Wednesday, July 20, 2005
"The community of poker bloggers is only a few years old, but already they've stolen the spotlight with live World Series of Poker coverage, sold out to bigger publications, and even run an online charity poker tournament."
Navel gazing & ego-stroking ahead. You've been warned.
Last week, I received an email from a highly respected scholar of the blogging - online journalism/ethicist scene asking for an interview. The freaking Online Journalism Review at the Walter Annenberg School of Journalism at USC, nonetheless.
Yikes! And I said "of course" even though it made me slightly uncomfortable to do so. Hell, I've never even been asked to appear on the Lord Admiral show.
And so hopefully I won't look like too much of an idiot. As I've said before, I'm pretty much an open book outside of this blog. I'm a chatty little bitch, in fact.
But it's difficult to explain to an "outsider" about the poker blogging world. Hard to quantify it all. I could never call myself the BlogFather in the Real World - I mean, how silly does that sound?
But damn, Mark Glaser at the Online Journalism Review wrote up one nifty little piece, pimping myself, Pauly, Otis and the Poker Prof.
* Gonzo poker bloggers bring World Series to life in real time.
Also, a big thanks to Toby for listing me as the #1 poker blog over at About.com
Top 10 Poker Blogs
I was surprised that Bill, one of my personal favorite bloggers, would blog his top ten poker blogs, but he did. Even I'm not that brave.
But let's not forget that little article I wrote for Poker Savvy about poker blogs, way back in January of 2004.
Poker Blog Roundup
And we can't forget that the Poker Prof put me into the blogging Hall of Fame.
"Party Poker Blogs (Guinness and Poker) - Iggy was one of the first poker bloggers and he is instrumental in the community. The terms Blogfather and Uberpost refer to only one site and one blogger, Party Poker Blogs and Iggy."
Hdouble wrote an excellent piece entitled The Viral Phenomenon of Poker Blogs which appeared in the premiere issue of ALL IN Magazine. Thankfully, he mentioned this humble poker blog.
Yeesh, did I miss anything?
Again, sorry for the self-aggrandizement today. I'll make it up to you ASAP.
But for now, have you seen the Party Poker badbeat jackpot is at 250k?? I bumped into Grubby last nite while I was 4 tabling.
And guess who is #1 on the monthly Party Poker tournament leader board?
That's right: Fast Eddie.
Guess who just messaged me asking to go to the Boat with me today?
That's right: Fast Eddie.
For now, here's the best letter ever written to the airlines:
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Whoa, three posts in a day.
And I've yet to begin an uber-post.
Hell, I'm off to the boat again.
But I just read that a WSOP Circuit Event is being played at Caesers in Indiana!!!
Woohoooo! I'm going to find my own Redneck Riveria for those few weeks and play every damn day.
The NEW 2005/2006 WSOP Circuit Events Schedule has JUST been published!
Grand CasinoTunica - Aug. 11-25, 2005
Harrah's Las Vegas - Sept. 6-16, 2005
Grand Casino Biloxi - Sept. 29-Oct. 12, 2005
Caesars Indiana - Oct. 19-Nov. 2, 2005
Paris/Bally's Las Vegas - Nov. 9-22, 2005
Showboat Atlantic City - Nov. 28-Dec. 9, 2005
Grand Casino Tunica - Jan. 5-26, 2006
Harrah's Atlantic City - Feb. 7-17, 2006
Caesars Atlantic City - March 21-31, 2006
Caesars Palace Las Vegas - April 3-14, 2006
Harrah's New Orleans - May 18-28, 2006
Harrah's Lake Tahoe - June 6-16, 2006
2006 TOC at Rio - June 28-29, 2006
2006 WSOP at Rio - Summer 2006
Follow up to yesterday's celeb post.
I got a little freaked out today upon receiving this email today from a faithful reader. I asked his permission to post it and he gave me the OK.
Poker and Scientology
First off, I enjoyed playing in the Charlie tourney yesterday, even though Wil Wheaton finished one place ahead of me (my king was outkicked so I went out in 23rd). Blogger tourneys are the best, and since cancer has had a major impact on my family, I was thankful for the support everybody gave to Charlie's family.
Your roundup of Scientology related matters today was great. I know this sounds odd, but keep an eye out for any weirdness related to that group. You have a widely read blog and excessive negativity toward them might get you labeled as an S.P. (suppressive person).
