Wednesday, June 30, 2010

NOW AVAILABLE!! Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Click here to buy Lost Vegas.

Yes, you can officially buy a copy of Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker.

I am selling the book via a third-party seller, The books are print-on-demand (POD) which means that they are environmentally safe for all of you tree huggers. We will not waste any paper. Lulu prints copies as you order them.

Here's some answers to FAQs about Lost Vegas.

Please go here to buy the book.

Thanks for your patience.

2010 WSOP Day 33: You Are What You Eat and Watch What You Tweet

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

We all got to eat. All you can eat. Eat me.

Food. A place like Las Vegas is an epicenter for overindulgence with the inception of the first all-you-can-eat buffet. In the last decade and more, the trend in feeding the masses switched to high brow restaurants appealing to wealthy clientele with sophisticated palates. The late 1990s and early 2000s featured a reversal from feeding troughs filled with fried chicken and pasta toward a culinary boom in Las Vegas. If you were a celebrity chef at the time, you were courted by the casinos to open up a new restaurant in their space. The reaction was positive and for the first time, you could go to Las Vegas and plan on destroying a seafood buffet one day and then dining on Kobe beef the next night.

Food is overlooked and underrated when it comes to WSOP preparation. Heck, I'm a six year vet and I still make rookie mistakes from time to time -- like trying to eat during peak dinner time (especially on a weekend during a donkulus or donkament). Sometimes the food situation at the Rio is atrocious due to long lines and lack of quality (and healthy) options. The entire point of a casino is to keep you inside which is why they have places to eat and drink so you don't leave the property, get grub, then wander into a different casino. Due to that set up, it kinda blows when you're stuck at the same casino for five weeks straight. The lack of choice starts to grind on you.

The Rio has some choices, but not enough. I've had the pleasure of working in casinos with ample choices like Mohegan Sun, Borgata Casino, and the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia. Crown has probably one of the best "food courts" on the poker circuit with a plethora of international choices. My favorite was the Indian food, which to this day still ranks as one of the best Indian places I ever eaten.

After four weeks in the same spot, food gets old and at the same time, when you're working on a tight schedule in a "resort" place, the service is never going to meet your demands -- it will always be slow. Although some of the eateries are better than others about getting people in and out as quickly as possible, I still encounter some deplorable service. Because when you get slammed -- you do what you can to keep up and sometimes people get shitty service. Sadly, I usually get the shit end of that reality.

That's why if you're coming to the Rio for the Main Event, take the extra precautions to make sure you have proper nutrition while in pursuit of millions of dollars. Find someone to make a reservation ahead of time and even order for you so when you sit down, your food is there and you can beat the "WSOP dinner rush" and enjoy the remainder of your break instead of rushing your meal in order to get back in time.

I see so many poker players take the food situation for granted during the WSOP and over the rest of the year -- which is part of the reason why so many poker players are overweight and obese. You really can't do anything about what/how you eat because of lack of options. When it's 3am and the only thing available is junk food -- you don't have a choice. And that kinda sucks. In an environment where you have people gambling and working 24 hours a day, there really should be something to eat aside from rolling the dice in the Poker Kitchen. Even then, I've had instances where that was closed.

I gonna admit something about my WSOP housing this year. I looked for condos in a specific part of town because it was near one of my favorite breakfast places that offered decent and healthy non-casino food. I actually found two places nearby where I eat five times a week, maybe more. I never know when I'll have time to eat when I get to the Rio every day, that I made it a point to eat a hearty breakfast. It seems so simple, but food is fuel.

The Main Event is only playing four two-hour levels each day, so that means you could eat breakfast and wait until the end of the day to eat a proper meal. Throughout the day, you have to recharge hich is why energy bars are essential. I'm a fan of Clif Bars and they always come through in a pinch. Bananas are good too. I think it was Dennis Phillips who once said that he preferred bananas while playing long sessions. The snack was loaded with potassium and the actual peel was a good defense against any germs he might have acquired through contact with chips and cards.

Fruit and energy bars is just like your healthy friend who does yoga six days a week and works out all the time. The rest of us schmucks are the coffee and cigarettes crowd. If that's what you do to get by, then so be it. Don't change your schedule. Power smoke on your breaks and chug barrels of Starbucks.

Those 4-hour energy shots are helpful. If I can't score some Adderall, one of those suckers is good in a short pinch. They work more like 2-hour pep pills, but hey, if it's getting late in the night, one of those is probably healthier than drinking another Red Bull.

And of course, speed helps as well. Not that I could condone the use of that narcotic, but the side affects include a suppression of appetite (that's what diet pills used to be -- weight loss masked under a speed binge). On a good note, it does allow you to stay up for a week straight and you might finally get around to alphabetizing your CD collection and tearing down one of your walls to locate listening devices because you're convinced that Dick Cheney is spying on you.

Sorry for that tangent. Back to my original thought -- food is more important than you think. Be prepared. Pack your own grub if necessary.

* * * * *

The second topic of conversation is social media-related. Simply put... be careful what you Tweet.

I guess that's general life advice, and not just applied to poker. During the Twitterization of the world, everyone is caught up with the hoopla that they sometimes forget who they are sending a text to -- Twitter or to a friend. I've done this a couple of times. It's embarrassing.

Barry Greenstein made a grave error after busting from an event. He shipped a text to Twitter instead of to his friend...

He quickly erased his mistaken texts that showed up on Twitter. I think it was three in all according to HappyFreaked, one of my Dutch colleagues. Even though Barry tried to cover his tracks, the damage had already been done and the board were lighting up with speculation, rumors, and sexual innuendos. Don't you love the internet? Make one friggin' mistake and within minutes you have your own personal thread on 2+2 or Donkdown.

So let's take that tweet at face value. Barry is stuck $324,000 or roughly $10K/day since the WSOP began. That number includes tournament buy-ins and prop bets (last longers, bracelet bets, betting on flops, et al). That six-figure number is a sobering reminder that a shitty summer can make or break you during the WSOP.

I was also intrigued on who that text was intended. Ivey is a safe bet. Maybe Brunson? Dwan? Only Barry knows for sure. Twitter gives you a ton of insight into what pros think of their tablemates, or what songs they listen to, or what cool club they're at. But it's also the perfect place to monitor mental trainwrecks, gossip, drunken lunacy, and the occasional skeleton in the closet.

* * * * *

Bouncin' Round the Room on Day 33...

After four weeks of choppy seas, we were blessed with one of the calmer days at the WSOP without a final table on the schedule. On the flip side, it was hot as fuck outside, and almost doubled the indoor temps. Anytime you pass 111 degrees, it sucks. I don't care if it's a dry heat - it's still heat. Anyway, with only four tournaments in action and zero final tables, the day certainly lacked the frenzied vibe of the weekend which spilled over into Monday.

Donkulus Day 3: Playing down to the final table after a brutal slaughter on the opening flights on Day 1s and on Day 2. Canadian pro, Owen Crowe, faded the majority of the massive 3,128 donk-laddened field to remain near the top of the leader board for most of Day 2. At one point he had secured the chiplead before dropping back down.

Stripclub owner Michael Beasely finished in 12th place, a few spots short of the final table, meanwhile, Manuel Dividian, bubbled off the final table in 10th place. The remaining nine will return Wednesday.

You can't count OCrowe out of this event for his first bracelet, but his biggest obstacle will be the Scandi... Allan "Sifosis" Baekke. The guy is a monster online an a specialist at heads-up SNGs on PokerStars, so much so that he achieved Supernova status playing $5,000 SNGS.


Baekke rattled everyone's cage at this year's EPT Snowfest. He seized the chiplead on Day 2 and never looked back, essentially going almost wire-to-wire in that event in the Alps. At the very next EPT event, Baekke nearly replicated his Snowfest feat at in San Remo, Italy. He was teasing everyone with back-to-back EPT victories after he jumped out to an early lead... until the Scandi got derailed shortly before the final table and was eliminated in 12th.

"You would mistake him for an online player," explained Benjo who analyzed his play for his commentary (in French) during EPT Live broadcasts. "(Baekke) smiles at the table, but he's very aggressive and never stops attacking."

The Scandi's haven't had much of a showing this year mainly because not too many of them called the Rio their home this summer like in previous years. The Northern Europeans have been absent for the most part, with the sponsored pros opting to play in the Baltic Championships instead of WSOP preliminaries. Despite their absence during the first five weeks, more Scandis tricking in the next few days. Perhaps Baekke's appearance at the final table is a brisk reminder to the Brits that the Scandis are coming.

Donkament Day 2: Georgia's native son, Kenneth Terrell, was among the chipleaders on Day 2, and doing his best to hold off a dwindling field that also included Steve "Stevie444" Chidwick.

One of the bloggers from Poker News, Rich Ryan, advanced to the money in one of his first WSOP events. That's an epic moment for a fellow member of the media because Ryan was essentially playing on one of his few days off. Nothing is more demoralizing that taking your rare day off to play -- and then finding yourself at the shit end of a crappy tournament with nothing to show for it except a food comp and a bad beat story. On the opposite side of the spectrum, when you play only one or two events a year, then advance to a Day 2 of a Boucherie and eventually secure a cash, well, that's a special moment. Nice work, Rich.

