The "Unabomber" is there for the cash

Updated: June 28, 2005, 3:08 PM ET
By Steve Rosenbloom | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's Note: This column contains information about winners of some events in the 2005 World Series of Poker that will be televised later this year on ESPN.

Saturday, June 25, 2005, 11:45 a.m. WSOP Daylight Savings Time

"Miami'' John Cernuto is walking up the hallway away from the Rio's poker hangar. "My wife gave me a sleeping pill, or maybe it was a depressant,'' he says. "Whatever, I slept for 20 of 27 hours. I'm rested. So I probably won't do too good today.''

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Phil Laak is sitting in a cheap cash game in full "Unabomber'' regalia, still stacking chips two hands after he won the pot.

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Hey, look! Dan Harrington! Only without his customary green Boston Red Sox cap. He's wearing a fishing ball cap, and here's why: "The previous week I was in Alaska fishing. I caught a couple kingfish - a 30-pounder and a 29-pounder. I've been to Alaska a couple times. That's where the fish are. That's why I come to the World Series: That's where the fish are.''

Harrington just came out Vol. 2 of "Harrington on Hold'em'' after Vol. 1 became a top-selling poker book.

"Vol. 1 was the top selling poker book on Amazon,'' Harrington says, "then it got knocked out by Vol. 2.''

We should all have such problems.

Says legendary poker pro and author T.J. Cloutier sitting at Harrington's table: "Why didn't you give me a copy?''

Says Harrington: "You don't need a copy.''

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First hand, it's Cloutier and two other players. The flop comes 6-8-9, all clubs. Check, check, check. The turn comes the king of clubs. Check, check, Cloutier bets the pot.

Asks one player as he and the other guy fold: "You suited, T.J.?

"Yeah, I was suited, '' Cloutier says, revealing A-J of hearts, "but not that suit.''

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More than 400 players sign up for the $2,500 buy-in Pot Limit Hold'em event, meaning the Rio needs only 42 tables in its airplane hangar of a poker hall, which is still a sizable turnout when it's $2,500 to get in, but it still feels like everyone took the day off.

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In the Pot Limit Hold'em event, Chau Giang moves in with A-A against 4-4. A 4 comes on the flop. The river comes an ace.

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Tom McEvoy, the 1983 main event champion and author of many authoritative poker books, is out of the Pot Limit tournament in 20 minutes. McEvoy moved all in on the flop with K-K. Mimi Tran called with a set of deuces. **************************************************************

The "Unabomber" leaves his cheap cash game and gets into the Pot Limit event as an alternate. More fish, apparently. "I don't care about the bracelets,'' he says. "I care about the cash. More people play the televised events than other events. The other events are all pros just trying to get bracelets. These tournaments, if they're televised, more people show up. And the larger the field, the more equity you have. There's a finite number of pros. Add all the hoopla, whatever, the more bells and whistles, the more people that come out of the cracks, the better that is for me.''

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Cloutier raises to $100 and gets three calls. After a Q-3-3 flop, Cloutiers all in for his last $175. Seat 10 re-raises to make everyone else fold. Seat 10 flopped trip 3's. Cloutier has Q-9 offsuit. The turn comes a 9, the river a 5, and Cloutier is out.

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The "Unabomber'' raises the pot $250. Annie Duke calls. Seat 5 moves all in for $950. After much deliberation, the "Unabomber'' calls. This gets Duke to take off her headphones.

"This is an interesting situation,'' she says, having the "Unabomber'' covered, as well as Seat 5. After deliberation of her own, she folds.

The "Unabomber'' turns over A-A. Seat 5 has 7-7. The board comes A-8-4-J-2. Pot to the "Unabomber.'' But wait. The "Unabomber'' only called with aces?

"I called because I wanted her (Duke) to put her money in,'' he says. "It's early in the tournament and you have to take a little bit of risk to build up your stack. If you have aces, you want people to go in with you. Later, you want to get the pot.''

So, what did Duke have that she thought about calling with?

"I had queens,'' she says. "It looked like Phil was in steal position, and I was like, ugh. Then the other guy moved in and Phil called. I'm like, even if he has A-K, I'm only 6-5. I don't need to gamble it then. He had money left. If he didn't have money left, I would've called him.''

"She said she had queens,'' said the "Unabomber,'' who signs autographs with the message "Trust no one (especially poker players).'' "But she didn't show it. And she could've shown it just as she was folding it. Look, for $5, I'll tell you what I had. For $10, I'll tell you the truth. But for $15, I'll show you. If you don't see the two cards, then it's whatever the person wants to say it is.''

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1 p.m.: Harrington is out. Perhaps he should review his own text.

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Defending main event champion Greg Raymer bets $300 on a flop of 8-10-3. Seat 5 moves all in with A-6. He has Raymer covered. Raymer calls his last $875 with A-8. The turn comes an 8, the river a 3, and Raymer doubles up.

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Todd Brunson's wardrobe today includes a shirt with a logo for "Doyle's Room.''

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4 p.m.: The "Unabomber'' raises. Seat 3 moves all in. Duke moves all in herself. The "Unabomber'' is thinking, laughing and not filtering a single thought. "I raised to steal,'' he says. "I was bluffing. Then she goes all in, and another all in, and the pot odds told me to call. I was getting 4-1.''

So, he calls another $1,075 and turns over 6-5 offsuit.

"I can beat that,'' Duke says, turning over A-K offsuit.

But wait. Seat 3 also turns over A-K offsuit.

The "Unabomber'' catches a 5 on the flop.

"Nice hand, Phil,'' Duke says laughingly on her way out.

By now, fans have crowded around this table, prompting assistant tournament supervisor Jody Ivener to say: "People, if you're not in the tournament, please stand behind the rail.''

To which the "Unabomber'' announces: "Unless you're rooting for me. Then you can swarm around me.''

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Some guy wearing a "Kill Phil'' ball cap is sitting at a table with Phil Hellmuth.

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Young cash game pro Gabe Thaler says he has played five or six WSOP events and has zero cashes. "I've made one dinner break,'' he says.

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5 p.m.:Todd Brunson busts out of the Pot Limit Hold'em event when his wired 10's lose to wired jacks.

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David Williams' mom is walking through the tournament area, and I know it's David Williams' mom because she is wearing a shirt with the sequined message "David's Mom.'' ************************************************************** Karina Jett shows up two hours after her husband, Chip, began the final table of the Seven Card Stud event. "I was in L.A. taping a show for UltimateBet,'' says Karina, a pro herself who specializes in cash games. "There was nothing I could do about it.'' ESPN wires her for sound as she sits in the Chip Jett rooting section that includes Karina's dad, Karina's good friend and fellow pro Kristi Gazes, and recent bracelet winner Michael Gracz. Karina, Kristi and Evelyn Ng banded together to start the website topsetladies.com. Meanwhile, Gazes playfully tells Gracz: "You have issues. Even your issues have issues.'' **************************************************************

5:45 p.m.: Barry Greenstein is walking through the Pot Limit tournament area, looking for his son, Joe Sebok, a new poker pro himself. "My son,'' Greenstein says proudly, "built up again.'' Unfortunately, the whole family would be out in several hours. **************************************************************

Chip Jett bluffs off $30,000 with a king-high and loses to a pair of 10's. "He has to slow down,'' the wife says.