You may or not realize that prominent celebrity poker players Chris Masterson, Danny Masterson, Mimi Rogers and Laura Prepon are also Scientologists (other than Prepon, they are all lifelong members of the CoS). Danny and Chris "donated" their winnings on Celebrity Poker Showdown to a Scientology front charity called the Citizen's Commission on Human Rights (dedicated to exposing abusive practices by the psychiatric community).
Anyway, I am definitely not a crackpot; I was first exposed to the CoS by my first employer, a framer who gave copies of Dianetics away to his customers. The guy was a creep, but he led me to research Scientology in depth. I live in LA, so I went to
the main CoS recruitment center on Hollywood Blvd. and talked to them. I also
noticed the streets of Hollywood swarming with Naval officers, who I later
discovered belonged to the CoS Seaorg.
I read a hard to find book by L. Ron Hubbard Jr. called "L.Ron Hubbard, Messiah or Madman?" which detailed in great depth what a whackjob he was. The worst experience with the "Church" I had was when I interviewed for a job at Atkinson-Baker Court
Reporting Service. As I walked around, I noticed that Scientology-related
paintings were everywhere. When I did the interview, they told me they were not
Scientology-owned but that they did "subscribe" to the business methods created by Hubbard (they had bookshelves full of his Business manuals). They gave me an "IQ" test (similar to the one I took at the Scientology Center) and grilled me about the Psychology courses I had taken in college.
It turns out that the owners belong to the "Church's" W.I.S.E program and are another shell company of the CoS. CoS files more lawsuits than any other organization in the world and guess who they use for their depositions and court proceedings. You guessed it. These guys cover all the bases.
Trust me, the things this group has done and are capable of doing to their enemies is beyond amazing.
Ultimately, I like you and would hate to see some overzealous CoS minion come after you because of what you've written on your blog. Believe me, if you make an enemy of them, you need to sleep with one eye open.
Sorry if this freaks you out, but if you spend any time on Operation Clambake, you'll
find a ton of info related to this issue. I have no idea what the Cincinnati organization is like, but here in LA, we can't get away from them. They filmed "War of the Worlds" in my town (Piru, CA) and Cruise had a Scientologist hospitality tent set up for everybody involved in the shoot.
The guy is virtually 2nd in command in that church, as he is best friends with church leader David Miscavige. Now that he has shed his non-CoS advisors, he is really going off the deep end. As you've seen with Michael Jackson, when you have more money and power than God, your followers don't tend to include anyone who is inclined to do any critical thinking about your behavior.
Anyway, I just wanted to give you a head's up, but thanks again for spreading the word.
Yikes and thanks!
Per Tom and Katie, you know things are fishy when AdAge decides to write about it.
IS TOM CRUISE A CELEBRITY BRAND IN TROUBLE?
In Wake of PR Switch, Star's Behavior Raises Questions
July 18, 2005
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Tom Cruise once had a PR strategy as carefully
arranged as the incisors in that famous grin. Now that he's given
himself a media-relations makeover, both Hollywood and one of its
biggest stars are going to find out whether there's still reason to
More than a year after parting with a longtime adviser who largely
kept him under wraps even as his box office soared, Mr. Cruise's
public persona has emerged -- and it's a doozy. The gossip
publications have feasted on a series of appearances where he's
emerged as a bizarre cross between a giddy schoolboy in love and a
mystic with a strong anti-psychiatric bent. But it's doubtful that
anyone concerned with the film industry's already precarious state is
He is, after all, about the closest thing that Hollywood has to a sure
bet these days. A Cruise film is just about guaranteed to gross at
least $100 million and Forbes has him as the 10th most powerful
celebrity in the world. He's arguably the most bankable star in the
movie business -- a position he achieved through a nearly flawless
choice of projects but also a careful publicity strategy where editors
and reporters' access to him was doled out in exchange for promises of
fawning cover stories and even input in choice of photographs.
A publicity glasnost
That's exactly why this publicity glasnost, which has opened the door
to a gag-inducing minute-by-minute chronicle of his courtship of
actress Katie Holmes and verbal sparring with the likes of Matt Lauer
and Brooke Shields, seems like such risky business.
So why is he pulling such a maverick move now?