* * * * *

Back by popular demand...
Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next To...
1. Arnaud Mattern
2. Mel Judah
3. Steve Wong
4. Mickey Appleman
5. Tom Dwan
Photos courtesy of Harper & Benjo.

Hump Day Link Dump: Adventures with Chip Bitch, Entourage Poker, Grand Games, and the Rug Doctor

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

You made it halfway. Here's a reward -- a few items of note for you to enjoy with your morning coffee. If you dig the links, please pass them along.
Just in case you missed a couple of poker pro cameos on the season premier of Entourage, you can check out Antonio Esfanidari and Chris Moneymaker (sporting a PokerStars patch) brief brushes with fame. (Wicked Chops Poker)

One of the cool things about covering events in different parts of the world, is meeting really cool and funny people. Chip Bitch, one of my colleagues from Costa Rica, is one of those folks. He's working his first WSOP and has been indulging in Las Vegas during his time off. Part 1 of this story about getting a hummer in an elevator is a must read.... Early Night, Early Morning. (Chip Bitch)

Be careful what your PR team leaks! Someone is probably getting fired over this, but David Williams might be/is/already a new member of Team PokerStars? The RugDoctor is in. (Pokerati)

Shamus is pretty damn fine writer which is why you should read Part 2 of his take on The Grand Games. (Hard-Boiled Poker)

As always visit the WSOP's main website for POY standings and overall results. (WSOP)
That's it. NGTFOOMO.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Everest Porch Songs - New Episode of Tao of Pokerati

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

We return for more hijinks with the quickest podcast in poker.
Episode 46: Everest Porch Songs - Pauly finds Dan hanging out in the hallway (at the Poker Road desk in clear view of the public in a shameless attempt to get noticed). Dan happened to be hanging out during the construction of the Everest poker player's suite. Pauly quizzes him about the latest legal entanglements between Everest, Rio, and the WSOP.
If you'd like to listen to more episodes of your favorite and fastest poker podcast (broadcasting live from the WSOP), then you should visit the Tao of Pokerati archives.

Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I have been waiting for this book to come out just as badly as you.

You can buy Lost Vegas here.

2010 WSOP Day 32: Le Boucherie, Ripple In Still Water, and TOC Day 2

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

The civilian army of spectators trickled down the corridors of the convention center. Some took a scenic route through the Pavilion and marveled at the space larger than a football field with flags of the world hanging from the rafters in a warehouse facility, airplane hangar, or whatever you want to call it.

On some days, during the 3,000 field events, the gigantic Pavilion becomes the largest barn in the Western United States. When you head to Las Vegas, you never thought you'd play in a poker tournament and visit the zoo at the same time, yet that's what happens when you gather up thousands of poker players, many of whom are suffocating under the bitch end of the bell curve.

Call them whatever you want..

Emus. Fish. Donkeys. Monkeys. Ocelots. Sheep. Lemurs.

They all get led to the slaughter. Flashback to the 2008 WSOP when I was hopped up on pain pills after a car accident and I gazed out into the Amazon Ballroom at the thousands of players filled with blind ambition but unable to survive the killing fields. They were busting at such a rapid pace, the press were scrambling to come up with a proper formula for Donkey Liquidifcation. To this day, that exact formula that Benjo came up with (consulting the Chen 2000 supercomputer) is still in use.

I dubbed the room the Killing Fields in my notes. The metaphor stuck. The French press describe it as... Le Boucherie... or simply put, the butcher shop. The bloody oblivion. Shamus was covering Day 2 of the Donkulus and at one point he mentioned that the meatgrinder was churning our ground donks at a rate of one every thirty seconds. No shinola.

Day 2 of the TOC seemed to be the main focus of everyone at the WSOP, at least that's why the fans flocked to the Amazon Ballroom. As the TOC ran, I realized that those were just two tables in a entire convention center full of nonstop poker. The most popular bracelet winners were playing for the cameras (and live ESPN3 feed with excellent commentary from Adam Schoenfeld, James Hartigan and Lee Jones -- which by the way was the supreme highlight of the TOC. That is the future of the WSOP. I hope more events get covered in that manner. Of course, it's a money thing, but there's hope that someday every single final table will be streamed somewhere on the intertubes. Even if you have to get Chico's Bailbonds and Juggs Magazine to sponsor one of the broadcasts).

Sorry for that tangent... anyway, the TOC players were just 20 or so players in a room of a thousand or more. I had one of those metaphysical moments where the collective conciousness of the WSOP outweighed the frenzy over the TOC tables. After all, the buzzing and hum of the packed Amazon Ballroom really caught my attention. It was a rare sight, sound, feeling during this summer. With the Pavilion hosting all of the Day 1s of the noon events (and essentially all of the massive field NL events), the Amazon lost some of it's kinetic energy.

Although some of the more crucial moments of the tournaments are played out inside the Amazon Ballroom, fewer tables are utilized during the pursuit of immortality. The Amazon is much quieter and lacked the electricity and life force of previous years. Even with a flashmob of Brazilians causing a commotion around a final table, that noise is contained to one part of the room. On some nights, the room seems rather dull, with all the zest and vigor (of cash games and satellites) completely extracted. It reminded me of a library a few times.

If you're not playing in one of the 5pm fetish events, then chances are you (as a player) won't set foot inside the Amazon Ballroom unless you advance to a Day 2. I haven't seen some pros, friends, and even some random people people yet this summer because they have not gotten as far as a day 2. Yeah, it's kinda sad, but a sobering reality. Amazon is usually reserved for the Top 10% because that's where the money bubble usually bursts -- inside the Amazon Ballroom.

By Day 32 of the WSOP, everyone has officially passed the "month" long mark of the WSOP. Any donuts and zeros at this point have to wear you down. Most of those people are tough to be around and you have to tip toe on eggshells because their egos and bankrolls are fragile. And if they can't get anything going during the Main Event, then this summer was a complete waste (and demoralizing black hole of debt). I guess the only solace is the "Donut Mantra" which is...
"I'm saving up all my run good for the Main Event."
The Amazon Ballroom had a "big day" feel on Day 32 even though it was an invisible Monday on the schedule. The TOC brought out the gawkers and fans, while Day 2 of the four day Donkulus filled most of the tables in the room, while the Pavilion was a cattle call with one of the last Boucheries on the schedule. My new nickname for Donkaments are Boucheries. (The $1,000 discounted events will always be a Donkulus in my book).

Early on Day 2 (so early that it was the first hand of the TOC restart), Doyle Brunson busted out. The ensuing eliminations did not happen as fast. Eventually Joe Cada, Mike Sexton, sponsor exemption Andrew Barton, and Dan Harrington were weeded out by mid-afternoon. The worrisome slowdown in bustouts meant that a potential threat loomed -- plenty of poker left to be played but not enough time to play it.

The last week before the Main Event is insanely hectic, crazy, and a blurry whirlwind. Besides all of the drama surrounding the Big Dance, this is the time of WSOP when parties crop up and everyone blows off a ton of steam after a long summer. On the other end of the spectrum, the week before the Main Event is peak season for hallway dealings and other business-related opportunities pertaining to the poker industry. Plus, every day more and more press (domestic and international) are arriving for the first time this summer. This is prime interview season. And, shit needs to get pimped, shilled, and whored out. If anything, this is really the busiest time of year when it should be the most relaxing.

No wonder, the TOC seems like it's more of nuisance than a celebration. What sounded good in theory ended up on the shit end of bad timing, or poor scheduling. In retrospect, the TOC should have happened at the start of the WSOP and allowed ESPN to piggyback taping of that with the 50K 8-Game. With the TOC kicking off the WSOP (sort of like having an All-Star Game as the last game of Spring Training), none of the pros would have had any scheduling conflicts.

After two brief sessions, 17 players still remain with a final table scheduled for filming on July 4th. Originally, the plan was to play for 27 to 9 on Sunday, but that got axed midway through the series. The current plan is to play at 7pm on 7/3 after Ante Up for Africa ends, and hopefully they can get down to a final nine (with conditional terms if no one is playing in the 25K 6-handed event). The tentative TOC schedule is subject to change -- heck, it could have changed twice while I wrote this sentence, decisions these days are floating around in the wind like that plastic bag in American Beauty.

The delayed TOC won't quite be like the snoozer of a durrrr Challenge that took forever to play out (wait, aren't they still doing that?). Look, I know that finding time to play at this juncture of the WSOP is tough. The worse case scenario? Playing early early early on July 4th. That notion irked Mike Matusow.

"What the fuck?" he protested. "Playing thirteen hours on July 4th? Who wants to do that? Everyone has parties to go to. No one wants to play for thirteen hours. That'll suck. I got parties."

Matusow was one of the few pros who wanted to keep playing on, but Hellmuth had chips in a different event and preferred to devote his time to a bracelet event instead of the TOC freeroll. He moaned about losing his buy-in in the donkament if they kept playing.