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Chip Jett bets John Phan out of a hand. "Whoo-hoo,'' Karina screeches. And so it goes.

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With luck being such a big part of poker, no matter how skilled a player is, you wonder if even the top pros are superstitious. "Before this tournament,'' Karina says, "Chip shaved every hair on his body (below his neck).'' Every hair?

"Every hair,'' Karina says with a smirk.

Yes. Well. Probably a little too much information.

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Chip Jett makes deuces full and raises it up. Problem is, Jan Sorensen has made 6's full and pops it right back. Full house over full house. Yikes, babe. And Sorensen takes a $200,000-plus pot. Sorensen, a former top Danish national soccer player who picked up poker on the bus rides to soccer games, isn't well known to the public. But he will be soon.

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Chip Jett loses another massive pot, this one to John Phan, who trips 8's. Dinner Break. Can't see Jett having much of an appetite.

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8:15 p.m.: The Seven Stud final table resumes play five-handed. Joe Awada, the defending champion, brings cut-out pictures of his family to the table. But with a stack of just $34,500 compared to Sorensen's $380,000-something, Awada has more family than chips. Fifteen minutes later, the classy Awada is out in fifth place when Phan makes a straight.

************************************************************** After Awada goes out, there's almost nothing but folding. Raise it, take it. Raise it, take it. Fold, fold, fold. Mommy, make it stop. And then there's more folding. And it's Saturday night in Vegas. More folding. Maybe it's time to find out if there are any good poker stories at Cheetah's gentleman's club.

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Friday, June 24, 2005, 12:01 p.m. WSOP Daylight Savings Time

More than 1,000 players enter the $2,500 buy-in No Limit Hold'em event, but not all of them show up on time. In fact a lot of them don't make kickoff, some by design, some just because they're on Poker Standard Time, which is pretty much this: I'll play when I play.

No matter. The cards go in the air at noon, whether someone is sitting behind that stack of $2,500 in chips or not, a point driven home by Rio assistant tournament director Jack Effel talking on Mr. Microphone over the poker hall's loudspeakers:

"They paid $2,500 for that seat, they don't want to sit in it, we are dealing,'' Effel says.

It has become fashionable to show up late and get blinded off. Phil Hellmuth, of course, being the most diva-like among the Tardy Boys. But here's the thing, there are always players getting busted out before others have even arrived. Like on the first hand. No lie.

"They go all in, just like on TV,'' poker pro Kristi Gazes says, and someone does just that at her table, failing to re-raise with pocket kings, then moving in after letting his opponent draw out to a straight. "Welcome to 'Goofball Central.'''

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A player at Table 37 wants to argue about the cell phone policy in tournaments, so a floor person tells him rather clearly: "If you're on the cell phone when the cards are dealt, your hand is dead.'' Guy still wants to argue. Look, pal, what part of "dead'' don't you understand? Can you hear me now?

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Hey, look! The Unabomber! But Phil Laak - "The Unabomber'' -- isn't wearing his trademark gray hoodie. Get marketing on the horn.

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Hey, look! Jennifer Tilley! The raven-haired actress, who has been dating "The Unabomber'' for a while, is at Table 24, Seat 1. Scouting report: Mirrored sunglasses, Psychedelic Furs T-Shirt, ripped jeans, tight game.

"Everytime I get a hand, no one wants to play,'' Tilley says after folding. "This is my third World Series of Poker tournament. I've been playing a lot of satellites at night. I already have my ticket for the main event.''

Poker Nation smiles.

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Howard Lederer is still wearing his Full Tilt Poker hockey jersey with the No. 13 that has not been lucky at all for him this World Series, and he has been trying to get into the Full Tilt Poker hospitality suite during the first break. But fans and media just won't let the unfailingly available and thoughtful "Professor of Poker'' get there. "It's changed this year,'' Lederer says of the fan presence. "There are more fans around, and I think people like me and other high-profile players are at a disadvantage with the demands on our time. I like to be able to relax during the breaks. I don't think people realize that this month (of daily WSOP events through the main event beginning July 8) is such a grind. I have a strict policy that I won't sign autographs at the table. People still ask. I don't think they realize that even if you're not in a hand, you're still playing poker (in sizing up the player of opponents).''

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The "Unabomber'' looks even more disheveled than usual. "I went to bed at 9 in the morning and woke up at 11:30 to play this,'' Laak says, and then signs an autograph that reads: "Trust No One (especially poker players).'' Laak has about $2,200 left after the first break, Tilley about $1,600.

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2:30 p.m.: The "Unabomber'' bombs out. "Pair over pair,'' he says. "I raised, he raised, It's silly because you don't have a lot of chips to start with. If I raised a decent amount -- $1,200 - I'm pot-committed because I only have $1,700. I had to go all in. I had 8's, he had 10's.''

So the actress-girlfriend outlasted the pro. "Good for her,'' Laak says. "She won a satellite to get in. She has some poker savvy.'

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Phil Hellmuth Jr. walks over the table where the black-shirted, black-pantsed T.J. Cloutier is playing: "T.J., you're wearing black. That's my deal.''

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Cloutier, the co-author of several terrific poker books, to elfin respected pro Freddy Deeb at the other end of the table: "I don't tell them how I play; I tell them how to do it right.''

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Someone delivers a bag of Burger King to Hasan Habib, who is also at the same table as Cloutier and Deeb. Turns out, it won't be only the burgers that get flame-broiled here.

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Six players see a flop of 8-7-6, a diamond and two spades. Habib leads out $350. Deeb and the guy in Seat 5 call. The turn comes the Q of diamonds. Habib bets out $500. Deeb reraises all in for $1,750. Seat 5 calls. Habib folds. Deeb has Q-10 of spades for top pair/straight draw/flush draw. Seat 5 has 5-7 of diamonds for third pair/flush draw/straight draw. The river comes a 9 of diamonds. Seat 5 makes the flush. Deeb is out, busted at the same table where top pro Chau Giang got broke earlier. Tough room.

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Facing a raise to $200, Tilley moves all in for $675 on the button. Her opponent folds.

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Cloutier makes it $300 to go. Seat 9 calls. Seat 5 moves all in and has Cloutier covered. Cloutier calls. Seat 9 folds. Cloutier has K-K. Seat 5 has A-A. The board comes A-7-J-3-6. Cloutier's gone. Tough room, indeed.

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Tilley limps. Four players see a flop of 8-5-7, two hearts. Checks all around. Turn comes a 10 of hearts. Tilley bets out $300. Folds all around. Tilley takes the pot.

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Habib shoves in for his last $375 with A-K of diamonds. Seat 5 calls with A-4 offsuit. The board comes 2-3-5-X-X. Habib is gone, too, busted by the same guy who took out Cloutier and Deeb. Toooooooooouuuuuuugh room.

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3:07 p.m.: Huge cheer from the featured table where the $1,500 buy-in No Limit Hold'em event is being played. David "Devilfish'' Ulliott is trying to buy a pot with $140,000 in bluffs on a board of 8-7-3-5-10. But defending main event champion Greg Raymer calls him down with pocket 6's to win the pot worth around $380,000.