For one thing, the world of celebrity news has morphed into a 24-7
frenzy so cluttered that even the nightclub antics and dietary
adventures of B- and C-list celebs will get some ink. Before TomKat
was born, for instance, Mr. Cruise had never graced the cover of Us
Weekly, a publication that recently pictured Sarah Jessica Parker
buying paper towels and Matthew McConaughey playing Frisbee. Since then, he's been
'Interesting, for better or worse'
"It takes a lot to trump the celebrity news out there," said Janice
Min, the magazine's editor. "More and more of these old-school stars,
who did not grow up in the Us Weekly world, are realizing that they
can use the US Weekly world to their advantage. ... He's made himself
incredibly interesting again for better or worse."
Then there's the fact that his publicity is now managed by his older
sister, Lee Anne DeVette, who, like Mr. Cruise, is a Scientologist.
Pat Kingsley, who managed Mr. Cruise's publicity for 14 years until he
dismissed her last year, declined to speculate about his current PR
strategy but she suggested that the belief that she withheld him from
the press is wrongheaded.
"When we worked together, it was in a very organized way that it was
my responsibility to organize the interviews he did -- and he did do
quite a few interviews, by the way. People think my job was to say
'No.' My job was to organize and he always trusted us in organizing
the campaigns around his films. We were at one with that."
She said the strategy of negotiating covers and selection of photos
was in keeping with the nature of negotiations. "It's a two-way
street. They always had their conditions, too: being first or the only
one that month. You have to meet their conditions as well as meeting
your conditions. I took it as far as I could go [to get] what I
wanted. Both sides pushed the envelope."
A 'strong interview'
Asked what she thought of Mr. Cruise's recent Today Show interview
with Matt Lauer, where he accused the anchor of being "glib,"
she said: "I thought it was a very strong interview. I don't want to
go any further than that."
A spokesman at his talent agency, Creative Artists Agency, declined to
comment. Mr. Cruise himself couldn't be reached.
More skeptical observers caution that while there is the risk of
long-term damage to the Cruise brand, it will take an awful lot of
spotty behavior to undo the massive amount of goodwill he's built up
over the years.
"There's a school of thought that it's always good to be discussed,
but the recent coverage was so negative," said Mark Lisanti, editor of
Defamer.com. "Someone who's as big and famous as he is, it's hard to
tell whether people will forget."
"It does get a little risky when the coverage diverts from his craft
and into personal stuff," said Sean Cassidy, president of Dan Klores
Communications. "You begin to obscure who he is and what he does."
And what he does is surround himself with enough talent that the
reason to go see a Tom Cruise movie is rarely only Tom Cruise, said
Brandon Gray, president and publisher of Box Office Mojo, a Web site
for box-office data. "Because he picks such strong projects, there is
insulation against any tabloid antics that might happen," Mr. Gray
Movie box-office magic
It appears that Mr. Cruise's coming out hasn't hurt him in the short
run. His new film, the Steven Spielberg-directed War of the Worlds,
has been successful and principal photography for his next, the third
Mission: Impossible is proceeding, despite some concern that the
negative publicity and a renegotiation of Mr. Cruise's deal would
derail it. With a July 4 weekend performance of $77 million, War of
the Worlds was the biggest opening of his career.
But it remains to be seen how that brand holds up in the long run,
especially if there are many more awkward moments like the attack on
"That kind of thing can't be good for somebody's brand," said Mr.
Lisanti. "He's certainly not going to get an endorsement deal with
Catching up on my reading. Found this rant which I'm passing along.
Hell, I just love rants. Especially about poker.
If poker is sport, it's time to fold
Published 2:15 am PDT Sunday, July 17, 2005
Somebody should say this, so it might as well be said here:
Televised poker is a plague on our society. It is a canker sore on the
lips of our culture. It is akin to smoking unfiltered cigarettes in that
it's bad for the body and mind, an insidious habit gone epidemic.
Poker is not a sport, but it's all over the sports pages. It's all over
ESPN. It's all over Bravo and Fox and even the pages of my own paper.
All of a sudden, at all hours of the day and night, we're seeing
corpulent, pasty guys with bad skin and bad attitudes hunched around
sleazy tables like derby-wearing mutts in a dime-store painting.
Who are these people? Better yet, who cares?