"Jesus Christ," screamed Matusow. "Phil, if you want, I'll give you $1,500 back if that'll keep you playing."

Hellmuth refused to budge. The TOC did not deter Antonio Esfandiari from multi-tabling inside the Amazon Ballroom. Luckily, his TOC table and his table in the Donkulus were somewhat close to each other. He sprinted back and forth in an attempt to build a stack before the money bubble burst in the Donkulus.

Last names, like Esfandiari, became fodder for prop bets with Scotty Nguyen. He failed to spell Allen Cunningham's last name correctly in addition to Esfandiari and had to ship some cash across the table. Nguyen was much more... sober... than the day before. Night and day. Someone mentioned that he was on medication -- maybe he is but if you have just one cocktail on certain types of meds -- it's trouble and you become a puddle of mush. Who knows (aside from Scotty) what really happened on Sunday, but he was much more coherent on Monday afternoon.

The final two tables were located in closer proximity to one another, with fans glued to both. About a dozen or so spectators who hung out in the beef jerky lounge had a perfect spot and could keep an eye on both tables. I tried to position myself there for a bit. One thing is for sure -- the autograph hounds were out in force. A few old ladies were running around on breaks trying to get pros to sign their freshly-purchased WSOP t-shirts.

The day ended with Mike Matusow as the chipleader. Huck Seed and Johnny Chan are not far behind Matusow. Who knows when everyone will play next? I guess we'll find out on July 3rd at 7pm...

* * * * *

Bouncin' Round the Room on Day 32....

Although I skipped the opening festivities of the "final" Boucherie of the Main Event (there's one more Donkulus on the bill right before the Main Event), I got word from Jack Effel that they were setting aside a moment of silence in remembrance of Amir Vahedi, who passed away in January. In addition to the bracelet and buckets full of cash, the winner of the Boucherie would also be awarded a box of St. Luis Rey Rothchilde cigars -- Vahedi's personal favorite.

On a good note, veteran poker scribe and former WSOP media director, Mike Paulle, made a Day 2 and cashed in the Donkulus. He said that was the first (open) event he played since the WSOP was moved to the Rio -- and he cashed -- so he's going to retire from WSOP altogether.

Event #48 Mixed Games Day 3 and Final Table: The only final table of the day on the schedule and it was one of those final tables that didn't get set until.... They might have to start schedule four-day events otherwise get rid of this 12-hour rule.

Jesse Martin began Day 3 in the Top 5 in chips. When action consolidated to two tables, he found himself in a tough spot (Scott Seiver, Matt Vengrin, Todd Brunson, Kirk Morrison). Even if he was at the other table (Alex KGB, Nacho Barbero, Steve Sung), he wouldn't get a respite. Over a dozen of the final 18 players were tough as shit. Martin ran into some trouble in a hand against Jared Jaffe. He busted out soon after in 13th place. LAPT legend Nacho Barbero from Argentina missed the final table and was knocked out in 12th place. Meanwhile, Alex 'KGB' Kravchenko quietly went out in 11th.

When the "official" final table was set, Steve Sung was out in front with the lead ahead of the likes of Matt "Plattsburgh" Vengrin, Scott Seiver, Jared Jaffee,and another Russian Kirill Rabtsov. Sung drew the most "well known" railbirds -- a mixture of LA-based players and other friends.

With three players to go, the unknown Scandi, Sigurd Eskeland, had more than 50% of the chips in play. Sung was in second place, but still alive. He had experience on his side. He's been a WSOP closer before and knows what it takes to finish off a final table. Despite the deficit, Sung had the edge, especially with the majority of the games limit.

Sung found himself heads-up with the Scandi and sitting with a 2-1 chip discrepancy. But he could not string together enough run good, and it took a bad beat to send Sung to the rail in second place, as Sigurd Eskeland took down the bracelet.

Photos courtesy of Harper & Benjo.

Random Link Dump: Return of Guess Her Muff, Economics Is Hard, Motley Crue DUI, World Cup Fever, and Kobayashi Skips Hot Dog Eating Contest?

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

It's Tuesday. Congrats on surviving a hellacious Monday. You just have to get through today and you're almost halfway to the weekend. So here are a few things to keep you comfortably numb this morning. These links are best consumed while high on some sort of narcotic or while eating chocolate. Both, if you're lucky...
Let's kick thing off with a heavy-handed topic. Thanks to Kid Dynamite for pointing out a paper titled Economics is Hard, Don't Let Bloggers Tell You Otherwise. (Google Docs)

In case you wondering here's an update on how Team Pokerati was holding up against Sam Charlatan's crew at the WSOP this summer. (Pokerati)

Vince Neil DUI in Vegas? (LasVegasVegas)

Wait, poker players are gullible? Energy strips being shilled by pros? Or just another identity scam? (Poker Grump)

A British writer's take on World Cup fever at the Rio Casino in Las Vegas. (PokerStars Blog)

Thanks to the gang at Part Time Poker for the "reserved sign" in the press box. Now I won't have Euro mediadonks stealing my seat! (Part Time Poker)

This is a sad day if the great Kobayashi does not participate in the annual Nathan's hot dog eating contest on July 4th in Coney Island. (Deadspin)

And I dunno about you, but I'm thrilled that Guess Her Muff is back. NSFW, OBV. (Guess Her Muff)
That's it. Guess what? NGTFOOMO.

Monday, June 28, 2010

TOC Rubbernecking and TOC End of Day 1- New Tao of Pokerati Episodes

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Michalski showed up at the Rio again for like the third day in a row. He's approaching Lou Gehrig-type Ironhorse numbers with his appearances at the WSOP. Anyway, since he was here, we recorded two quickie TOC-related podcasts.
Episode 44: TOC Rubbernecking - Dan showed up to the Rio super early for a Sunday just in case the the DOJ decided to bust Full Tilt honchos Howard Lederer and Jesus Ferguson. I compared his morbid fascination of the potential perp walk to watching a NASCAR race in order to see a big wreck.

Episode 45: TOC End of Day 1 - Dan and Pauly recap the brief events of Day 1 of the TOC, and the slight confusion surrounding the change in schedule.
If you'd like to listen to more episodes of your favorite and fastest poker podcast (broadcasting live from the WSOP), then you should visit the Tao of Pokerati archives.

BJ's WSOP Report: Week 4

By BJ Nemeth
Las Vegas, NV

Four weeks down, and one more to go until the Main Event begins on Monday, July 5th. I'm BJ Nemeth, and I'll be guiding you through the biggest stories each week and the stats that summarize the rest.


1. Gavin Smith & Chris Bell Win Back-to-Back Bracelets

Gavin Smith and Chris Bell have seen many of their close friends win WSOP bracelets in recent years, but they kept knocking on the door without getting in. Gavin had a runner-up finish in 2007 in $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em, and Chris had a runner-up finish in 2008 in $2,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em.

Gavin, in particular, was one of the most prominent names on the list of "Best Players Without a WSOP Bracelet" -- there are certain expectations when you have $5 million in career tournament earnings and a WPT Player of the Year award under your belt. But as WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla said in the official report, "It's time to destroy the list. Rip it up. Burn it. Torch it." (Unfortunately for Andy Bloch, that only applies to Gavin's name; the list itself still exists.)

On Saturday night, Gavin Smith won Event #44 ($2,500 Mixed Hold'em), ripping through the final table mostly in the limit hold'em rounds, where he held a clear advantage. While Gavin was on the verge of winning his bracelet, Chris Bell was going deep in Event #46 ($5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo). Chris said he was more interested in watching the scoreboard (Gavin's final table) than in his own tournament. But by the time Gavin won his bracelet on Saturday night, Chris was at the final three tables. When Gavin showed up for his bracelet ceremony on Sunday afternoon, Chris was ready to start his own Day 3. And 12 hours later, Chris Bell was heads-up playing for a bracelet of his own, and this time Gavin Smith was in the stands to support his friend that had supported him a day earlier.

At 5:15 am Monday morning, Chris Bell won his first WSOP bracelet, made that much sweeter because it immediately followed Gavin's. Gavin summed it up well on his Twitter feed. "Chris Bell, one of my closest friends just won his first bracelet, I think I am as happy now as I was last night!"

There are a couple of interesting tidbits to tack onto the end of this story --

If Gavin hadn't been so eager to have his bracelet ceremony Sunday afternoon (many players put it off for a day), they could have taken the Pavilion Room stage together, which would have been an incredibly special moment.

Someone made a comment about Erick Lindgren's horses doing so well, and Gavin joked, "Yeah, his horses are one bracelet away from breaking even for the Series!"

With this bracelet, I think Gavin Smith will easily be voted into next year's WSOP Tournament of Champions. He's one of the most popular players in the game, and I've never seen as many players, fans, media, and staff come out to congratulate a player after winning a tournament. It seems that Gavin is loved by everyone. There is often a group shot taken with a bracelet winner's friends, and I've always turned down invitations to join in. But not this time -- I was in the friends-and-family victory shots for both Gavin and Chris.