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Tilley limps. Four players see a flop of 2-5-8, two hearts. Tilley bets out $400. Two players fold. Seat 7 calls. The turn comes a 2 of diamonds. Tilley pushed all in for $1,200. Seat 7 says, "Take it down.'' Cameras are at the table to record Tilley's play. One player remarks how this new camera-laden world of poker makes some players nervous. Different deal for the actress: "It's hard to play and suck in your stomach at the same time.''

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Facing a raise to $500, Tilley re-raises to $1,200. Seat 8 moves in for $2,800. "You're a squeezer,'' Tilley says to Seat 8. "A-K? Aces?'' She folds her pocket 10's. Seat 8 flips over aces. Poker savvy, indeed. But her stack is down to about $1,200.

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Tilley and Seat 7 check a board of 9-A-3, two hearts and a spade. The turn comes a Q of spades, putting two flushes up. Tilley bets $700 of her remaining $1,275. Seat 7 has a big stack and says, "You're not going all in? Give her the flush. She needs it.'' The river comes a K of diamonds. Now Tilley moves in. Seat 7 calls. Tilley has J-10 offsuit. She hit an open-ended straight draw on the river. Seat 7 can't believe it. She's up to about $2,900.

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Once again, Tilley is facing Seat 7, a guy wearing a hat for a dot-com called Everything About Poker. Everything about poker is bad, it turns out. Tilley moves in for $2,020 with a board of J-3-3, two spades. Seat 7 calls. The turn and river come 4-2. Tilley's 6's hold up against Seat 7's A-Q offsuit. Her stack is up to about $7,400. You go, girl.

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And she does go. Table change. And she promptly loses a chunk of her stack when she folds to big re-raises.

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Tilley regains a lot of her chips when she calls down Seat 1 with 10-4 offsuit facing a board of A-7-10-A-8.

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5 p.m.: Minh "Poker Host'' Nguyen is all in at the $1,500 No Limit Hold'em table and stays alive when he sucks out with a club on the river.

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Lederer is spending entirely too much time in the Full Tilt Poker hospitality suite. It's what happens when you get knocked out of tournaments. But hey, open bar.

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Four players see a flop of 4-8-J, all diamonds. Tilley moves in for $2,300. Two players fold. Seat 9 leans out, stares down Tilley, tries to size up the stone-faced actress for tells. Sorry, pal, you just aren't going to read someone who's trained to let you see only what she wants. Seat 9 folds. The actress is up to about $4,100. :-)

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Seat 4 makes it $600 to go. Tilley re-raises $900 more. Seat 4 calls. The flop comes 8-5-7, two diamonds. Tilley checks. Seat 4 bets $800. Tilley quickly calls all in for $2,650. Seat 4 calls. Tilley has 8-8, slowplaying a set. Seat 4 has 6's. Tilley's up to about $8,800 and acting every bit like a poker player.

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Oops. Tilley loses half her stack to a big bet and a big re-raise on a couple of hands. Then she gets back about $2,000 with a big re-raise of her own. There are fewer than 350 players remaining from the original field of more than 1,000, and Tilley is one of them. "I made the second day of the Mirage tournament and the Bay 101 (a couple World Poker Tour events),'' she says.

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6:40 p.m.: Table change for Tilley. One of her new opponents is Todd Brunson, Doyle's kid and the winner of last night's Omaha High-Low bracelet. This might not be a good thing.

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First hand, Tilley loses almost half her stack playing a draw. Dinner break. One hand too late.

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7:30 p.m.: Another table change for Tilley. She improves her stack to around $5,000 with consecutive all ins two hands before she has to post the big blind. Sharp girl.

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8:45 p.m.: Big pot. Big, big pot. Seat 1 makes it $1,400 to go. Seat 3 makes it $2,000. Tilley comes over the top for $3,500. Seat 10 calls. Everybody else gets out of the way. The flop comes A-7-Q, rainbow. Tilley pushes in her remaining $1,150. Seat 10 thinks and thinks and thinks. Call. Tilley has A-Q offsuit for two two pair. Seat 10 has K-J offsuit for a straight draw. The turn and river come blanks. Tilley's over $12,000. Maybe she should give the "Unabomber'' some lessons.

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9:10 p.m.: Trouble. Seat 5 makes it $1,800 to go. Tilley calls. Seat 8 moves in for $3,600. Seat 5 and Tilley call. The flop comes J-A-9, rainbow. Check, check. The turn comes a 7. Check, check. The river comes a Q. Seat 5, a guy who looks like Dilbert's boss, bets out $7,000. Tilley calls. Dilbert's boss has 10-8. Straight. Tilley mucks, losing about 10 grand and falling to about $1,500.

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9:30 p.m.: Tilley's all in for $1,575. Seat 7 calls. Seat 10 re-raises. This is not good, and Tilley knows it. So, she begins pulling on her boots, getting her purse from under the table and putting on her sweater. She has J-9 offsuit. Seat 10 has A-J suited. She is dominated by about 4-1. But she sucks out with a 9 on the river and is back up to about $5,400. "I love poker,'' she says.

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10 p.m.: With the blinds at $300-$600 and a $75 ante, Tilley moves in for $5,100 from the button. Seat 8, the big blind, calls. Tilley flips over 8-4 offsuit. Seat 8 shows A-K. Yeesh. The board comes 3-Q-10-A-3. Roll credits.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005, Noon WSOP Daylight Savings Time

The $5,000-buy-in Seven Card Stud event is beginning. David Williams, the young No Limit Hold'em star who finished to Greg Raymer in last year's main event, calls me over to whisper in my ear, ''This is the first time I'm playing this game, but no one here knows.''

I'm guessing that T.J. Cloutier down there at the other end of the table will figure that out quick enough.

But no. Williams wins the first three hands he plays.

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Bill Edler, a good, if unknown player who is being staked by Erick Lindgren and who won $15,725 in finishing 12th in the $5,000 Pot Limit Hold'em tournament, also is playing Seven Stud. But he can't forget going broke in the last event. "I bluffed off all my chips. I picked the wrong target.''

Edler is from a suburb north of Chicago, which is hardly confines for a White Sox fan. No matter. Edler knows I wrote columns for the Chicago Tribune, so he wants to talk ball.

"How about my White Sox,?'' he asks. "You think if the win 10 more in a row they'll get more coverage than the Cubs? They say Cubs fans hate Sox fans, but I don't think so. I think they view us as a Triple-A team.''

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12:45 p.m.: Doug Dalton, Director of Poker Operations at the Bellagio, walks through the Rio poker hall. "We've got all the cash games at our place,'' Dalton says, and so, that explains where Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Phil Ivey and other have been playing.

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No. Wait. There's Doyle. Sitting at Table 23 with a crowd around him. He's not doing much, but it's early.

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Some guy at Table 12 is wearing a foam-rubber frog visor. You heard me right: A foam-rubber frog visor. Stop this.