Why are they on my TV screen? Why are they in my paper? What does it say
when poker ratings on ESPN are almost as high at 3 a.m. as they are during
That's right: Poker is watched by the thousands across America in the dead
Some might call that a fetish. And if not that, what does one call playing
poker for hours on a computer?
A new opiate for the masses? A prelude to downloading porn?
Obviously, it's called a sign of the times.
"I think (poker) has all the elements of what it takes to be a big deal,"
said Keri Potts, an ESPN spokesperson.
Potts and ESPN would know. Poker now draws more than a million households
per viewing, a staggering achievement of programming muscle considering it
is a sedentary game played at a table like Parcheesi.
This revolution apparently started two years ago, when the World Series of
Poker on ESPN tapped America's vein of addiction, elevating anonymous
schmoes like Chris Moneymaker (yes, his real name) into supposed cult
Moneymaker, you see, turned a $40 tournament entry fee into a $2.5 million
payday when he prevailed over more than 800 players.
This is, of course, the heartbeat fueling games of chance: the Hail Mary
hope of the big score for the dog-faced Everyman.
It's the bedrock upon which Las Vegas - and ESPN poker ratings - are built.
Steve Lipscomb, creator of the World Poker Tour, described the bonanza
this way to The Bee last year:
"Even if you have the desire and resources, you can't go play in any other
major sports like the NFL or the NBA. ... But with poker, you can. It's a
televised sport that anybody at home, on any given day, could have a
chance to play for a major title with the top players."
Fine. You want to play online poker until your corneas bleed, go ahead.
You want to gamble away your mortgage, that's up to you.
There is no problem as long as you call it what it is - a hobby, a way to
blow off steam, the vice of a free society.
But that's not how poker is being sold now.
It's being jammed down our throats by the pimps of popular culture,
crafted as thrilling competition when it's really not.
Go to a tournament and you'll see.
"It's like watching paint dry," Lipscomb told The Bee last year. "I'd just
as soon stand in the corner and stare at the wall."
But it works on TV because ESPN filmmakers skillfully manipulate hours of
nothing - madly cutting and pasting - to produce "great television."
In truth, it's just as phony as the "And1 Mixtape" basketball tour, which
is a collection of bricks and bumbling passes distilled to heavily edited
dunks and "street-ball attitude" for television.
It's not real, it's Memorex.
Such fakery was bad enough when ESPN cameras turned publicity-hungry
bowlers into trash talking bozos, but now we're supposed to be impressed
by a poker-playing doofus with wraparound sunglasses?
Seriously. Modern-day court jesters are being elevated alongside the
Miguel Tejadas of the world by the likes of the New York Times, which on
Friday described poker players this way:
"Among the game's breakout stars are Phil "The Poker Brat" Hellmuth. ...
Men "The Master" Nguyen, who often sips beer at the table in a pose of
nonchalance; and Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, whose long locks and dark beard
help him resemble the popular depiction of Christ."
Boy, is that this week's sign of the coming of the apocalypse or what?
So let's review: Televised poker stinks because a game requiring no
athletic ability, tied to gambling and played by chain-smoking,
booze-swilling louts is being sold as culturally important.
It stinks because it's a game manipulated by television to seem more
interesting than it is.
It stinks because it appeals to our worst instincts.
"In this day and age, if you put a television camera in a 7-Eleven, clerks
would be giving each other high-fives after they sold a Slurpee," said
Norman Chad, an ESPN poker "commentator" in the Times.
OK. This is America, people watch poker; the rest of us always can change
the channel. No problem.
But keep poker off my sports page. And while I'm happy for the Elk Grove
guy who took home seven figures in Vegas on Saturday, don't tell me his
win is important.
It is to him and his family, but to a shrinking world that still values
real athletic talent and genuine real athletic entertainment, it's not.
Damn, WSOP coverage starts tonite on ESPN. Here's a schedule:
All times EDT as usual. Check your local listings to be sure of your broadcast schedule.