One last note -- Gavin Smith and his girlfriend Kayce (pronounced "K.C.") are expecting their first child this November (shortly after the WSOP Main Event returns for the November Nine). Kayce's expected delivery date happens to fall on the birthday of Chris Bell's son, who tragically died at a very young age. Bell seemed to find strength in the coincidence, and it would mean a lot to both of them if Gavin's child was born that day.

2. Phil Ivey Wins His 8th Bracelet

Some people will be shocked that I list Phil Ivey's eighth WSOP bracelet as only the second biggest story of the week, but it's become almost predictable. If Ivey doesn't win any more bracelets this year, his career average will be one bracelet every 1.375 WSOPs (8 bracelets in 11 years). As Scott Huff said on our radio show, "Ivey won a bracelet. In other news, the sun rose this morning."

Not only that, but it's Ivey's next bracelet (if it comes before the end of 2012) that will mean the big $5 million payday in his bet with Howard Lederer. According to Barry Greenstein, the terms of the bet were two WSOP bracelets in three years (from 2010 to 2012), and WSOP Europe bracelets can force a draw but can't win the bet for Ivey.

Yes, this is big news, and yes it's historic that this 33-year-old player is the best in the world and the fastest since Johnny Moss to win eight bracelets. But what else can we say about Phil Ivey at this point? It's simply a question of when he will pass Phil Hellmuth for the most bracelets of all time as he continues to distance himself from the pack on the all-time money list.

3. Frank Kassela Survives a Blackout to Win His 2nd Bracelet

It seems like winning two bracelets in a single WSOP should be a rare and difficult feat, but there has been at least one multiple-bracelet winner in each of the last 11 WSOPs (2000-2010). This year, the first player to do it was Frank Kassela, who won Event #15 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo) and Event #40 ($2,500 Seven Card Razz). Kassela had to battle some familiar faces -- both final tables included Jennifer Harman and Vladimir Schemelev, and both times, Kassela came out on top.

Two things made this final table notable -- other than the fact that it was razz. (There is only one razz event each year.) With seven players remaining, six of them wanted to delay the final table so they could play in the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship. Harrah's refused to reschedule the table, so a few players started talking about a potential deal. But Jennifer Harman said, "I don't buy bracelets; I win them." (She's the only woman in history with two WSOP bracelets in open events.) For his part, Kassela said he wouldn't deal either, because he had a shot to become the first multiple-bracelet winner of 2010, and he wouldn't want a deal to compromise the validity of his accomplishment.

The other notable thing? The Razz Final Table was in action when the power went out at the Rio. (And reportedly, along a large portion of the Las Vegas Strip.) The lights were out (complete darkness except for cellphones) for a good 10 seconds before they came back on. With about five minutes left in the level, the tournament director had the four remaining players at the Razz final table play in the dim light, and they would sort out the situation at the break. The TD's iPhone served as the tournament clock since the computers were down. When the final four players came back from break, they were moved to the main ESPN stage (which had full lighting) to finish their final table.

Kassela was short-stacked when the lights went out (and when they came back on), but he credits the blackout with helping him to refocus his efforts, buckle down, and win his second WSOP bracelet of the Series.

* * *

Event #32, $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Six-Handed
568 players (last year: 928)
Winner: Jeffrey Papola, $667,433

Event #33, $2,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em/Omaha
482 players (last year: 453)
Winner: Jose-Luis Velador, $260,552

Event #34, $1,000 Seniors No-Limit Hold'em
3,142 players (last year: 2,707)
Winner: Harold Angle, $487,994

Event #35, $10,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em
256 players (last year: 256)
Winner: Ayaz Mahmood, $625,682

Event #36, $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em
3,102 players (last year: 6,012)
Winner: Scott Montgomery, $481,760

Event #37, $3,000 H.O.R.S.E.
478 players (last year: 452)
Winner: Phil Ivey, $329,840

Event #38, $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em
268 players (last year: 275)
Winner: Valdemar Kwaysser, $617,214

Event #39, $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Shootout
1,397 players (last year: 999)
Winner: Steven Kelly, $381,927

Event #40, $2,500 Seven Card Razz
365 players (last year: 315)
Winner: Frank Kassela, $214,085

Event #41, $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo
847 players (last year: 762)
Winner: Steve Jelinek, $245,871

Event #42, $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em
2,521 players (last year: 2,715)
Winner: Dean Hamrick, $604,222

Event #43, $10,000 H.O.R.S.E.
241 players (last year: 194 for $10K 8-Game Mix)
Winner: Ian Gordon, $611,666

Event #44, $2,500 Mixed Hold'em
507 players (last year: 527)
Winner: Gavin Smith, $268,238

Event #45, $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em
3,097 players (last year: 2,781)
Winner: Jesse Rockowitz, $721,373

Event #46, $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo
284 players (last year: 198)
Winner: Chris Bell, $327,040
* * *

United States: 31
Great Britain: 5
Canada: 5
Hungary: 2
New Zealand: 1
France: 1
Russia: 1
Entering the final week of the WSOP preliminary events, there are 23 players who are within a bracelet victory (100 points) of POY points-leader John Juanda. Here's a look at the top 13:
1. John Juanda: 225 pts
1. Frank Kassela: 225 pts
3. Vladimir Schemelev: 210 pts
4. Dan Heimiller: 200 pts
5. Michael Mizrachi: 190 pts
5. Men Nguyen: 180 pts
5. Richard Ashby: 180 pts
5. Jeffrey Papola: 180 pts
5. James Dempsey: 180 pts
10. David "Bakes" Baker: 170 pts
10. David Chiu: 170 pts
10. Michael Chow: 170 pts
10. Allen Kessler: 170 pts
A few of the other notables within a bracelet of the lead are Dave "Not Bakes" Baker (150 pts) and Phil Ivey (130 pts).

Keep in mind that the Main Event also awards POY points, and Ivey has a history of doing pretty well in that one -- he has reached the final three tables 50% of the time in the last eight years (23rd in 2002, 10th in 2003, 20th in 2005, and 7th in 2009).

Shawn Buchanan and Allen Kessler lead the WSOP this year with seven cashes each. Kessler, who is known as a min-cash grinder, has been going deep, with only one of his cashes being for the minimum. Is Kessler riding a lucky streak, or has his career turned the corner?

There are also five players with six cashes each: Pat Pezzin, Dan Heimiller, Tad Jurgens, Amnon Filippi, and Michael Glasser.

In recent years, the most cashes in a single WSOP have belonged to Daniel Negreanu (2009: 8 cashes), Nikolay Evdakov (2008: 10 cashes), Michael Binger (2007: 8 cashes), and Chad Brown (2007: 8 cashes). (Note: These figures do not include cashes in the WSOP Europe -- WSOP-E would give Negreanu 9 cashes in 2009.)

We've now had six women who have reached final tables -- an improvement over last year, but anything less than a bracelet in an open event is a bit below expectations -- women have won 14 non-ladies event bracelets in the last 14 years. The media is already shopping around for a new "Year of the Blank" headline.

Here are the six women who have reached final tables:
J.J. Liu: 3rd place, $86,512
Event #9 ($1,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em)

Jennifer Harman: 3rd place, $173,159
Event #15 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo)

Christine Pietsch: 2nd place, $86,756
Event #21 ($1,500 Seven Card Stud)

Karina Jett: 4th place, $60,588
Event #27 ($1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo)

Mandy Thomas: 6th place, $40,169
Event #41 ($1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo)

Jennifer Harman: 6th place, $33,890
Event #40 ($2,500 Seven Card Razz)
Annette Obrestad just missed her first WSOP final table in Las Vegas, making it to the third round of Event #39 ($1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Shootout), but busting in 11th place. It's not officially a final table, but reaching the third and final round of a shootout should be enough to quiet most of the critics (like me) who were saying that Annette wasn't living up to (unfairly high) expectations.

Vanessa Rousso finished fifth in Event #35 ($10,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em). While that would count as a final table in any other hold'em event, I've had discussions in the past with other tournament reporters, and decided that players need to make the Final Four in a heads-up event to get credit for a final table. (At the WSOP, it's also literally true, as two matches are played side-by-side on a single table.)

Twenty-eight players have made multiple WSOP final tables so far this year, and five have made three or even four final tables.
John Juanda
4th in Event #2 ($50,000 Poker Players Championship)
5th in Event #15 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo)
4th in Event #19 ($10,000 2-7 No-Limit Draw)
3rd in Event #37 ($3,000 2-7 H.O.R.S.E.)

Vladimir Schmelev
2nd in Event #2 ($50,000 Poker Players Championship)
7th in Event #10 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud)
7th in Event #15 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo)
4th in Event #40 ($2,500 Seven Card Razz)

Michael Mizrachi
1st in Event #2 ($50,000 Poker Players Championship)
6th in Event #10 ($10,000 Seven Card Stud)
8th in Event #29 ($10,000 Limit Hold'em)

Jameson Painter
5th in Event #7 ($2,500 2-7 Triple Draw)
7th in Event #12 ($1,500 Limit Hold'em)
4th in Event #29 ($10,000 Limit Hold'em)

David Chiu
4th in Event #7 ($2,500 2-7 Triple Draw)
9th in Event #29 ($10,000 Limit Hold'em)
2nd in Event #33 ($2,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em/Omaha)
The following 23 players have made two final tables each: Frank Kassela, Dan Heimiller, Men Nguyen, Richard Ashby, Jeffrey Papola, James Dempsey, Michael Chow, David "Bakes" Baker, Dave Baker, Maxwell Troy, Al Barbieri, Matt Matros, Blair Rodman, Derric Haynie, Daniel Idema, Eugene Katchalov, Robert Mizrachi, Stuart Rutter, Jennifer Harman, Michael Michnik, Jarred Solomon, Erik Seidel, and Rob Hollink.