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But wait. There's more. Frog Guy is getting into it with dapper Danish star Marcel Luske, who is telling Frog Guy about the right way to hold cards without marking them, either accidentally or on purpose. "Some people are marking card by peeking at them on the side and digging in with their nail,'' Luske said. "You don't pick up your baby with the nails in the back. I want them to make an announcement to players that the cards are easily damaged. This guy was being stubborn. I was right. I said, 'I don't want to play with marked cards.''' No announcement was made, but two new decks arrive at Luske's table.

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1:30 p.m.: Carlos Mortensen, who won the 2001 main event, is talking with longtime pro Dewey Tomko, the man he beat for that championship, and they are talking about playing stud in a hold'em world. "Hold'em, I go to sleep,'' Tomko says. "This one, I play once a year, so I have to think. I'm wide awake for this.'' **************************************************************

Barry Greenstein, who used to never play in World Series events because the cash was too good in the side games, suddenly seems to be in everyone of these things. But the pokerholic that is he, Greenstein still finds his way to Bobby's Room, the private area in the new Bellagio poker salon where the $4,000-$8,000 games are played with Doyle, Chip, Ivey and them. "Phil is probably the biggest winner in the World Series,'' Greenstein says of the "Big Game.'' "I go there at midnight and play for two or three hours. I'm there with people who are stuck. The winners have gone home and the stuckees are there, so it's been profitable.''

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Allyn Jaffrey Shulman is the only woman at the final table of the Omaha High-Low event. She is the wife of Card Player magazine publisher Barry Shulman, himself an accomplished poker player. "We been at a final table together before,'' Barry says. "Allyn was the short stack and she went out, and someone accused us of cheating. They wrote it somewhere. I wasn't even in the hand.'' Allyn is a lawyer who told the website she wouldn't sue as long as she got a retraction and an apology. Done.

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3 p.m.: During a break in the Seven Stud event, T.J. Cloutier, the former Rose Bowl and Canadian Football League tight end, is doing a crossword puzzle. In pen. Kind of a crackback block to the dumb jock stereotype, eh?

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Steve Diano, a poker player from Las Vegas, busts both former world champion Scotty Nguyen and former world champion Huck Seed on the same Seven Stud hand when he makes 6's full of 5's.

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David Williams, Seven Stud newbie, still has chips and an ace up.

"You must have aces 90 percent of the time,'' Cloutier moans.

"Seventy-five percent,'' Williams says.

"I don't see no 4's and deuces down there,'' Cloutier says. "It must be nice to be young.''

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Cloutier says he won't defend his Seven Card Razz title when the event is played Wednesday. The object of Razz is to make the worst hand, which is course is when you get a bunch of two-pair hands. "It's the most frustrating game in poker,'' Cloutier says.

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Doyle Brunson is still playing in the Seven Stud event at one of the tables up front, just a couple hundred feet from the Omaha High-Low final table where his son Todd is the chip leader. "It's a good feeling,'' the father-slash-legend says. "I expect him to win the tournament.''

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Allyn Jaffrey Shulman goes all in for $9,000 at the Omaha High-Low table. She gets two calls. The baord comes K-J-4-J-5, and she scoops with kings and jacks. When another players loses his all in several hands later, Shulman's scoop meant she survived long enough to pick up another $9,000 in real money on the payout scale after Brunson busted her.

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There are four tables remaining in the $1,500 buy-in No Limit Hold'em event when Minh Nguyen re-raises a woman all in. She debates the call for the next five minutes or so, and I mean debates it. Out Loud. Saying every unfiltered thought. Asking the floorman when the next blind level begins. And then she flips a coin. Tails. She folds.

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6 p.m.: During a break in the Seven Stud event, Joe Awada, who won this tournament last year, is getting a massage at the table, likely trying to work out the bad beats that have busted him out of World Series events this year. "My pocket aces lost to kings when a guy turned a set,'' begins Awada, who displayed remarkable class last year when he was one card away from winning the $1,500 No Limit Hold'em event before Scott Fischman sucked out and later captured the bracelet. "My pocket kings lost to 6's when the guy made a straight on the end. And my pocket queens lost to aces, but that was my fault. I should've laid down the hand. And then my pocket jacks lost to 'Devilfish' (David Ulliott) when his pocket 7's made a straight. And then I went all in with pocket queens and got called by A-K and J-J. I couldn't believe the A-K called my $18,000 all-in, and a king came on the flop.''

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Greg Raymer, the defending main event champion, has a big stack at the final three tables of the $1,500 No Limit Hold'em event, but he doesn't have his trademark lizard specs he wears when he enters a pot. He's wearing his unmistakable Poker Stars shirt, but no headache-inducing green shades. What gives?

"I have a hard time reading the board with my contacts in this lighting,'' he says. "I intended to wear them, but my first hand here, I thought a 4 was a deuce. I've had other players say the same thing about the lighting here.''

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Poker pro Billy Gazes to "Devilfish'' at one of the $1,500 No Limit Hold'em tables: "You were my 27th best friend, and now you're going down.''

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Robert Williamson III flew down to San Antonio, got to Game 7 of the NBA Finals in the third quarter, sat down at courtside, then watched his Spurs beat the Detroit Pistons 81-74 for the title. Williamson, a friend of the Spurs' owner, partied with the team, then flew back to the World Series of Poker Friday. Perhaps another reason for Williamson's celebration was his $50,000 bet on the Spurs, laying four. Yeah, that would be a good reason.

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10:26 p.m.: At the featured table, Todd Brunson busts Allan Kessler to win the Omaha High-Low title and his first gold bracelet, not to mention more than $255,000. Father Doyle, owner of a record nine WSOP bracelets, ambles over from the Seven Stud event to welcome the son to the family business.

************************************************************** Wednesday, June 22, 2005, 11:15 a.m. WSOP Daylight Savings Time

The hallways leading to the WSOP poker hall are filled with conventioneers exiting agriculture research seminars on the day of a massive $1,500 buy-in No Limit Hold'em event. Farmers mixing with poker players. Now there's a party.

**************************************************************

Noon: Two-hundred poker tables. Ten players to a table. Every table filled.

Oh.

My.

God.

"You can't even see the end of the room,'' says Jim McManus, one of the 2,000 players and author of the terrific "Positively Fifth Street.''

"This is the biggest sporting event in the world in terms of money,'' longtime gambler Billy Baxter says in that Georgia drawl of his. "There's a $66 million pot for the main event. Does the PGA have that?'' **************************************************************

Karen Williamson, the younger sister of top pro Robert Williamson III, is holding Annie Duke's seat assignment card and talking up the Sony Xbox video game called "World Championship Poker 2.'' Players can choose to be Duke. Williamson, Howard Lederer, Paul Darden, Clonie Gowen or Amir Vahedi (supply your own un-lit cigar).

**************************************************************

12:40 p.m.: Seventy players already have busted out because of the quarter-quarter blinds with only $1,500 in chips. Says a dealer: "You don't want to become a low stack.'' Beats becoming a zero stack.

**************************************************************

Erick Lingren says he and Phil Ivey are thinking about flying to San Antonio for Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Friday. Lindgren got 3 and a 1/2 to 1 odds on Detroit after the Pistons lost Game 1. Ivery apparently has a good ticket guy.

