSOP was my second favorite. Let's see if I can top 2005 and 2008!

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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