WSOP Circuit Events ( on ESPN starting this week)
July 19 - 8p - Rio Las Vegas
July 19 - 9p - Rio Las Vegas
July 26 - 9p - Harrah's Atlantic City
Aug 2 - 9p - Rincon San Diego
Aug 9 - 9p - Harvey's Lake Tahoe
Aug 16 - 9p - Harrah's New Orleans
World Series of Poker
Aug 23 - 8p - $1,500 No-Limit Hold 'Em
Aug 23 - 9p - $1,500 Limit Hold 'Em
Aug 30 - 8p - $1,000 No-Limit Hold 'Em (rebuys)
Aug 30 - 9p - $2,000 No-Limit Hold 'Em
Sept 6 - 8p - $2,000 Pot-Limit Hold 'Em
Sept 6 - 9p - $2,000 Pot-Limit Omaha (rebuys)
Sept 13 - 8p - $5,000 No-Limit Hold 'Em
Sept 13 - 9p - $5,000 Pot-Limit Hold 'Em
Sept 20 - 8p - $1,500 No-Limit Hold 'Em
Sept 20 - 9p - $5,000 Seven-Card Stud
Sept 27 - 8p - $2,500 No-Limit Hold 'Em
Sept 27 - 9p - $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha
Oct 4 - 8p - $5,000 Limit Hold 'Em
Oct 4 - 9p - $5,000 No-Limit Hold 'Em (6-handed)
Oct 11 - Nov 15 - $10,000 No-Limit Hold 'Em World Championship (two episodes at 8p/9p consecutively each night)
Monday July 18th
2:00 PM Poker Million: The Masters II CSN
Features Bruno Fitoussi, Philippa Flanders, Barny Boatman, Mark Burton, Nick Barbu, Martin Smith. [Commentary by Jesse May, hopefully in a subdued manner]
4:00 PM ?? Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament FSW
[listed as 4 PM PDT on Yahoo TV, but the Circuit events are listed as starting at 9 PM PDT, so I don't know]
5:00 PM ?? Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament FSW
7:30 PM Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament CSN
[I've lost track of the preliminary rounds- this may be #16?]
11:00 PM Poker Royale: Comedians vs. Pros GSN
[I also don't know which part this is]
Tuesday July 19th
12:00 AM Poker Million: The Masters II CSN
12:00 AM World Series of Poker 38 ESPN2
Final 27 of the 2004 series
1:00 AM World Series of Poker 38 ESPN2
Final table of the 2004 series
Repeat of Monday
2:00 AM?? Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament FSW
9:00 AM Happy Days: So How Was Your Weekend? TVLAND
Argumentative poker game
12:00 PM World Series of Poker: Main Event ESPN2
1:00 PM World Series of Poker: Main Event ESPN2
1:00 PM Celebrity Poker Showdown: BRAVO
Repeat of 2004 show with Sean Astin, Lauren Graham, Chris Masterson,
Matthew Perry, Sara Rue
2:00 PM Ultimate Poker Challenge INHD
[I don't know which one]
2:00 PM World Series of Poker: Main Event ESPN2
Part 3 of 2004 series
3:00 PM World Series of Poker: Main Event ESPN2
Part 6 of 2004 series
4:00 PM World Series of Poker: Main Event ESPN2
Part 7 of 2004 series
5:00 PM World Series of Poker: Main Event ESPN2
Part 8 of 2004 series
6:00 PM World Series of Poker ESPN2
Part 9 of 2004]
7:00 PM World Series of Poker ESPN
Final table 2004
8:00 PM World Series of Poker: 2005 Circuit Tournament ESPN
At the Rio
8:30 PM ? Texas Hardtails SPEED
9:00 PM World Series of Poker: 2005 Circuit Tournament ESPN
Part II at the Rio
10:00 PM Tilt 37 ESPN
Repeat of the Emmy-winning first show
[That's right, it's BACK!]
Monday, July 18, 2005
Wil Wheaton: did you hear about the Phil Hellmuth car?
Wil Wheaton: it doesn't come with a key . . . you just kick the door to get in
For the record, Wil was down to 450 in chips before roaring back and finishing in the top 25.
Al's pocket queens got boated by The Hammer.
Here's his screenshot if you want a chuckle.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the Charlie Tuttle tourney last evening. 144 players. I must say, it was pretty damn cool to see Charlie's dad in the chat.
I've received two emails thus far about the ESPN WSOP DVD's I'm giving away to the final five finishers. Please email me if you made the top six, as Maudie already has a DVD.
This is my 410th post. I'd be willing to wager that I'm over a million words on this here humble poker blog. Pretty amazing if you think about it.