**************************************************************

Potential fireworks table: Phil "Poker Brat'' Hellmuth sittingnext to Mike "The Mouth'' Matusow.''

**************************************************************

Josh Arieh looks beat. "This feels too much like an Internet tournament,'' he says. "This doesn't feel like the World Series. I'm goofing off here. I'm going home (to Atlanta) Monday for a week. I want to sit on my couch and pet my dog and watch my TV. I'm burned out.'' **************************************************************

1:30 p.m.: Ninety minutes in, and 300 players are broke. Many players are unhappy with the structure, saying a $1,500 stack isn't big enough to play with after a flop.

"If you want to make it $150 to go, then there's 10 percent of your chips in there before the flop if there's no re-raise,'' says dapper Dane Marcel Luske, lowering his signature upside down sunglasses.

"The players are limited in the number of flops they can play. You can't play a flop with 9-10. Are you going to call a $100 raise with 10-high? That's 10 percent of your stack.

"How many times can you afford to do that? Three-thousand chips would be a normal amount to start with. It wouldn't make a difference if you played two hours at $25-$50 (blinds) with $1,500 in chips because the pressure is there all the time.

"If you put a monkey in the chair now and you could teach him to go all in with two pictures, he has a good chance to make it because he doesn't have to think about playing flops or think about players bluffing him or players coming over the top. You limit the possibilities of the better players by giving less chips to start with.''

Part of the problem is the business of poker. The casino has made its money in the entry fees, so they hope players bust out as soon as possible, allowing them to turn the tables over to cash games, where they can collect another percentage.

"But they should not let it go that far where people say it's not really playable anymore,'' Luske says. "I've heard many people complain about it. They have to find a reasonable adjustment to the idea that poker players do like to play poker, and they need chips to play with.''

**************************************************************

Sight seen: This male poker look of a ballcap, a sport coat, slack and gym shoes. No. No more. Stop it.

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The poker hall has about 10 side doors that the players regularly used to get to tables before and after breaks. But Wednesday, the doors were either locked or guarded by security, causing much grousing among the 1,500 or so players who had to walk around to the main doors, and the reason they had to walk around ot the main doors is that the rate the Rio charged vendors selling pokerphanalia in the main hallway guaranteed the sellers maximum foot traffic. By the next break, all the side doors were open.

**************************************************************

And shortly after that next break, Marcel Luske is walking out one of those doors, no longer playing in a tournament structure that he believed didn't allow much playing to start with.

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Table 135, Seat 8. A kid wearing a Dallas Cowboys ballcap and a Cowboys hoodie sits in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. His name is Clayton Matthews, 23, from Harrisonburg, VA., one of several players anteing up in a wheelchair. Ironically, he is back-to-back with Tobey Maguire, he of the superhuman physical abilities possessed by "Spider-man'' that Matthews could only dream of attempting.

Matthews played college football at James Madison University, where his dad, Mickey, was the coach. Two years ago, he was involved in a car wreck. Seven months later, another wreck.

"I got paralyzed twice,'' he says. "I'm such a competitive person my whole life, so when I was in the hospital, my friends got me playing poker on the Internet because it was all I could do. I started taking it serious.''

And two years later, here he is, using his Internet winnings to pay for his first WSOP event Wednesday and another one on Friday. Seems Matthews has found a way to fill that competitive spirit.

"Last time I checked,'' he says, "the cards don't know if you're in a wheelchair or not.''

**************************************************************

3:05: Maguire moves all in for $450. He gets called by the player next to him. Another player re-raises all in for $1,350. A woman in Seat 7 calls that all in. Maguire turns over K-Q unsuited. The second all in player holds A-10 diamonds. The woman has pocket jacks. The baord comes A-K-5-6-J, no suits. Spidey's gone.

**************************************************************

The second day of the Omaha 8-or-better event is playing down, but I can't find the tables.

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The sign says Honeywell is the official surveillance provider of the 2005 World Series of Poker. Who knew?

**************************************************************

5:15 p.m.: Howard Lederer and Annie Duke are sitting in the hallway, talking over why they busted out.

**************************************************************

Two hours into the final table of the $5,000 Pot Limit Hold'em event, and thigns can get slow. So the poker media has a "Lasts Longest Pool.'' Everyone picks a player, just as long as it's not the chip leader. Last one standing, wins. Everyone gambles at the World Series.

************************************************************** 5:50 p.m.: Cyndy Violette busts out of the Pot Limit Hold'em final table when her flush draw gets crushed by Allen Cunningham's trip Q's. She finishes seventh and collects $44,930. Violette, who finished second to Erik Seidel in an earlier event, came to the final table as chip leader, but she is still battling Chris "Jesus'' Ferguson and Cunningham for the WSOP points title.

**************************************************************

Dinner break for the final table, and Kathy Liebert is in the audience watching. "I'm rooting for Tony Cousineau,'' she says. "He's a good friend. And I have 5 percent. We got down to thelast five tables and we had similar chips, so we said, 'Let's trade 5 percent.'' Cousineau would go out in fifth place, good for $67,400. Good for $3,370 for Liebert.

**************************************************************

Florida real estate developer Brian Wilson stuns everyone by winning the Pot Limit Hold'em bracelet, keyed by a huge call against one of the best pros playing some of the best poker these days. With a flop of 10-10-4, Cunningham, who won a bracelet two weeks ago, moved all in, and Wilson made the astonishing call with pocket 4's. Outstanding read. Cunningham was bluffing. Now he was busted.

**************************************************************

Thursday, 9:15 a.m. WSOP Daylight Savings Time: Phil "The Unabomber'' Laak, great hoodie and sunglasses, walks out of the Rio poker hall. "I got up at 4 and wanted to play. Cash game. Just broke up. Cash games have been great. I'm 13-2 in my sessions. I'm going to sleep now.''

************************************************************** Tuesday, June 21, 11:30 a.m., WSOP Daylight Savings Time

Kristi Gazes, one of the better-known and better, period, women pros, is heading to the Omaha 8-or-Better tournament, a choice that could cost her money because it will take her away from the side games. "The cash games are off the hook this year,'' Gazes says. "Every live game I've sat in has been juicy.'' Pause. "I use a lot of poker slang, don't I?''

**************************************************************

Two months ago, Phil Gordon was down on his game. His commitments as co-host of Bravo's "Celebrity Poker Showdown'' and long hours on his upcoming instructional DVD and his terrific new book "Phil Gordon's Little Green Book'' (poker tips and insight a la "Harvey Penick's Little Red Book'' on golf) took him away from the tables for long stretches, leaving him without the chops he needed. But two WSOP final tables later, it's altogether different. He attributes his good early showing to spending four months working on the script for his new DVD and extensive research for his book.

"I learned some stuff by writing the book that I didn't know before,'' Gordon says. "A lot of the stuff I knew but I didn't have the mathematical underpinnings of why I knew what I knew. But when I was writing the book, I firmly based a lot of the concepts in the book on solid math. It took me some time to actually do the research and model everything out and make sure that I knew what I was doing.''

Turns out, Gordon knew what he was doing in most cases, but in others, he learned he had to change his game.