While Frank Kassela is the only player who has won two bracelets this year, he is one of six players who has two top-two finishes. The others are Men Nguyen (1st, 2nd), Richard Ashby (1st, 2nd), Jeffrey Papola (1st, 2nd), James Dempsey (1st, 2nd), and Maxwell Troy (2nd, 2nd).

Last week, I pointed out that the six players who have hired life coach Sam Chauhan were collectively having a disappointing WSOP. (The six players are Phil Hellmuth, Gavin Smith, Antonio Esfandiari, Josh Arieh, Paul Wasicka, and David Williams.) But that all changed on Saturday night when Gavin Smith won his first WSOP bracelet.

It's impossible to determine how Chauhan's coaching contributed to Gavin's victory, but it's worth noting that Gavin didn't mention the life coach at all during his post-victory interview. I'll be asking Gavin specifically about this in the next week, to see whether or not he feels Chauhan's influence was a major factor.

As for me, I'm still skeptical. Whether or not Gavin credits Chauhan with an assist, most of us expected Gavin to win his first WSOP bracelet any year now.

Justin Bonomo laid 10-to-1 odds (he put up $10,000 to anyone else's $1,000) that one of the 68 players who lives in Panorama Towers would win a bracelet this year. To see all the names, check out Justin Bonomo's post in the 2+2 thread by clicking here.

Bonomo has already won this bet, due to the victory by David "Bakes" Baker in Event #19. But worth tracking Panorama's results to help set a proper line for next year's bet. (Bonomo offered the same bet last year with 7-to-1 odds, and won with a Greg "FBT" Mueller bracelet.)

There have been eight final table appearances by Panorama players so far: David "Bakes" Baker (1st, 6th), Ray Coburn (2nd), Nick Binger (3rd), Nenad Medic (4th), Brock Parker (5th), Ben Lamb (5th), and David "Doc" Sands (8th).

* * *

There's your recap for the fourth week of the 2010 WSOP, with one week to go until the start of the WSOP Main Event. Thanks again to Pauly for letting me get my geek on and run down the stats and the big stories. This summer I'm working for Greasie Wheels, which is providing the official WSOP photography for Harrah's. Check out my official WSOP Photo Blog on I'm also recording the award-winning "Poker Beat" podcast for

Check out previous installments of The BJ Report... Week 1 and Week 2 and Week 3.

2010 WSOP Day 31: TOC Hoopla, Flashmob of Brazilians, and Erik Seidel Goes for Number Nine.... Number Nine... Number Nine...

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Supposedly, Phil Ivey was going to "big time" the TOC and blow it off to play real poker instead. With millions in prop bets on the line, you can't blame Ivey for wanting to focus on bracelet events instead of a glorified made-for-TV freeroll. Ivey's potential snub of the TOC, despite being the top vote getter, worried officials. Would more pros would skip out if Ivey bailed?

In the parlance of Sportscenter speak, "This is Phil Ivey's universe... we're just paying rent."

The TOC was rescheduled at the last minute -- instead of one day of action playing from 27 to 9, the TOC split into two four-level segments (starting at noon on Sunday and continuing at noon on Monday). The final table is scheduled for July 4th (day before the Main Event). Whoever is left at the end of Day 2 will return next week.

The last minute schedule change was more accommodating for the TOC players (especially Ivey) so everyone could play in bracelet events. In fact, some of the Day 2 and 3 restarts were pushed back as well. As a result, everyone who was invited had played without any issues.

The concept of the current TOC rubs me the wrong way because two players in the field (sponsor exemptions Andrew Barton and Elky) are not bracelet winners. If you want to run this event, just don't call it Tournament of Champions because it is misleading, or as Benjo would say... it's booshit. I have no beef if the sponsor exemption goes to a bracelet winner who didn't get voted in, because at least, they met the "champions" criteria.

Here's my suggestion about three similar events that satisfies everyone's needs...
1. The Real TOC. Have a yearly tournament with only Main Event champs, 50K winners, and WSOP-Europe Main Event winners. The winner gets a motorized scooter and the chance to pick the format of the tournament the next year (HORSE, NL, PLO/8, Razz, etc.).

2. Bracelet Invitational. Hold a special event during the November Nine festivities for every player who had won a bracelet over summer, including the WSOP-E. This is similar to the PGA's Player's Championship (where you must win an event on the PGA to qualify to the season ending event). The winner of the Bracelet Invitational gets a year's supply of beef jerky and a $1 million cash bonus.

3. All-Star Game. Four table SNG. Let the fans pick any player they want for this "TOP 40" made-for-TV event. Everyone is happy. The fans feel special because they were a part of the selection process. The players are happy because they have a shot a face time on TV without having to wade through a week of donkey dung. And the TV people are happy because they have a product with lots of familiar faces that will attract viewers and advertisers other than online poker rooms.
These three different events meets the needs of three separate entities: the TOC pays homage to the champions of yesteryear, the Bracelet Invitational honors the current bracelet winners, and the All-Star Game lets the public watch their favorite pros.

* * * * *

I arrived at the Rio before noon, which is something I had not been doing much of this year, opting to come in a little later and staying later. It was sort of strange walking into the Amazon Ballroom and seeing Doyle sitting on his scooter and chatting with Mile Sexton. The topic: sports betting, which was kinda cool to hear what they were bragging about, and what bad beats they recently endured. Dan Harrington joined the circle and I headed to my seat in the press box. I could hear the voluminous musings of Mike Matusow from the other side of the room. He was trying to get odds that a twenty-something would win the event (Cada, Eastgate, or Elky).

The fans were eventually let into the amusement park and they wandered around like little kids in Disney World taking photos with Goofy and Pluto. Most of the TOC players were mingling around the TV stage trying to figure out their seating assignments. The three table tournament would be scattered across the Amazon ballroom in three of the four corners of the room instead of in the same spot. The featured table was used, but not the secondary beef jerky final table. Instead, the tertiary tables in front of the dual press boxes on opposite sides of the room were the locations of the other two tables.

"Have you covered a tournament when all tables involved were this far apart?" wondered my British colleague Howard.

"And have you ever seen pros this bored with a million on the line?" asked Snoopy. "They're rather quiet, not saying much, paying more attention to their iPhones and scratching their balls."

The spectators quickly grabbed seats inside the stadium final table area. The early birds also camped out near available spots on the various rails of the other two tables. They all had cameras. Some had two. Different shapes and sizes from disposables to iPhones. One foreign guy toted around a video camera and was shooting footage of Jesus healing two lepers in the hallway, before one of the security guards busted him.

The TOC brought out the best and the worst of the Amazon Ballroom with hungover media reps rushing into work an hour earlier (I consider myself an insider and I found out about the change in schedule less than 18 hours before start time... apparently, I missed the press release which had the time change buried. Then again, I haven't read a press release in three years). Agents were slithering around the press box. Lots of flashes going off from the clueless spectators. And everyone was wondering where the fuck was Phil Hellmuth?

Actually, when cards went in the air, only Hellmuth, Huck Seed, and Howard Lederer were not at their respective tables. Hellmuth is... well, Hellmuth, and he was not going to show up on time. It's his shtick -- he arrives late with the cameras awaiting his tardy arrival. At this instance, Hellmuth arrived late and headed right to the TV table. He was shocked that he wasn't at that table. An embarrassed Hellmuth quickly exited the set and rushed over to the other side of the room with a Starbucks in hand.

Huck Seed marches to his own beat. Who knows if he overslept, or didn't get word about the change in the start time (originally it was 1pm and he arrived at 12:43pm). When Huck took his seat, Ivey instantly gave him shit.

The Lederer's absence whipped a few people in a frenzy, even Michalski who showed up at the Rio early because he has this theory (more like a forced wish) that the DOJ is going to pop Lederer and Jesus during the WSOP and make them do a perp walk. Michalski wants to be here when that happens. Most media reps will drop anything to see a specific pro try to win a bracelet, but Michalski just wants pics of pros in handcuffs.

Alas, the DOJ didn't bust Lederer (or Jesus) during the $50,000 Players' Championship, and they certainly didn't do anything at the TOC. Lederer finally arrived and quietly took his seat at the featured TV table which included his sister, Annie Duke, and her nemesis Daniel Negreanu. Those two have never liked one another. One of the first ever threads I read on the old RGP boards was a spat involving Negreanu and Duke, where he accused her of having smelly feet. That was right after 9/11 when I was grinding it out at the underground card rooms in NYC and I had yet to start blogging on Tao of Poker. Almost a decade later, the two still have some bad blood, so much so that the denizens of 2+2 started their own sweat thread titled Negreanu sitting next to Annie Duke in TOC.

