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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Purdue student wins poker tourney Technorati Profile


As the poker tournament finally came to a close, David Wood knew he had it won.

The dealer tossed out two cards, a king and a six. Wood was confident; he knew the outcome before the flop was down.

"King-six is my lucky hand," said Wood, a junior in the School of Management. "I always hit two pairs; I really do."

The flop came. Another king-six, two pair. The tournament was over and Wood won the AbsolutePoker.com Win Your Tuition tournament.

"I'm really glad I won, because I was supposed to start with more chips and they took that away from me. I was like 'forget you guys' and told them I was going to win it," he said.

Wood said the tournament officials said each player was supposed to start with the same amount of chips they had once the tournament finals came around.

"I had so many chips that they didn't want to televise the tournament because they thought it was going to be a whole lopsided thing," said Wood. "They told me 'well, if you're that good then win it' and I was like 'well, I will.' And I did."

The tournament took place on Aug. 9 in New York City at the Crobar, a New York City nightclub. Benjamin James, head of the college development project for AbsolutePoker.com, said the tournament is a good way to mix school and poker.

"Tuition is a prize that every college student needs help with," said James.

Wood said he was told the winner was only going to win a semester's tuition and was surprised when the officials informed him he had won a year's tuition instead.

Going into the tournament, Wood was confident. He said he felt prepared and ready because he had practiced with his friends. Once the tournament began, however, it was a different story.

"No one would go out. I made so many good calls, I just couldn't knock anyone out," said Wood. "The only time I would ever win (on a call of) all-in was when I was all in."

The audience didn't help either. Each player had fans who would cheer once the player made a good call or won a hand. Wood didn't.

"I was talking trash the entire tournament," he said. "I was giving the audience hell because they wouldn't cheer for me."

Most of the tournament, Wood was in the lead. But there was one point, when he had the least amount of chips, where he thought he might actually lose the tournament.

"I had ace-six, and he had ace-jack, I saw the entire tournament flash before my eyes," said Wood. "It was an ace on the flop, nothing on the turn, then a six on the river. I went nuts; I went so insane."

Wood found out about the tournament completely by accident. One day he was searching Internet poker sites for free tournaments and he came across the Win Your Tuition tournament. Once he realized the final six of the tournament would be televised, he was in. Even though he won this semester's tournament, he said he plans to enter again next time. He's even promised anyone looking to join AbsolutePoker.com that he could get him or her a "fat bonus" just for e-mailing him.

When asked whether he considers himself somewhat of a celebrity he said, "If you call a guy that you walk into a party and everyone starts screaming "Woody, what up,' then yeah."

Wood added that he's never looked at a poker book in his life. He said he's learned by just playing and that's the best way to learn.

"I'm not trying to listen to what other people have to say. Like, I don't care if they're pro; I don't care if they're ranked No. 1 in the world. Sure, I'll talk to them about it, but I'm not gonna read a book. It's just not worth it," he said.

Wood went into the tournament knowing he was going to win. Wood had been saying for weeks before the final tournament that he was going to win it all. He said no one believed him.

"I called my shot on TV; I called my shot to all the VPs at Absolute Poker that I was going to win. I was right."

World Series of Poker prize money frozen after suit is filed Technorati Profile


(AP) - Jamie Gold's win at the World Series of Poker might be only half as sweet.

A Nevada judge has frozen half of the $12 million US top prize after a Gold acquaintance sued, saying the two men agreed to split the winnings. Bruce Crispin Leyser, a Los Angeles-based TV development executive, alleges in a suit filed Monday in Clark County District Court that Gold, a former Hollywood talent agent, agreed in July to split his winnings in exchange for Leyser helping him find celebrities to play in the main event while wearing the "Bodog" label of an offshore Internet gambling site.

Bodog paid the $10,000 entry fee for Gold, who beat 8,772 players to win the world's largest poker tournament.

Leyser alleges he fulfilled his end of the deal - getting Scooby Doo star Matthew Lillard and Punk'd comedian Dax Shepard to wear the brand - but claimed Gold has refused to hand over $6 million.