Amazingly retarded, that is.
I was all set to write a State of the Blog address but I think I need to wait until I have some Guinness in my belly.
Also, I need to do an uberpost to unload this massive content I have stored up, but frankly, I'm off the boat again. That's right, I've caught the live poker bug and it's a wonderful itch to scratch. And the interesting thing is I'm playing exclusively NL poker there. The 10.20 - 20.40 is inhabited mainly by grumpy rocky old men while most of the gambloors are sitting No-Limit. Guess who I prefer playing with?
It's only a $400 max, 2/5 blinds, but it's still very common to see a player stacked up 2-3k. And because this is so dramatically different from grinding I'm truly enjoying it. Losing two grand on the turn of a single card is a wonderful new poker lesson for me to absorb.
More importantly, learning who the regulars are is invaluable.
And so there it is. I've found my new office.
I'm hopefully gathering material for a future book, but even if not, I'm finally enjoying myself. I've had a lot on my psyche lately. And more is coming. Perhaps I'll blog about this once I get the phone call I've been waiting three years for.
I also want to thank the few people who stepped up and tried to help me with ideas for improving this blog. Truly appreciated.
And for now, I'm going to do something completely different. I know several prominent poker bloggers have a thing for Ms. Katie Holmes. And so, I feel it my duty to do my first ever celebrity blog post about this cute girl and an insane Tom Cruise.
I just read the feature article on Slate about L. Ron Hubbard, which is what spurred this segue post.
L. Ron Hubbard
Scientology's esteemed founder.
Everything you ever wanted to know about Scientology is located within this awesome site. Thanks to Whiskey for the reminder.
Operation Clambake - The Inner Secrets Of Scientology
And then there's this bizarre interview with Katie in W.
So now that you've read the above - check out this smart piece in Salon entitled:
Holy fem-bot, Batman!
Katie Holmes is turning into a zombie in front of our eyes. Pass the popcorn.
I loved this blog. Very clever.
Tom Cruise MD
And hell, I've already linked to Tom Cruise is Nuts, but to be complete, I'm reposting it here.
Last but not least, there's been a lot of speculation about how in on this Holmes has been. Tom Cruise's contract with Katie Holmes promises the young starlet five million dollars if she keeps up the routine for five years. Lucky for her, there's a clause to guarantee no unnecessary sex.
Before and now. A historical perspective.
Link of the Day:
John Kerry is Very Swift
I hope that some Americans will rethink their opinion of Sen. John Kerry after reading him get a Nigerian scam artist so frustrated he declares "the holy ghost has spoken to me to desist from you."
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Reminder about tonight.
Charity tournament in Charlie Tuttle's honour. Yes, there is a celeb playing.
WPBT "Charlie" Tournament
When: THIS Sunday - July 17th - 6pm EST
Where: PokerStars - Listed under the Private tab
Cost: $20 - Every penny goes to charity
'Oi! Oi! Oi!'
Aussie Hachem wins $7.5M World Series of Poker
Like Chris Moneymaker in 2003 and Greg Raymer last year, Joseph Hachem won in his first World Series.
World Series of Poker Earnings for the final table
Joseph Hachem, First Place, $7.5 million.
Steven Dannenmann, Second Place, $4.25 million.
Tex Barch, Third Place, $2.5 million.
Aaron Kanter, Fourth Place, $2 million.
Andrew Black, Fifth Place, $1.75 million.
Scott Lazar, Sixth Place, $1.5 million.
Daniel Bergsdorf, Seventh Place, $1.3 million.
Brad Kondracki, Eighth Place, $1.15 million.
Mike "The Mouth" Matusow, Ninth Place, $1 million.
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- The sun set, the sun rose and still they played, caution trumping bravery, adrenaline fighting off fatigue, rare moments of drama breaking through the tedium, the chip lead shifting for nearly 14 hours at the 36th World Series of Poker -- the longest final table in tournament history for the richest prize.
Nine players had started Friday afternoon, the survivors among the 5,619 who entered the $10,000 buy-in No Limit Texas Hold 'em tournament last week, and only two remained Saturday morning -- Australian chiropractor-turned-pro Joseph Hachem and American amateur Steven Dannenmann in the first World Series for both of them.