Duke pretty much ignored Negreanu, and chose to chill out with a shitfaced Scotty Ngyuen -- the lesser of two evils in her eyes. And yes, Scotty was three sheets to the wind. One of my sources informed me that Nguyen has been tipping cocktail servers to bring him bottles of O'Douls (non-alcoholic beer) but with all of the non-beer pour out and replaced by Nguyen's beverage of choice -- Michelob. Yep, this is the same Scotty Nguyen who made a mockery of the 50K HORSE the year that he won it, and then vowed to never drink on TV to avoid embarrassing his family further. I dunno who he was fooling, aside from himself.

While Scotty was getting sloppy (at 1pm mind you -- and not at the tail end of a twelve hour session), Andrew Barton sat at the table in front of my press box. He was the "sponsored exemption" and one of the only two non-bracelet winners in the TOC (Elky was the other). He went from watching his tablemates on TV, to sitting across from them. I guess he was living the dream that so many of you have -- playing against the best of the best with Johnny "Fucking" Chan to your left and an intimidating Jesus sitting across from you.

Due to the Donkulus running inside the Pavilion, the 1pm Deep Stack tournament was moved to the blue section of Amazon Ballroom. For the first time this summer, we had a slew of amateurs inside Amazon. Any of the real donkeys would have been playing in the Donkulus, which means the blue section was filled with what Benjo called "donks in training." Baby donks, or the area of the cafeteria in high school where all of the freshmen hung out. Thought it was an interesting contrast to the TOC running in the other three corners of the room. Fans were four and five deep on the rail for Ivey's table. The Stadium seating at the TV table was filled up along with standing room only up in the beef jerky lounge.

Five players busted out on Day 1, or rather, in the first four levels. POY leader John Juanda, was the first to bust out, and he was followed by Greg Raymer, Barry Shulman, Phil Ivey, and Sammy Farha. Ha, the joke was on the WSOP. Even after the schedule was changed to accommodate Ivey, he was among the first bustouts (in all fairness, it was a bad beat).

* * * * *

Bouncin' Round the Room on Day 31...

It was a hectic weekend day with two final tables, the TOC, and a Donkulus. Both events with scheduled final tables still had to play down. The re-start for Day 2 of the Mixed Game and Day 3 of PLO/8 were both delayed due to the TOC.

Event #45 Donkament Day 3 and Final Table: Alex Outhred survived two days in the killing fields, but he was among the first causalities on Day 3. Cash game specialist Thomas Bichon (one of the French Team PokerStars Pros with Arnaud Mattern) fell short of the final table in 11th place. Ray Coburn was the only player among the final nine that stood out. I recall that he cashed in a couple of EPT events many moons ago.

A Brazilian advanced to the final table, Thaigo "TheDecano" Nishijimajust, and I love how that name sounds -- very Shakespearean -- heroic, yet tragic. Whenever a Brazilian has a shot at a bracelet, Maridu blows a vuvuzela and every Brazilian within in a 420 miles radius rushes to the Amazon Ballroom as the rail becomes washed in a sea of yellow and green. I dig the Brazilians; they always bring their own booze and have ass-shaking samba ringtones on their mobile phones.

Alas, TheDecano busted in third place and the flash mob of Brazilians quickly dispersed. Ray Cobourn had to settle for second, while Jesse Rockowitz took down the bracelet.

Event #46 PLO/8 Day 3 and Final Table: 18. 23. 14. 13. 2. 17. 39. Nope, that's not Hurley's numbers from Lost, nor last night's Powerball numbers. Those are Chainsaw Kessler's seven cashes this summer. He was once in fierce contention for the POY race, but he needs a bracelet victory and then some to catch up to John Juanda and Frank Kassela. At the least, he went deep enough to get another food comp.

The final table was a motley crew: Erik Seidel (consummate pro), Leif Force (a former-pro disc golfer which is a clever term for 'hippie'), Chris Bell (one of Gavin Smith's former drinking buddies), Perry Green (1981 Main Event runner-up who lost heads-up to Stu Ungar), Dan Shak (hedge fund manager), Rob Hollink (Dutch pro who was the reason why Brandon Schaefer didn't win two EPT events in 2005), and how could we forget about Devilfish Ulliot (dirt dick).

I have probably written thousands of words about Devilfish's penchant for young women (who are barely legal and we're talking within days of that danger zone), but at this point it's become one of those "cliches" that beat poker writers make fun of during breaks at our anger management meetings. The ultimate cliche is a hack writer writing about the Devilfish cliche, which I'm doing... and I'll stop that right now.

Seidel had a pretty decent afternoon as the end of Day 1 chipleader in the TOC. His good juju spilled over into the PLO/8 event. Even though he was one of the shorties, Seidel grinded his way to an average stack at the final table. Seidel is a member of the Ocho Club with Phil Ivey. They are doing what they can to keep Men the Master out (not that they are discriminating, they just don't respect cheaters), so they are trying to win nine bracelets as fast as they can. Only four men have won more bracelets than Seidel -- Phil Hellmuth (11), Doyle Brunson (10), Johnny Chan (10), and Johnny Moss (10).

With six to go, Seidel was third in chips. Leif Force busted out in 5th, and Siedel ad slipped to fourth in chips. He could not get anything going at that point and fizzled out in 5th place. Devilfih was eliminated in surprising third place (another deep run for the Brits), meanwhile a heads up match was set between Chris Bell and Dan Shak. When the dust settled, it was the North Carolina boy, Chris Bell, who emerged with the bracelet. I wonder if Erick Lindgren still backs Chris Bell, because if he does, Lindgren just had a fantastic weekend with both of his horses winning bracelets with victories from Bell and Gavin Smith.

Photos courtesy of Harper & Benjo.

Monday Morning Link Dump: Predicting Gavin Smith, Vegas Images, Man v.s Computer, and British Sports Betting Scandal

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Happy Monday morning. OK, that was cruel. Mondays suck. The reason I became a writer was so I wouldn't get that sick feeling in my stomach late on Sunday nights and the pukey-taste in my mouth on Monday mornings. So I feel your pain, which is why I'm honored that you decided to stop by the Tao to kill some time. I'll do my best to steer you in the right direction...
Check out Shamus' take on Gavin Smith shipping a bracelet on Saturday... "You're winning this one." (Hard-Boiled Poker)

If you are a fan of true photography, then you must take a peek at one of my new favorite photographers... Wolynski. Take a peek at some of her work at the WSOP. (Vegas Images)

A sports betting scandal has been brewing in the UK after one player scammed a bunch of poker players into giving him money. Homer launched a thorough investigation into the Neil Blatchly Scandal. (Blonde Poker)

Smarter than you think? Insert your own Bill Chen joke here _____. IBM's latest supercomputer, "Watson", will take on a Jeopardy champion. (NY Times)

And in case you just woke up from a drug-induced coma and missed last week's WSOP coverage on Tao of Poker, here are the daily recaps...

Day 25: Phil Ivey Beats Supercomputer for Bracelet Ocho
Day 26: Dispatches from Razz - Swollen Testicles, Ivey's Hoodie, and Vigorous Confusion
Day 27: Kassela Wins Dos, Sinking Norwegian Queen, and Ivey's Bracelet Ceremony
Day 28: About My Very Tortured Friend, Phil Hellmuth
Day 29: Redemption Songs, Part II: Dean Hamrick and Gavin Smith
Day 30: The Sun Wields Mercy; Gavin Smith Wins First Bracelet
That's it. NGTFOOMO.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

DonkamentBomber and Bad Beat Bar WTF - New Tao of Pokerati Episodes

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Michalski was at the Rio and we recorded two episodes, one focusing on his Team Pokerati players and the other about the Bad Beat Bar, which is where Michalski supposedly hides out when he doesn't want to be found.
Episode 42 - DonkamentBomber - Dan and Pauly keep a bird eye's view on DonkeyBomber's run during Day 2 of a donkament. They also chat about another Pokerati player -- Toothless Bob -- who was AWOL for a while at the WSOP. Dan was pleased that he was still alive after his brief disappearance.

Episode 43 - Bad Beat Bar... WTF? - Dan and Pauly hang out in the somewhat Bad Beat Bar and chat about the pros and cons of that particular (sparsely populated) spillover area in the Rio's convention center. At some point, their conversation veers off into a story about Benjo and seven Mexicans.
If you'd like to listen to more episodes of your favorite and fastest poker podcast (broadcasting live from the WSOP), then you should visit the Tao of Pokerati archives.

2010 WSOP Day 30: The Sun Wields Mercy; Gavin Smith Wins First Bracelet

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I didn't see who was driving the silver Mercedes, but Gavin Smith sat in the passenger seat. At least, I thought it was him. Not too many people are sporting the classy fedora look in these Jersey Shore-fashion-influenced masses these days at the Rio. By process of elimination, it had to be Smith.

