Sunday, June 25, 2006

A fun story from last years WSOP

I've had a request to tell a story from last year's WSOP that was a little amusing. One of the coolest things about going to the WSOP was getting an in person look at the worlds best and most famous poker players. They were walking around everywhere. I found myself doing double takes left and right. I'd be sitting at the table playing and I'd think "wow that guy looks an awful lot like Johnny Chan....holy shit that's Johnny Chan!" This happened no less than ten times.

Even cooler than strolling by the world's best was getting a chance to play against a few of them. Among the best were Julian Gardner (the main event runner up in 2002), Layne Flack (who won back to back preliminary events in 2002), and Howard Lederer (who has won multiple World Poker Tour (WPT) events and is a fan favorite). In most competitive arenas where money is at stake you want to play against weaker competition, but having one extremely strong player at your table in a poker game is not particularly detrimental. About 80% of the time I look at my first two cards and fold them and for the most part other good players do the same, so it's rare that you butt heads with one specific player over and over. I looked at it as a positive to play against the star competition so I could observe their tactics (I also thought it was just plain cool). I didn't get to observe Layne Flack for very long, however, because I busted him 30 minutes into the tournament.

And then there was Phil Helmuth. In 1989 Helmuth became the youngest main event champ in history by winning it at age 24. He has 9 WSOP bracelets (3rd most all time) and last year became the first player to ever have 50 career money finishes at the WSOP. Around 3 p.m. in my second event, I was moved to a new table and found myself sitting directly across from Phil. Two hours later we'd been playing for five hours total and were still over an hour short of the dinner break. Phil was starting to get hungry and mentioned that fact to the table. A few minutes later he asked if anyone had any food. No one did. Of course there was food relatively near by at a snack bar area, but it would take at least five minutes to meander through the hundreds of poker tables, make a purchase and return to the game. Phil was running short on chips and so every hand was critical. Between hands he stood up and went over to Chris Ferguson (the 2000 main event champ who always wears a cowboy hat and is often called "Jesus" because he has long hair and a beard) and asked if he "had any snacks." Chris did not and Phil found himself back a square 1. Suddenly he looked down on the floor. EUREKA! He reached down and pulled up an open box of graham crackers. There were a few left inside and he said to the guy next to him "are these yours?" The fellow replied "I just got here." I could see the gears turning in his head. He asked if they belonged to anyone else but it seemed they were up for grabs. So with everyone's attention on him he took one out, looked at it and was about to take a bite when I said "Come to Las Vegas, where you can see a millionaire eat food he found on the floor." Everyone including Phil and the dealer had a good laugh. When the laughs died down he put them back on the floor (perhaps for some other hungry player to find) and a few minutes later ran off to the snack bar.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dave is too modest to mention it, but he made the money in that tourney, and as it was his first WSOP appearance EVER, I thought a money finish, ANY money finish, merited some in-person encouragement, so I went to Las Vegas to cheer him on (he busted out about 7 minutes and twenty-five seconds after I arrived).

Anyhow, I saw that huge room of tables, and some of those big names Dave mentioned, and it was pretty exciting. I found it extremely encouraging that in the face of all that excitement, and potential fear (the dough he was playing with last year was quite a bit more dear to him than this year, even though it was actually less money), he kept his sense of humor about the whole thing, and was relaxed enough to make jokes!

I have heard (and generated) plenty of Las Vegas stories myself, but this is one of my all-time favorites! (I am the one who requested its appearance here)


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