"The No. 1 thing that I've changed in my game is playing dominated hands,'' Gordon says. "I just refuse to play dominated hands anymore - A-10, A-J for a raise or out of position. I'm perfectly willing to fold A-Q, A-J, A-10, K-Q if I'm not in position and someone's raised. What I found out doing the research is you're really killing yourself by playing those dominated hands. Ever since then, my results have just gone right through the roof.''

The early returns are a third-place finish in the $1,500 buy-in no Limit Hold 'em Shootout worth $75,350, and coming eighth in the $1,000 buy-in with rebuys No Limit Hold'em tournament worth $66,055.

Something else Gordon has changed in his game: Playing pocket pairs against as many people as possible.

"Before I might've raised to limit the field, but what I realized through some mathematical study is that you want as many people as possible when you have the middle pocket pair and you want to get in cheap,'' Gordon says. "You want to flop a set and you want as many people in as possible so someone else flops something, too.

"In the first event where I finished eighth, I had pocket deuces in the small blind. A tight player raised from middle position. I had to call about 1/12th of my stack with pocket deuces. The flop came 2-Q-K. Just the two of us. I bet, he raised with his A-K all in. I called. He was drawing nearly stone-cold dead. He caught his king.

The only way he could win is go runner-runner full house or runner-runner straight. There's almost no way he can win.

"Novice players make the mistake of overvaluing top pair. So when they flop top pair/top kicker, all the money's going into the pot. When you flop a set and they have one pair, they're about 2 percent to win. In hold'em, pocket aces vs. 7-2, that's 13 percent, so you're five times better off when you flop a set against one pair than any other situation in hold'em.''

Then, Gordon handed me an invitation to his birthday party July 6 in the Rio's chi-chi Wine Cellar. And because I'm a giver, not a taker, I'll attend Gordon's birthday bash so you don't have to.

**************************************************************

No pigtails for Annie Duke today. Back to the hair-parted-down-the-middle.

**************************************************************

Daniel Negreanu sports a special Team Canada hockey jersey, one with card suits on it. "It's a poker tour all across Canada,'' the Toronto-born Negreanu says. "It's poker in bars. They win nothing, or maybe a certificate, and the bars are packed.''

************************************************************** Day 1 of the loosely called Prop Bet Olympics took place at the ESPN Zone in New York New York. Barely.

"We were supposed to be there at 9:30 (a.m.),'' says Erick Lindgren, who is competing against Ted Forrest, Robert Williamson III and Mike Matusow in strange events I'll explain later. "Now it's 10 o'clock and Mike Matusow isn't there. I make a phone call. I said, "Mike, are you coming down?'

'"Where?'

'"New York, New York. We have our prop bet thing.'

'"Oh, is that today? I thought it was Tuesday.'

'"Mike, today IS Tuesday.'''

So, Matusow shows up for the event to be taped for broadcast during ESPN's World Series of Poker shows. Each player picked one odd event and put up $2,500. Matusow picked throwing cards into a barrel, Williamson chose air hockey, Forrest went with pingpong but alternating hands with each hit, and Lindgren selected a spelling bee.

"I chose the spelling bee because I just wanted to see Mike spell,'' Lindgren says.

Williamson won the air hockey competition, Forrest took the card throwing event. Everyone is conceding pingpong to Forrest because "he's a pingpong hustler,'' Williamson says. "I'm going to have to fake an injury. I have to come up with something to change the event.''

How about making everyone play with waffle irons instead of paddles?

"I've heard he's beaten people using ashtrays,'' Williamson says.

Williamson and Forrest, by the way, have cut their own side bet of an extra 15 grand overall, plus $3,000 for winning an event.

The spelling bee will take place Thursday on ESPN's featured table stage with ESPN poker analyst Norman Chad moderating the event. ************************************************************** Lindgren, with a history of fanatical sports betting, got 3 and half to 1 odds when he took the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals after the Pistons dropped Game 1 to San Antonio. He liked his chances as the Pistons rallied to get even and still had Game 5 in their own building. Then Robert Horry hit that shot - all those shots -- to send San Antonio to a win in the fifth game and send the series back to Texas, where Detroit had to win two games in a week in a place they hadn't won even one game in eight years. Turns out, Lindgren is used to getting killed by Horry, aka "Big Game Bob.'' Lindgren had had the Sacramento Kings against the Los Angeles Lakers several years ago when Kings center Vlade Divac smacked the ball away with the Kings leading in Game 6 and leading in the series, and a second later, a second left, Horry hit the three to force overtime, and the Kings were dead. "Robert Horry has cost me a significant amount of money,'' Lindgren says. "I love him and I appreciate him, but God I hate him.'' Lindgren and the Pistons remained alive with a win in Game 6 Tuesday night.

***************************************************************

Killer Omaha/8 table: Phil Hellmuth, Howard Lederer, Paul Darden, Mel Judah and "Capt.'' Tom Franklin.

**************************************************************

4:15 p.m.: Once again, Barry Greenstein has entered a new tournament - the Omaha/8 - while still maintining a good stack in the concurrent Pot Limit Hold'em event that moves to its second day. Once again, Greenstein faced getting blinded off in one game while trying to make big money in the other the way he did the day before when he won a bracelet and $426,315 in the $1,500 buy-in Pot Limit Omaha event as the first day of the Pot Limit Hold'em event went on. This, from a guy who never played WSOP events because there was more money involved in the big game he plays with Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Phil Ivey and the rest of them. Greenstein, who donates all his tournament winnings to charity, played fast in trying to build a big stack early in the Omaha/8, but busted out. Then he moved to the last four tables of the Pot Limit Hold'em event, where he flopped a set of 8's, only to have Tony Cousineau wipe out his $70,000 by hitting a two-outer to make a set of 10's.

**************************************************************

This is so poker. This is so Vegas. Having busted out of Omaha/8, Paul Phillips, Men "The Master'' Nguyen, Randy Jensen and a fourth man are playing Chinese poker at a table in the Rio. In Chinese poker, each player gets 13 cards and has to arrange them in a set of three, five and five cards. The best hand at each level gets paid off. They are playing for $1,200 a round, and they are using C-notes, not chips.

**************************************************************

I caught T.J. Cloutier walking down the Rio corridor, fresh off his $657,100 payday and sixth gold bracelet for winning the $5,000 buy-in No Limit Hold'em event. The classy Cloutier then sees longtime pro John Bonetti tooling down the hallway in his motorized scooter and says, "There's the man you should write a column about.'' Health problems have limited Bonetti physically of late, but mentally, he's as sharp as ever, underscored by that growly voice that is so well known to poker players for decades and a third-place finish in the event Cloutier won.

"I was left in the dust,'' says Bonetti, a historic ballbuster at the table and winner of three WSOP bracelets. "All these websites and things that players are doing - I didn't get none of that. I've won as many tournaments as the top four or five players in the world. I haven't played too much over the last couple years, but I'm making a comeback. If I could win one, I'd be back on top.''

Bonetti will be roasted Sunday at the Rio by his peers for a career well-earned.