Gavin Smith was heading to the final table of a Mixed hold'em event and "dapper" is a word to prefectly describe his new look. He wore a "smart" jacket, dress shirt, spectacles, and an old school hat -- which replaced his former ratty backwards Full Tilt cap. Smith would begin the final table second in chips (only tailing by the slimmest of margins) and the amateur bookies in the press box were labeling Smith the odds-on-favorite to win his first bracelet before cards even went in the air.

ESPN3 was taping the event and for the first time in a few weeks, the final table stadium had a slicker feel and a more serious tone with all of the camera equipment and production staff running around. In that regard, Smith held an even bigger edge over his opponents. He's not camera shy in the least and has spent his fair share of time underneath the bright lights of a televised table.

The final table stadium area was moderately filled with spectators at the onset of play. The majority of Smith's friends were playing in other events at the Rio, but Chris Bell (who was also playing in the PLO/8 event) and Layne Flack stopped by to sweat from time to time. Flack was in usual rare form -- rowdy, obnoxious, hysterical, and most likely crocked to the tits. Andy Black and Miami John (also playing in PLO/8) made token cameos during breaks, and Black still looks like he's been living at a halfway house the last four weeks.

Even Pokerati's own Toothless Bob wandered into the stadium seating to check out the festivities. Toothless Bob and Michalski go way back to the underground Dallas days, but he was AWOL for a few days. That sort of disappearing act happens from time to time at the WSOP. You get used to seeing one person every day and then they vanish into thin air. Toothless Bob finally re-emerged just in time to sweat Gavin Smith.

While I wandered around the rail, I overheard a few conversations including the one guy int he entire Amazon Ballroom who did not have a working mobile phone. He was pestering random players, "Can you let me make a phone call for $1?" My favorite fans of the day were the trio of Brazilians in green and yellow soccer jerseys toting around oversized cocktails and a vuvuzela.

My view most of the final table from the beef jerky lounge

Within the first hour of play at the final table, Smith quickly went to work. One player busted out as Smith surged over $1 million in chips. His closest opponent, Danny "The Hurricane" Hannawa, had almost half his stack. Smith jumped out to an early lead, but could he keep up the pressure?

Over the afternoon, Smith failed to pad his his 1 million stack and he even slipped back below 1M. He was still ahead with the lead as WSOP-Circuit guru Dwyte Pilgrim hit the rail in 8th and Dan Idema went out in 7th. But with six to go, Smith ran into a little trouble as Timothy Finne seized the lead.

After Jamie Rosen busted in 5th place, Smith was near the bottom of the foursome. He battled back and after Michael Michnik hit the rail in 4th, he chipped up and found himself in the lead.

With three to go, Timothy "highlandfox" Finne posed the biggest threat to Gavin Smith, but he was knocked out in third place, setting up a heads-up battle between Smith and Danny Hannawa. Smith was ahead in chips 2.1 million to 1.7 million. Only one person, aptly nicknamed "The Hurricane" stood in the way of first place money and the bracelet.

During a round of NL, Smith extended his lead to 2-1 over Hannawa. However, it would take him a few more hours before he could finish off his opponent. While most of the free world followed along with Smith's progress via the internet and Twitter, many of Smith's friends -- new and old -- flocked to the final table area of the Amazon Ballroom. They wanted to witness the beloved Smith win a bracelet in person. He did not disappoint them.

Old Gavin Smith

Smith etched his name into the history books and proved that a sober, focused, and disciplined self is one tough son of a bitch to beat. Congrats to Gavin for turning things around.

* * * * *

Bouncin' Round the Room on Day 30...

Man, I can't believe that the WSOP has been going for longer than a lunar month. Wow, so many of my peers have that thousand yard stare. Others look like zombies or extras from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. They look like my friends, but something else is driving the bus if you know what I mean. The end of week two is when people start to hit the wall. By the end of week three, everyone has succumbed to the Vegas malaise. By week four, you either turn it around and catch a much needed second wind before the Main Event, or you go south and turn into a mindless zombie.

Event #46 $5K PLO 8 Day 2: Barry Greenstein and James "Flushy" Dempsey were among the leaders at the onset of Day 2, but both failed to make it to Day 3. At some point during Day 2, Chainsaw Kessler and everyone's favorite middle-aged ginger, Dan Heimiller, held the overall lead.

When action was paused at the end of Day 2, 21 players remained with Russian Sergey Altbregin atop the leaderboard. A couple of familiar faces are still left: Chainsaw, Devilfsh, Heimiller, Andy Black, Dan Shak, Leif Force, Rob Hollink, Miami John, and a short-stacked Erik Seidel.

Event #45 Donkament Day 2: Saturdays are always packed at the Rio's convention center as the WSOP caters to the weekend warrior's and amateurs who are taking their shot at the big time. This weekend featured a donkament and another donkulus! Friday's donkament attracted over 3,000 players (3,097 to be exact) and around 400 lucky donks survived the killing fields on Day 1 and returned for a race for the money. Will "The Thrill" Farilla ended Day 1 as one of the leaders and he began Day 2 in the hot seat.

I noticed that DonkeyBomber was still alive in the donkament only because his wild and wacky pants screamed out to me from all the way across the room. You can see those pants in the thickest of fogs. British pro Sam Trickett, who already has a runner-up performance this summer, jumped out to the lead before the dinner break with around 200 players to go.

DonkeyBomber got as far as 128th place before he busted out. Man, these donkaments are rough...playing for almost two days and doing better than a min-cash. Then again, if you can final table a donkament and take it down -- you get a sweet score for a minimal investment.

Day 2 ended with 36 players remaining, and Sam Trickett at the top of the heap. Can he pull off bracelet #6 for the Brits? If he can't do it, perhaps Stevie Chidwick can do it? The young Brit is not far behind in chips. Americans Alex Outhred and Dutch Boyd is also still alive with three tables to go. Outhred is seeking bracelet numero uno, while Boyd is seeking his third career bracelet, and his second of the 2010 WSOP.

Photos courtesy of Harper & Benjo.

Sunday Morning Link Dump: International Standings, Ivey Burn Bag, Spun Songs, and Parting Shots

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Welcome to the Sunday morning version of the WSOP link dump. Enjoy these gems this morning while you drink off your hangover, or grind away the Sunday tournaments.

By the way, this might be your last weekend to have a shot at winning a Main Event seat on PokerStars so you better open an account if you don't already have one.
Michael Craig chatted with Phil Ivey and Ivey got a word in edgewise! Check out the Ivey Burn Bag Part 1. (Full Tilt Poker Blog)

The Brits are kicking ass. But how is the rest of the world doing? Michalski is on the case crunching the numbers (he found some guys in front of Home Depot and handed thema calculator) and figured out the 2010 WSOP international standings. (Pokerati)

Friday Night's Parting Shot is Sunday mornings wanking material. (Wicked Chops Poker)

Do you like to listen to music late night when you're all wasted? If so check out this latest mix: Spun Songs For The Ride To The After Party. (Coventry Music)

And I'm dropping the official dates for the launch of Lost Vegas this week. if you follow @LostVegasBook on Twitter, you will hear about the news much sooner than the rest of the public. (Twitter)
That's it for now. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Small Balls - New Tao of Pokerati Episode

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Weird things happen at the WSOP during the late nights. Here's one of those "things"...
Episode 41 - Small Balls with Benjo - Sometime after midnight, we let it all hang out with the gang in the press box who engage in a silly, yet innocuous throwing things prop bet that began with Pauly and a single piece of wadded up paper. Before everyone knew it, Benjo, Shamus, and ten other bored members of the press (both foreign and domestic) were joining the fray. Degen prop betting often keeps the free press sane during those late night insane hours, as Tim the Intern took down the inaugural Small Ball Cup.
If you'd like to listen to more episodes of your favorite and fastest poker podcast (broadcasting live from the WSOP), then you should visit the Tao of Pokerati archives.

2010 WSOP Day 29: Redemption Songs, Part II: Gavin Smith and Dean Hamrick

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Very few people visit Las Vegas for salvation and redemption, but every once in a while, a player has a shot at exorcising past demons. In poker, you're often at the mercy of the fickle poker gods, and fnd yourself at the shit end of so many situations during the pursuit for glory. Sometimes you wait days, weeks, months, and years for atonement.

For Gavin Smith and Dean Hamrick, they both got that rare opportunity.

The name Dean Hamrick rang a bell. It took me a few minutes before his name and face crystallized in my memory banks... flashback to 2008... where Hamrick was bubbled off the Main Event final table in 10th place. Essentially, Hamrick became the first ever November Nine Bubble Boy.

Since that soul-crushing moment, Hamrick managed to final table a donkament last summer, but didn't bring home the bracelet. When he advanced to the final table of one of this summer's donknaments, Event #42 to be exact, he arrived with a salty taste in his mouth. He was not about to let this opportunity slip through his finger tips.

Hamrick attracted a bevy of young fans, mostly his friends which included the reigning champ Joe Cada. To them, Hamrick was their hero. If you don't know Hamrick's back story, he walks with the assistance of two crutches due to complications at birth. He was born with club feet and encountered other serious health issues. He had over a baker's dozen worth of surgeries, but is still limited crutches. Unable to compete in athletics and other sporting activities, Hamrick turned to poker. The rest is history.

