Four Mizrachi brothers alive at WSOP
What has four players, is from Miami and is looking for a world championship?
No, it's not the Miami Heat.
"We're all big Heat fans," Michael Mizrachi said. "Put it this way: I'm LeBron, Rob is Dwyane Wade, EWee is Chris Bosh, and I guess Donny is Mario Chalmers."
While there may be some dispute as to which poker player is emblematic of which basketball player, there's no questioning that this family foursome is looking to achieve goals that reflect those of their basketball team of choice. Michael ("Grinder"), Rob, Eric ("EWee") and Donny ("Magic") are the Mizrachi brothers, born and raised in Miami. All four have advanced to Day 3 of the World Series of Poker with above-average stacks.
At the end of Day 2B on Saturday, eldest brother Rob had $204,000; twins Grinder and Eric had $217,000 and $145,000, respectively; and Donny, the youngest and least experienced of the four, had the biggest stack with $232,000. With the average stack somewhere around $80,000, all four are looking strong. For all four to have made it this far is a remarkable feat.
"'Astonishing' isn't the word I would use considering how much talent the Mizrachis have, but if all four were to cash, that would certainly be a WSOP first," said the WSOP's resident historian, Nolan Dalla. "We've had siblings, couples, fathers and sons, and other relatives cash in the same event together, but to get three or even four brothers cashing in one event would be something. If a couple of them run deep, that could be historic. We're in the first couple of chapters of what could be a fantastic story."
The Mizrachis are a fun-loving, trash-talking, heavy-gambling family for whom the high stakes of the WSOP are a reflection of their lives. Rob, the eldest of the four at 31, was the first to foray into poker, eventually teaching his brothers through his own experiences.
"I used to take all Mike's baseball cards and comic books, and they cried to our mom," he recalled. "We played strictly five-card draw with jokers. We loved to gamble. We were playing for equal-value high-stakes baseball cards. They were worth, like, as much as $50 to $100 each."
"Our mom used to give us our allowance, and we'd spend it all," said Eric, 29, who emerged into the world two minutes after Grinder. "We had all the best ones. They were already in cases, boxed up nice. We'd play for them, and they'd keep making their way around the house, sometimes to our cousins."
Their mom, Susan Lawfer, is the one whom the four hold responsible for their entrance into the poker world.
"Mom actually started us playing poker," Rob said. "I think she plays more poker than the four of us combined. She plays online now; three or four screens. She's louder than all of us at the table. She'll be like, 'I busted you! Come on buddy! Where's your money? Reload!'"
The reflection starts a debate about her nickname. Grinder insists it's "Momma Grinder," Eric "Momma EWee" and Donny "Momma Magic."
From the home games for baseball cards, the stakes grew. After an attempt as restaurateurs, Rob and Grinder took work as dealers.
"We saw how bad the people on the other side of the table were playing," Rob said. "We were like, 'The hell with this; we're going to go on the other side of the table and take their money.'"
The stakes kept rising. The two eldest Mizrachis kept on playing while Eric worked with father Ezra. Finally, in 2004, Rob and Grinder broke through. A $482,608 win at in Amsterdam for Rob preceded Grinder's win at the L.A. Poker Classic. That victory was worth $1,859,909 and trumpeted the family's arrival on the poker scene.
"Mike won a Bellagio tournament in December of '04, then went and did good in some tournaments in '05," Rob said. "Then he fell asleep for four years, and now he's doing OK again."
While Grinder's long drought had many wondering whether his '05 run was a fluke, he's put that notion to bed this year with a remarkable series that saw him win the $50,000 Poker Player's Championship. He followed the victory with two $10,000-event final tables. Among those at the $50,000 final table was Rob.
"It's a win for the family," the 23-year old Donny said. "It gives the rest of us inspiration and motivation to go out there and do the same."
"Yeah," Eric said, "the 10 percent I had had nothing to do with my cheering for Mike."
While the two more famous Mizrachis have been winning tournaments, Eric has been acting as the family business manager. Running their websites and businesses and attending to their collective social-media needs, Eric insists that he's the responsible one. Of course, the other brothers only tease him about such insistences.
"I guess you can say it's like a team because we're happy to chop a tournament up," Michael said. "It's an important advantage that we have people we know we can trust. Especially in the Poker Player's Championship. I'd go to them for advice."
"We helped him win it," Rob said of a tough heads-up match for Mike with Vladimir Shchemelev. "He was on a downfall when it was heads-up, and we got him right again."
Added Donny: "We took Grinder outside, talked to him and got him back on his game."
Donny, a magician by trade, has only recently started taking tournament poker seriously, with the family's success bolstering his confidence.
"I think they all gave me a great deal of motivation and inspiration to tag along," said Donny, the quietest of the four. "They've all shown me great support. I always felt like I had the ability because I knew it was in the blood and that we were all gifted with these skills."
The Mizrachis are working on an assortment of projects these days, including reviving their father's Get Lucky apparel line, which they plan to rebrand as poker gear. First, though, there's the matter of the main event. While Grinder suggests that only the top four spots in the standing will be satisfactory, the others feel that one of them making the final table will be the measuring stick of their success. Of course, a few other cashes would hurt either.
While LeBron & Co. may be the talk of Miami, the riddle at the top of this column still stands. Four brothers, all very much in contention, are taking on the world. Of the 7,319 players who started, just 2,560 remain heading into Day 3, and four of them are Mizrachis. Unlike the Heat's present foursome, they've got all the help they need: They've got one another.
Gary Wise is a poker columnist for ESPN.com.