The big shots of the poker world were long gone, though some sat enviously in the black-draped room at Benny's Bullpen in Binion's Gambling Hall & Hotel, watching along with hundreds of frenzied fans as Hachem and Dannenmann faced off one last time.
The $7.5 million first prize lay piled high in everyone's view, thick $50,000 bundles of $100 bills guarded by security men wielding shotguns.
At 6:44 a.m., on their sixth head-to-head duel and the 232nd hand of the night, Hachem claimed the fortune and the priceless championship bracelet when his seven-high straight beat Dannenmann's pair of aces with all $56 million in chips pushed into the pot.
It was a theatrical finish to a plodding night that had been filled with smart moves and goofy ones by pros and amateurs exhausted by some 90 hours of poker each over six brutal sessions.
Dannenmann raised before the flop and Hachem called. A six-five-four came out and Hachem checked. Dannenmann bet another $700,000, Hachem raised to $1.7 million.
The turn card was an ace and Hachem tossed $2 million more into the pot. Dannenmann hesitated, studied the table and Hachem, then raised to $5 million. Hachem went all-in with more than $30 million and the small crowd still packed in the Bullpen roared as Dannenmann instantly called.
Hachem flipped over his cards -- a seven and three for a straight -- against Dannenmann's ace-three. Dannenmann needed a seven on the river to chop the pot with an equal straight. A four came out instead and Hachem was the champion.
The first Australian to win the poker World Series, Hachem hugged Dannenmann, then wrapped himself in an Australian flag while his many compatriots and fellow poker players in the room chanted "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!" as they had through the night.
"Thank you, America," Hachem shouted in delight.
Little known before now, the 39-year-old Hachem realized immediately that his life would never be the same.
"A million dollars changes my life, let alone $7.5 million. It changes everything," said Hachem, a native of Lebanon who moved to Australia with his family in 1972. He gave up a 13-year chiropractic career three years ago to play poker for a living and vowed now to succeed last year's champion, Greg Raymer, as a worthy ambassador for the game.
He pulled out his cell phone to call his wife in Melbourne and spoke to her briefly, he said, "just before she fainted."
All the money he won, Hachem said, was secondary to capturing the title of World Series champion and the diamond-studded, white gold bracelet that he can take into every tournament in the future.
"The money's great," he said. "I'd be lying if I said it's not. But the bracelet is the thing. It's an honor and a privilege to wear it."
While several other players had held the lead in the chip count at different times through the night, Hachem had trailed for 111/2 hours until 4:20 a.m. but never lost sight of his goal or his strategy to concentrate on winning small pots. Nor did he let himself get distracted by the grand prize.
"I never stopped thinking about being the winner, but I never once thought about the money," he said.
Hachem led the chip count with $39,995,000 to Dannenmann's $16,350,000 when they started playing one-on-one after third-place finisher Tex Barch was eliminated.
Barch, who won $2.5 million, went out when he lost a three-way hand that Hachem took with pocket jacks for $16 million in chips.
Dannenmann, a 38-year-old accountant and mortgage banker from Severn, Md., won the $4.5 million second prize and took the defeat cheerfully. He said he couldn't wait to go fishing with his friends.
"I got tired," he said. "I was bored of it. I was trying to make moves."
Claiming he was only the fourth-best player in the game he hosts at his house each week, he had entered the tournament on a lark after a few beers with golf and poker buddy Jerry Ditzel, who put up half the $10,000 entry fee and will get more than $1 million in return.
"We kick his butt in the game back home sometimes," Ditzel said.
All the players at the final table won at least $1 million.
Mike "The Mouth" Matusow, a pro who came in sixth in 2001, was the first out but had no regrets.
"I played the six best days of poker in my life," Matusow said. "I'm going to bed happy."
Brad Kondracki, a 24-year University of Pennsylvania law student from Kingston, Pa., finished eighth to take home $1.15 million.
"I'll probably drink way too much and wake up and buy something really expensive that I don't need," he said, getting a laugh from his parents and brothers by his side.
Daniel Bergsdorf, a 27-year-old Swedish truck driver, was seventh. Scott Lazar, a 42-year-old production assistant for independent films who was playing in his fourth World Series, finished sixth. Irishman Andrew Black took fifth, Aaron Kanter, a 27-year-old pro from Elk Grove, Calif., was fourth.
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