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Beloved Biloxi

1/7/2008

When my main man Matthew Parvis asked me to write about my recent win in Biloxi, he didn't have to ask twice. Life on the circuit is filled with mistakes and disappointments. Oh, and losses, too. Losses, losses and more losses. Thus, the occasional victory means a whole lot; and it takes a while before it becomes boring to recount. As I write this, my win at the WPT Biloxi came one month ago. I have done nothing but lose since that tournament, so it'll be fun for me to relive the thrill a bit now with you.

The Biloxi tournament began at a unique time in my career. The previous hand of poker that I had played was nearly two months earlier, in the main event of the WSOP. Early on, I had played pretty well and, certainly, had "run good" enough to make the final 100 or so players. Sadly, I really messed up the rest of the tournament. Poker players know that it is one thing to play your best and not be rewarded by the fall of the cards. It is quite another to lose because of your poor play. My honest assessment of my play during the home stretch of the most important tournament of the year is this: I ran real good and still played badly enough to lose.

After this disaster, I took a month's vacation to Europe with my sweet wife and adorable daughter. The funny thing is that my failure meant no more to them than, for example, my wife failing to find a pair of shoes on a shopping trip would mean to me. Every time I thought about poker, it was a kick in the gut -- but my family couldn't have cared less.

Oh well, either quit poker or get back on the horse. So, my road dog Gavin Smith and I flew to New Orleans and rented a car for the trip to Biloxi. It's safe to say that Gav was critical of my play at the main eventÂ…and he minced no words in telling me so. We arrived in Biloxi in time for a round of golf at Fallen Oak with Josh Arieh and Boston Rob. That course is first class in every respect. Play there.

The tournament began the next day.

The first day went well. I won a lot of small pots, seeing my stack increase steadily. Then I got my money in real good a couple of times, winning those hands. I ended the day as the chip leader among those who had not yet reached $100,000 (I had $99,975). Joking aside, that was good enough for a top-five position.

Day 2 found us reaching the money at 27 players. Jon Little was the chipleader with $502,000. I trailed, in eighth, with $238,000. I honestly do not remember much about that day.

Well, you already know that I won this tournament. So, you may assume that I coasted into the final table with a big stack.

Not exactly.

With 17 players remaining, I lost a key hand and was left with $2,000 in chips. At the time, the average was 150 times higher, around $300,000. I was all-in in the dark for the next two hands, winning with 8-3 off-suit and A-2 off-suit. With the antes, my $2,000 had become approximately $45,000 after two hands. After stealing the blinds once, I took A-6 up against Captain Tom's A-Q. No problem to spike a six. After this hand, I had $130,000 and was back into position to play some poker.

I mentioned Little earlier. He is a fine, young player who won the Mirage Poker Showdown in May. With seven people remaining, we were one elimination away from the end of Day 3. The final six players would play under the lights of the WPT cameras. Preflop, Jon got it all-in with two queens versus the Q-8 suited of a player he had covered. It looked as though we were done for the night. Sadly for my new friend, his opponent flopped a flush. Insult was added to injury when the river made a straight flush against him. Little just smiled, said, "Nice hand," and continued with his play without a single complaint. He is a class act. Root for him in the future. It's obvious that he will provide you with many opportunities to sweat him deep in important tournaments.

When we came back the next day, I was technically in third place. However, I could not have asked for a much better spot. First of all, the two players who were ahead of me in chips weren't that far ahead. Secondly, I had position on the most accomplished player at the table (with Captain Tom Franklin seated immediately to my right). Finally, I had significantly more experience playing televised poker than the rest of the players.

In addition to all of that, I had two close friends (and terrific players) sweating me: Gavin Smith and Peter Feldman! It is so sweet to have your friends rooting for you at a final table. It's also quite valuable to hear their thoughts at each break.

If you have never played in front of the cameras, you might not understand how different it is from normal tournament play. Physically, it is not uncommon to be a bit uncomfortable under the bright, hot lights. More important, however, is the one psychological difference: Your hole cards are seen and every decision you make is right out there to be second-guessed by millions of viewers.

I heard Mike and Vince in the background, billing the final table as the Five Southern Gentlemen versus the Las Vegas pro. I was sure that Mike was prepared to zing me with something like: "Edler just found out the hard way that not all good poker is played in Las Vegas!" Vince would surely follow: "So much for Southern hospitalityÂ… these guys just sent Edler back home on the first plane out of town!" And because dumb luck had played such a notable part of my tournament, I could only imagine the references to my luck drying out (or worse, evening out).

Well, fortunately for me, I never had to hear what those two had in store for my demise. Captain Tom ran into a couple of big hands and finished sixth. Tim Frazin was the second player to be eliminated (both exited by David Robbins), when Frazin bluffed his chips into Robbins' slow-played kings. John Davidson would be next to go. He picked up a gut-shot and a flush draw on the turn against me, but ran into my top two pair and did not improve. We played three-handed for quite a while before Robbins eliminated Hank Sitton with A-9 versus A-7 on an A-K-J rainbow flop. Sitton made a few interesting and ballsy plays against Robbins. Somehow, Robbins sniffed out a few of them, earning the chip lead going into heads-up action.

Heads-up play was pretty one-sided. I held a lot of fine starting hands and hit a couple of key flops. My daughter probably would have beaten Robbins if given the same run of cards (although she might have been disqualified for only being 8 years old).

David is a terrific guy. I wish him all of the best in future tournaments and expect a lot from him, too.

However, this week, in lovely Biloxi, Miss., it wasn't possible to beat the guy who made a hand whenever he had to.

I love Biloxi.

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