"It's special,'' the hard-bitten Bonetti says. "It's very nice of them.'' **************************************************************

5 p.m.: Cyndy Violette sits on a couch outside the poker room, unzips her cooler and opens up a meal of brown rice and black beans. "All I eat are natural foods,'' says Violette, who also meditates and works with a yoga instructor three times a week, all of which likely explains her easy smile and happy demeanor. "It's all part of why I feel good. I think clearer, my attitude's better, I can take beats better.'' Must be something to it, seeing as how Violette came second to Erik Seidel in the $2,000 buy-in No Limit Hold'em tournament this year, a finish worth $295,970, and went to the final table as the chip leader in the $5,000 Pot Limit Hold'em event. This follows her victory in the Seven Card Stud event last year, earning her a coveted bracelet that she is carrying with her this year. "I don't like to wear it,'' she says, "but sometimes fans want to see it.''

**************************************************************

It's Devilfish's world. We just live in it. David "Devilfish Ulliott's card protector is a gold version of the bloated sea creature for which he is named, a fish that can kill you if you eat the wrong part. "A Chinese guy gave me the nickname because I'm dangerous,'' the droll Ulliott says, "not because I look like it.''

True thing.

With less than three tables to go in the Pot Limit Hold'em event, "Devilfish's'' A-9 unsuited catches a 9 on the flop to bust two-time bracelet winner Tony Ma's A-K. Next, "Devilfish'' calls Bruce Corman's all in. Corman has K-Q offsuit, "Devilfish'' has 6-6. "The 'Devil's' got sixes, the 'Devil's' got sixes,'' he says, and when another 6 flops, the "Devil'' has 6-6-6.

**************************************************************

Monday, June 20, noon WSOP Daylight time

The $5,000 buy-in Pot Limit Hold'em event begins with 239 players, including Chris "Jesus'' Ferguson and Barry Greenstein. Only problem is - and this is so poker -- both of them also are at the final table of the Pot Limit Omaha tournament that was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m., but started more than an hour late.

What this means is, the Pot-Limit Omaha table will run concurrent with Pot Limit Hold'em. What means is, Ferguson and Greenstein would have to leave Pot Limit Hold'em and get blinded off while they played the final table. But so what. They're poker players. This is what they do.

"I have a very short stack in Pot Limit Omaha,'' Ferguson says, "so there's a very good chance I'm out in 15 or 20 minutes. It'll only cost me about $500 if it takes an hour and a half. I figure I'll be OK.

"I wouldn't do it if I had $90,000 at that table like Barry. Barry's going to be there a while. But why are they starting it late?''

Don't know. But back to Greenstein, whose plan was to aggressively build his Pot Limit Hold'em stack early, "so when I come back I'll still have some chips,'' he says. "If you think about it, if I come back and I still have $5,000, I'll still be positive equity from the $5,000 buy in: Not only will I have the initial buy-in, but I'll be later in the tournament. So it would be a good financial move.''

Most players have a tough enough time with a strategy for playing one tournament at a time, and here's Greenstein deftly orchestrating plans for his two-fer.

"The World Series is a special tournament,'' he says. "Normally I don't play this many events, but it's gotten so big, I'm playing more events. I was going to be here anyway, so what the heck. After I got done with getting to the final table of Pot Limit Omaha (around 1:45 Monday morning), I went and played poker at Bellagio and played 'til 3:30, 4 in the morning. I was up early (Monday morning) so I came over and entered the Pot-Limit Hold'em.''

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SIGHT SEEN: Annie Duke wearing pigtails instead of her familiar straight, shoulder-length cut. Not sure if this is a new marketing look, a superstition to change some luck, or because, you know, she just felt like it.

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3:30 p.m.: Jesus moves all in on the flop with A-K suited at the Pot Limit Hold'em table. Reza Payvar calls with pocket Q's. The board comes low cards. Jesus could've used an earlier Pot Limit Omaha starting time.

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PHOTO OP: A blond wearing a shirt that said "Looking for a Dirty Cowboy'' and and redhead wearing a shirt that said "Ride a Cowboy'' getting pictures and kisses with cowboy-hat wearing Jesus Ferguson. Takes the edge off busting out, I'm thinking.

**************************************************************

Between hands in the Pot Limit Hold'em event, Robert Williamson III is pitching cards at a trash can. He's in training. No lie.

Seems Williamson, Erick Lindgren, Ted Forrest and Mike Matusow have each put up 10 grand of their own money to compete in their version of the Prop Bet Olympics to be taped for ESPN's WSOP broadcasts at the ESPN Zone on the Strip.

Each competitor chose a prop bet that had to be TV-friendly. Williamson selected air hockey, Forrest chose pingpong where you have to alternate hands each hit, Matusow went with flipping cards into a barrel from 15 paces, and Lindgren, the former high school quarterback and MVP point guard, selected a spelling bee ("I'm screwed there,'' Williamson said).

The winner of each event gets $5,000. The overall points leader cops $20,000. Williamson says he's working on getting a sponsor to pump in some added money. Hope he's more successful at that than when he made about three of the 40-something cards he threw in practice,

**************************************************************

With 17 players remaining in the Seven Card Stud 8-or-Better event, Howard Lederer offers an exhale more than a hello, lacking any enthusiasm. "It's not about enthusiasm until it's over and you win,'' he says. Wearing a FullTiltPoker hockey jersey, the 6-foot-5 Lederer looks like an on-ice enforcer. But going with No. 13? "Maybe I'm trying to reverse (the bad luck karma that goes with 13),'' Lederer says.

**************************************************************

4:30 p.m.: Daniel Negreanu is signing autographs and posing for pictures while agreeing to do an interview during a break in the Pot Limit Hold'em event, which means he can't even get to the bathroom. "Life has changed,'' he says with a smile.

**************************************************************

Sitting near the final two tables of the Stud/8 event is a white-haired man wearing a ballcap and a T-shirt touting "The Professor of Poker.'' The man is sort of a professor himself - Richard Lederer, the former prep school English instructor and the father of the "Professor of Poker'' Howard Lederer and Annie Duke. Richard whips out a picture of himself, Howard and Annie dressed in 1870's Wild West garb at a poker table in a saloon, a photo from the article he wrote called "Full House'' for this month's AARP magazine. "What I'm proudest of is they are pursuing their passion and they are great ambassadors,'' Richard says of his poker-playing superstar offspring. The author of the book "Anguished English'' proceeds to acknowledge my correct plural agreement of the word "none,'' so I passed this lesson, and then says he has a book coming out called "Comma Sense - A Fun-damental Guide to Punctuation.'' At least, that's the way I think the book title should be punctuated.

**************************************************************

BAD NEWS: Howard Lederer busts out of Stud/8. This is too weird. No. 13 finishes, yep, 13th.

**************************************************************

8:30 p.m.: Trouble in the Pot-Limit Hold'em event. Play has not resumed after the dinner break because of a controversy over who has who's chips. During the break, someone banged into a table and it buckled, causing several players' chips to fall together. The dealer sitting idly at the table, or someone nearby, restacked the chips, but apparently not correctly. Todd Brunson, Doyle's kid, claims he lost "seven or eight pink chips'' worth $500 each and that Paul Testud has them in his stack. Testud disagrees. The Frenchman apparently doesn't speak English, but his animated face and gestures make it clear in any language that he's not giving anything away. Tournament director Johnny Grooms tells the players they will check with the eye-in-the-sky cameras to determine how many chips Brunson, Testud and a couple other players had at the break. But a light fixture had blocked the camera's view. So Grooms calls Brunson, Testud and two others to a corner, trying to get someone to fess up, a task that's tough enough when chips are at a premium to start with and made even tougher here with respected poker champion David Benyamine translating for Testud. Grooms' solution: With most players agreeing that Brunson had the seven or eight pink chips that he claimed, Grooms gave Brunson three of Testud's pink chips and gave Brunson three more form the house.