Gold said in a statement issued through his lawyers that he was "disappointed" that "a person he has only known since July of this year has elected to file litigation rather than continue the parties' discussions in an effort to find a resolution to this matter."

After winning the tournament, Gold said he would share the money with friends and supporters.

Clark County District Judge Kathy Hardcastle issued a temporary restraining order Monday preventing the Rio hotel-casino, site of the poker tourney, from disbursing $6 million for 15 days. A hearing was set for Sept. 1 to determine whether the freeze would continue.

Leyser said he has evidence to support his claim - an Aug. 10 voicemail left by Gold just hours before play began at the final table.

"I promise you - you can keep this recording on my word - there's no possible way you're not going to get your half ... after taxes," it says, according to the lawsuit. "You've trusted me the whole way, you can trust me a little bit more. I promise you there's no way anybody will go anywhere with your money. It's your money."

Leyser's lawyer in Las Vegas, Richard Schonfeld, called the case "exceptionally strong."

"That's how we were able to obtain a temporary restraining order freezing the money," he said.

Harrah's Entertainment Inc., which owns the Rio, declined comment.

"Harrah's does not comment on pending legal matters, particularly those in which it is not directly involved," the company said in a statement.

Bodog said it included Gold on its celebrity roster of players because of his help putting the team together, his relationship with mentor Johnny Chan and his tournament experience, but added, "We are unaware of any side deal he may have made."


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Atherton man wins $4.1 million in poker Technorati Profile

Michael Binger finishes third in No-Limit Texas Hold'em Main Event

The saying "you have to spend money to make money" certainly applies to Atherton resident Michael Binger.
Binger finished third in the No-Limit Texas Hold'em Main Event at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas Aug. 11, taking home about $4.1 million.
Binger has a Ph.D. in particle physics from Stanford University, and has lived in Atherton since 2000.
He outlasted all but two of the 8,773 players who paid the $10,000 entry fee to play in the event.
He was knocked out of the event by the eventual winner, Jamie Gold of Malibu, who won the $12 million grand prize.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Some mighty big stakes in World Series of Poker Technorati Profile

By Greg Cote
McClatchy Newspapers
(MCT)