Flashforward to the Rio... Hamrick had home court advantage with an overwhelming support group and whenever it seemed as though he was ready to hit the road -- something tremendous happened in his favor. Early on at the final table, he avoided elimination when he woke up with pocket Kings against Niccolo Caramatti's pocket nines. Hamrick's Kings held and he doubled up as his friend chanted, "Go Dean-o!"

As the night wore down, Hamrick found himself heads-up against Thomas O'Neal. He held the lead and began to chip away before O'Neal won a flip to take the lead. All of a sudden, O'Neal went on the offensive and took a 4-1 lead. Hamrick caught a little luck when he got it all in with Ac-6c against O'Neal's A-8. They ended up chopping the pot and Hamrick avoided an elimination.

That fortunate second chance (sense a theme here?) is all that Hamrick needed. He went on a run where he captured the chip lead and then finally pulled away with the victory sometime around sunrise. Epic day. Epic final table. Epic heads-up battle.

The 2008 WSOP Main Event November Nine Bubble Boy will no longer have that dubious distinction on his resume, because Hamrick now has a WSOP bracelet for us media-types to talk about.

Bracelets trump all things bubbly.

* * * * *

Gavin Smith is one of those rare characters in poker that can lighten up the darkest of rooms. He's a part rodeo-clown and part-savant; he's a a throwback to the old era and could have easily held his own in the rough and tumble days on Downtown Vegas in the 1970s.

Gavin Smith won over $5 million during his decade-long poker career, which is good enough to put him at second on the All Time Canadian Money List. Daniel Negreanu is the only player from north of the border who has more earnings than Gavin.

Most recently, Gavin has publicly confronted his issues with the bottle, one of very few pros who had no qualms about acknowledging his life leaks. Gavin is a hall of famer in all matters related to liquid refinements, but the superfluous booze and late nights had taken its toll. The Vegas nightlife has swallowed up many a man and ruined fortunes in the process. Over the last few years, Gavin waffled back and forth between periods of prohibition, moderation, and full-blown benders of epic proportions. In the past, Gavin needed the extra incentive of prop betting to keep him sober. These days, he's been seeking out the help of a life coach. Whatever he's been doing -- it worked the last two days.

One thing is for sure, when Gavin Smith lays off the sauce and finds a harmonious balance in life, he is one of the toughest hold'em players in Vegas. During Day 2 of Mixed Hold'em, Smith more than held his own. According to the reporters covering the event (Shamus and Chip Bitch), Smith was playing the LHE rounds superbly. He also made a couple of timely "hero calls" in the NL rounds as he chipped up throughout the day.

Gavin Smith easily advanced to the final table with a healthy stack and second in chips. Also advancing were fellow Canadian Daniel Idema, WSOP-Circuit guru Dwyte Pilgrim, and Jamie Rosen. After Gavin bagged up his chips, he politely answered a few questions for the media, while sipping a coke of course. A year or two ago, it would have been a rum and coke. A jovial Gavin displayed his sense of humor with his final table bio sheet. Under "lifetime ambition" he mentioned that one day, he'd like to be the media director of the WSOP.

Gavin Smith is apparently back to the top of his game. He returns to the Amazon Ballroom on Saturday afternoon with just eight men standing in his way of shipping his first ever bracelet.

* * * * *

Bouncin' Round the Room on Day 29....

Friday night at the Rio... always a fun time when the party people come out of the wood work and the casino's population losses significant IQ points as the BAC level dramatically increases. Kudos to Rio's security who helped clear out a gaggle of (non-media) drunks from the press box.

Event #43 10K HORSE Championship Day 3 and Final Table: Just like pretty much every non-NL event so far this year, the final table was not set by the conclusion of Day 2. The HORSE players began Day 3 with two tables and played out for several hours before a final table of eight was set. Brian Townsend held the top spot during the latter part of Day 2, but struggled early on Day 3. He fell short of the final table with a 10th place finish. Scott Fischman bubbled off the final table in 9th place, and the final table was finally set.

With eight to go, Matt Glantz held the lead over a final table that included the Eugene "White Russian" Katchalov, Carlos Mortensen, Nick Schulman, Marco Traniello, and Crazy Marco Johnson. Oh, and how could we forget about Richard Ashby? The Brit was going for his second bracelet this summer and the sixth overall for the United Kingdom.

Carlos Mortensen: poker pro, architect, narcoleptic

Traniello was short-stacked and his time at the final table was short-lived. He bailed out in 8th. Nick Schulman departed next in 7th place, and when he busted, the three hottest spectators in the stands, who were part of his entourage, also left. Mortensen couldn't get anything going and fizzled out in 6th place.

The remaining five played for a couple of hours as the lead changed hands many times over. During the breaks, Richard Ashby bolted over to the blue section on the other side of the room to play his stack in the 5pm PLO/8 "faux rebuys" event. Ashby was getting blinded out yet managed to chip up a bit during breaks in the HORSE final table. He would make Day 2 of that event...while Day 3 of his other event had yet to finish.

Shortly after 3am, Matt Glantz found himself as the shortstack and busted out in 5th place, as Ian Gordon had jumped into the lead with four to go. Only Ashby, Katchalov and CrazyMarco were standing in his way of the bracelet. When the action passed the 4am hour, Marco exited in 4th place. Gordon was still out in front with three to go. They quickly got rid of the Russian in third place. The heads up match was set... Ian Gordon vs. Richard Ashby. Gordon was virtually an unknown as a twenty-something pro from Montana, but he had over a 4-1 chip advantage over the British pro. It didn't take long before Gordon took down the tournament.

The Brits failed to win a 6th bracelet and mustered up yet another runner-up finish at the WSOP. To Ashby's credit, he now has a first and second under his belt at the WSOP, which should move him up a bit in the POY standings, but not enough to overtake the leaders -- John Juanda and Frank Kassela.

Late Night Hijinks: It started with a simple toss. A stack of used scratch paper sat in messy pile within my reach. The yellow pieces of paper belonged to Benjo and his colleagues who had scribbled down hands, notes, and chip counts during their daily rounds. I crumbled up one of the yellow sheets and took aim at an empty plastic cup on the table of the lower level of our two-tiered press box. I let it rip. Wide left. I instantly grabbed another piece of yellow paper, crumpled it up, and unleashed another toss. Wide right. Fuck me. I attempted another toss. That's when Benjo saw what I was doing and he joined in. It wasn't lime tossing, and I would never dare engage in that utter deviancy without Otis, but we were definitely gambling on a derivative of "throwing things" bets. Simply put -- a piece of paper in a cup.

Within minutes, five other slap-happy reporters joined us. Ten minutes later, we had a dozen media reps from different international outlets attempting the now impossible feat. No one could get the paper in the cup. A couple attempts came close. I grazed the outer lip at one point, but that was it. The size of the paper balls varied.

"Your balls are too small," commented one participant to another.

Hundreds of wadded up paper balls were unleashed toward the direction of the cup. At one point Shamus went out to collect the missed pieces of paper, like the guy who gets to drive the caged-cart at the driving range that retrieves all of the golf balls.

The target

The shooters

Just when it looked like no one could score a basket, Tim the intern from Bluff (otherwise known as Timtern), came out of nowhere and dropped a paper wad. Swish. Dead solid perfect. He won the prop bet. I peeled off a bill from my roll and the kid doubled his daily intern salary.

Some times my favorite moments at the WSOP happen spontaneously. Like 2am in the pressbox. After 29 days in the jungle, throwing wadded paper balls seems like the most meaningful thing you've done that day.

With that said, I'm eagerly awaiting Otis' arrival for another summer of lime tossing.

Photos courtesy of Harper & Benjo.

Saturday Morning Link Dump: Vegas Cabbie Q and A, Pickleman/Neil Channing, and Observing Obrestad

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

It's the weekend and I hope you're enjoying yourself. Here's a few items of note...
Mickey Mouse was shilling speed back int he 1950s. Man oh man, I wish I could get some of those Benzies right now. I'd make more money slinging speed in the hallways and the pressbox, than I would being a poker writer. (io9)

The Difference Between Me and Neil Channing is a witty piece from The Pickleman. Those Brits sure know how to write. (Unibet Ambassadors)

The gang at the Poker Beat discuss Ivey's 8th bracelet. (Poker Road)

How did I forget this gem? Observing Obrestad is a keen observation of the Norwegian phenom. (Hard-Boiled Poker)

If you're a Vegas newbie or always wondered the ins and outs of the taxi business in Las Vegas, then you have to check out Mr. Funk's Q&A. This is obviously a must read if you're coming out to Vegas for the first time during the Main Event. (Las Vegas Cabbie Chronicles)

And in case you missed it, one of the better pieces I wrote this summer was published on Tuesday morning.... Phil Ivey Beats Supercomputer for Bracelet Ocho. (Tao of Poker)
OK, that's it. Enjoy the rest of your Saturday. Don't forget that you can follow me on Twitter (@taopauly).