**************************************************************

9:30 p.m.: With an advance copy of his upcoming book "Ace on the River'' under his chair, Greenstein wins the Pot-Limit Hold'em event for his second WSOP bracelet. As usual, the so-called "Robin Hood of Poker'' will donate his entire tournament prize - more than $128,000, in this case - to charity. But more touching is his post-match interview, where he explains that he dedicated his performance to a Tennessee man named Charlie Tuttle, to whom Greenstein talked earlier in the day and offered words of encourgement in his battle with terminal cancer, a call that was set up by one of Tuttle's friends who also is battling cancer. "Charlie's a great guy. I talked to him today,'' Greenstein said, choking up. "It's hard to talk about.'' And then Greenstein headed over to the ongoing $5,000 buy-in Pot Limit Hold'em event, where his work earlier in the day paid off, as he had a stack of about $10,000 remaining. And of course he won the first hand he played.

**************************************************************

Sunday, June 19, 10:15 p.m., WSOP Daylight Time
The final table for a Limit Hold'em event is being played at ESPN's featured table, even though ESPN said this won't be a televised event. Limit events take forever.

Two other events are going on, and they seem much more interesting. One of them, the Seven Card Stud 8-or-Better tournament, drew a field that is 25 percent larger than last year's Stud/8, and that increase is the smallest of any WSOP event this year, just in case you wondered how big this thing has become.

In fact, the main event is expected to become so big that Harrah's is adivisng people that the final table scheduled for July 15 might have to be moved back a day.

The other tournament tonight is Pot Limit Omaha, which is down to three tables and with multiple bracelet winners Phil Hellmuth, Barry Greenstein, Chris "Jesus'' Ferguson and Jay Heimowitz still alive.

10:30 p.m.: Unsung pro Kasey Castle is sitting next to Greenstein and leafing through a reviewer's copy of Greenstein's upcoming book "Ace on the River.'' And the book looks spectacular. The paper stock feels like museum quality - like you're afraid to touch it for fear of smudging. The photos jump out. And the hand depictions of the lessons use color photos of actual cards and chips on a poker table, complete with the shadowy perspective you'd actually see at a table.

Greenstein says it cost him a million bucks to put this out, and that's not counting lost profits from playing while he engineered this project. "I asked Avery Cardoza (longtime poker publisher) how long it would take poker books to catch up to me, and he said never,'' Greenstein says. "He said no publisher would ever spend this kind of money. If I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it right, because I'm not going to do it again.''

The publisher wanted to charge $35. Greenstein is charging $25, the price being represented on the back in the form of a $25 chip. "I wanted to put a green chip on the back,'' Greenstein says. "Poker players understand that.''

The book isn't out yet, but it already ranks inside Amazon.com's top 1,000. And then Greenstein proceeds to eliminate two players, including Kastle, which ought to be good for sales.

When the book comes out, Greenstein says he will give a copy to whichever player knocks him out of a tournament. Of course, anybody who knocks out Greenstein shouldn't need the book.

Near midnight: Hellmuth, author of three recent poker books, including the best-selling "Play Poker Like the Pros,'' asks if my book is out yet. Nope. Wait'll September when the WSOP broadcasts begin. He asks what it's called. "The Best Hand I Ever Played,'' I tell him. He likes the title.

And then Hellmuth moves all in for his $13,600 with 17 players left. Everyone folds. He has aces. "That's what I'm known for,'' Hellmuth says. "Getting all the money in when I have the best hand.''

Tim Martz, sitting two to the left of Hellmuth continually bets the nine-time bracelet winner out of pots. "I attract the maniacs,'' Hellmuth moans, and now he's talking to himself about how opponents play back at him if they're even close to a good hand because they have a 50-50 shot, plus they get a story to tell the boys back home about playing a pot against the "Poker Brat.''

Hellmuth continually instructs a couple dealers on how to cut the cards, specifically how they must open their hands after shuffling and then cutting the deck on top of the yellow cut card. Hellmuth is right. Dealers must do it that way to eliminate the idea of loading a deck.

1:30 a.m.: Hellmuth goes around shaking hands with all the remaining players at both tables "in case I go bust.'' Good thing, it turns out.

During a break in the Stud/8 event, Mike "The Mouth'' Matusow is screaming about how he can't catch a hand and how playing in these events cost him money because he's away from big-money games online. F-bombs to follow. The positive expectation of winning a coveted bracelet, he says, is why he's playing.

Greenstein sucks out with a gutshot to knock out another player, then apologizes for the bad beat. Maybe he should change the book title to "6 on the River.''

************************************************************** Full Metal Hellmuth. Even before Hellmuth makes a pot-size raise preflop, Martz has his chips in the middle. Hellmuth moves all in with A-7-K-8, ace suited. Heimowitz, also short-stacked, also moves in. Martz calls with K-J-J-9, king suited. The board comes K-7-8-10-J. Martz takes the pot. Hellmuth is out. And out of his mind.

"This (F-bomb) called a full raise with K-J-J-9,'' Hellmuth begins, and you can guess how the monologue went from there. It might've been a world indoor record for F-bombs. "Give him effing congratulations,'' Hellmuth virtually spits, and then kicks a chair to the next table.

This, mind you, after Hellmuth had spent much of the night telling Martz it was nothing personal.

"Have you ever played this game?'' Hellmuth asks.

"I'm the worst poker player and I beat you,'' Martz responds.

Guess Martz has his story for the boys back home.

************************************************************** The wipeout of Hellmuth and Heimowitz sets the final table for the PLO event. One of the survivors is 25-year-old pro Sam Silverman, who goes by "Darwinism'' when he plays online at PokerStars.com. He was down to the felt when he drew aces double-suited to stay alive. A former pre-med student, Silverman has been playing for enough years that he needed a fake ID.

"My dad thought it was cool I had a fake ID,'' Silverman says. "We didn't tell my mom. We went to Binion's and he gave me some black chips. He said if you have black chips, they won't question you.

"We took a trip to the Arizona casinos, and on the way back, I broke out with some acne. That killed it.

"In my fifth year of college, I was playing $10-$20 Limit Omaha Hi-Lo and I made $30,000 in a month. That's sick. I used to play 20-40-hour sessions and I loved it. The idea of going home and studying organic chem made me want to jump out the window.''

Steve Rosenbloom is a regular contributor to ESPN.com and writes a syndicated poker column for the Chicago Tribune.

Steve Rosenbloom has been contributing to the ESPN Poker Club since March 2005. Along with his contributions to ESPN.com, Rosenbloom writes for the Chicago Tribune and is the author of "The Best Hand I Ever Played."

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