MIAMI - You wouldn't exactly call it a sporting event, despite the presence and imprimatur of ESPN. You would call it a bizarre event, a circus, excessive, splendidly American. Is it a card tournament? Yeah. Like the Super Bowl is a football game. Like Las Vegas is just another western town.
If you looked around the room at the World Series of Poker, which ends Thursday at the Rio on the Vegas strip, at any one time you might have seen hunched before a stack of chips Spider-Man Tobey Maguire, porn star Ron Jeremy, Lakers owner Jerry Buss, actress Shannon Elizabeth, golfer Paul Azinger, actor James Garner and boxer Antonio Tarver. Also, a New Orleans grandmother who played in a nun's habit and delighted in breaking the serious mood at her table by sitting on a whoopee cushion; a monkey named Mikey in a tuxedo; and Ryan Madanick, an assistant professor at the University of Miami School of Medicine.
Actually the monkey, trained to recognize colors and suits of cards, ultimately was barred from playing despite having his entry fee sponsored by a poker website. But Madanick was there, an answer to the rhetorical, ``Is there a doctor in the (mad)house?''
The event's appeal is that unique, eclectic array of participants. This is where you find the stars of poker who do this professionally playing alongside serious amateurs, casual once-a-month-with-the-beer-buddies guys, rich women who don't know their ace from a hole in the ground, regular folks who saved for years for the $10,000 buy-in and celebrities to whom the entry fee was spare change.
The World Series of Poker began in 1969 with six guys sitting around a table, back when the game's national image was pretty much confined to the once-ubiquitous velvet painting of dogs dealing a hand on the wall of your wood-paneled den.
This year's WSOP found a record 8,773 players filling 220 tables in a convention hall the size of a football field, all in for a top prize of $12 million in a two-week Texas Hold 'Em event reaching a crescendo Thursday with the final table of nine survivors. The velvet dogs are gone, replaced by card sharks in reflector sunglasses, gamblers-turned-celebrities by a game-turned-TV phenomenon.
If you doubt poker has become a big draw, consider that 50,000 fans swarmed in to watch the WSOP, that the final table will be shown live on pay-per-view, and that ESPN will air a series of 32 one-hour specials on the tournament beginning Aug. 22.
The circus drew Madanick briefly away from his medical specialty, gastroenterology, in an effort to give his rival players indigestion for awhile. He was one of several South Floridians in the field, a WSOP first-timer who won his entry in an online tournament but is strictly an amateur. He is 33, married with a small child. Poker is a guilty pleasure.
``My co-workers were excited, but the only reason my family was excited is because I could have won millions,'' he said, back in Miami.
Madanick didn't finish in the money (only the top 10 percent do), let alone reach the final table, where all remaining players are assured at least $1 million. He won a bunch of fun, though, and some memories.
When he got knocked out at 2:15 a.m. on the first day, comedian Brad Garrett (from Everybody Loves Raymond) was one table away. Two tables away (where the ESPN cameras were) were poker brat-superstar Phil Hellmuth and revered 72-year-old Doyle Brunson, the patriarch of the poker boom - both getting knocked out.
``When Hellmuth went out, everybody cheered because they were glad to see him go,'' Madanick said. ``When Brunson went out, everybody cheered for him, not because he was gone.''
Madanick was still playing when both stars were bounced. That's what is neat about the WSOP. Regular players have a chance to say they beat - or were beaten by - the best. How many of us get to beat Tiger Woods at his game? Or step into the batter's box and face Roger Clemens? It can happen in poker.
``I outlasted Phil Hellmuth,'' said Madanick, still savoring the words. ``I also outlasted Doyle Brunson.''
Most of the pros take their elimination nonchalantly, seeing no shame in losing to amateurs. Odds are against the pros by sheer numbers in the WSOP. Long-term, skill wins. One hand? Luck of the draw.
That might be why none of the surviving nine is a full-time pro. The chip leader on Thursday's final table, aided by a massage therapist kneading his shoulders, is appropriately named Gold: Jamie Gold, 36, a former talent agent whose clients included ``Soprano'' James Gandolfini and ``Desperate Housewife'' Felicity Huffman.
``The main event had almost 9,000 players. It's not reasonable and rational to expect to win,'' says Vanessa Rousso, 23, of Miami, also knocked out early. ``Too much luck is involved, and every professional player accepts that as a rational truth.''
Rousso attends UM's law school, but her degree will be a fallback if her poker career continues its ascent. She is a rising star, with her own eponymous website and her own persona: Lady Maverick.
``It's not so much the money,'' she said of poker's allure. ``If money was so important, I'd work as an attorney because it's so much more secure. Poker is exciting, and it's flexible. You work for yourself. Whatever hours you want to keep, there's always a game available, live or on the Internet. And being a young woman, sort of a rarity in the poker world, there are a lot of business opportunities. You get invited to tournaments and fly around the country and play free. How many 23-year-olds get that?''
Rousso isn't the most nationally prominent player from down here, though. That may be Michael ``The Grinder'' Mizrachi, 25, of Hollywood. He started playing online; now he's a fixture in the 5-year-old World Poker Tour, winning almost $4 million the past two WPT seasons, and ranked No. 1 by Card Player magazine. His motto: ``I am a machine. I don't stop grinding.''
Efrain Lopez, 36, of Miami, may want to get to where Mizrachi is. Lopez recently quit his job as an investment banker on Brickell to determine in his own mind if his success at poker - he says he is up $250,000 this year - means he should set out as a full-time pro. He didn't cash in the WSOP, but at least avoided having to decipher whether a tuxedo-wearing monkey named Mikey was bluffing or not.
``I think I'd freak out a little,'' he said. ``It would be a no-win situation. If you win, well, it's a monkey. And if the monkey beats you, it's a monkey!''
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© 2006, The Miami Herald.
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