- Steve Rosenbloom, ESPN Poker Club
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LAS VEGAS -- Tobey Maguire, the star of "Spider-Man'' and "Seabiscuit,'' has no use for the media, and makes it pretty clear at poker tournaments. But he has a friendly demeanor among his fellow poker players, and frankly, the kid can play.
Maguire spent Day 1 of the WPT Championship at a table that included respected pros Robert Williamson III, the gregarious Texas-born poker player who used to scalp tickets in high school for big money; Paul Darden, who learned gambling while cleaning up his dad's pool hall in Connecticut and came to big-time poker with Phil Ivey's encouragement; and David Colclough, the understated winner from Europe.
Near the end of the day, Maguire took about a $40,000 pot from Williamson, who ironically, is the color analyst for "Poker Royale: Celebrities Vs. Poker Pros'' on GSN. Maguire check-called to the end with K-10, let Williamson do all the betting, and had Williamson catch a 10 of diamonds on the river to make a flush while Maguire rivered 10s full of Ks himself.
"He never led out,'' said a perplexed Williamson, who's new DVD is titled "From the Kitchen Table to the Final Table. "He never raised until the end.''
Once Williamson bet out $5,000 on the river, Maguire raised $10,000 and got a call. Nice acting, huh?
HANDS OFF: Young pro Gabe Thaler went off before the WPT Championship started - and had to be calmed down by good friend Antonio Esfandiari - because the event began with 10 players at a table instead of nine.
"The difference between nine-handed and 10-handed is the percentage of times that a quality hand will come out is incrementally increased dramatically when there's 10 people,'' Thaler said when only somewhat calmer. "Every poker game in the world is played nine-handed. Why should this tournament be played 10-handed?
"There are quite a few tournaments that start 10-handed, but my personal opinion is any $10,000 or $25,000 event, you should not be forced to play 10-handed.
"Playing in a deep-stack tournament gives you a chance to outplay people throughout the hand. In a 10-handed game, when you'll always be up against two aces or two kings or a high-quality hand, it makes it much more difficult to outplay that person because that person is much more unwilling to lay their hand down.''
Reason is, even if a player gets beat for 10 grand, he still has $40,000 left, and that's a lot of play with which to recover.
"You might have to play that way for the first day, and after that, poker's over,'' Thaler said. "You don't see flops after the first five levels. You almost never see a flop on Day 2. It's raise it, take it.''
Jack McClelland, the esteemed tournament director for the Bellagio, has a simple answer for Thaler:
"I don't have anymore tables. We get nine-handed as soon as we get within 18 tables. We started with 46 tables.
"It's how we do it for all of our tournaments. If we have plenty of tables, we'll do it. It's business (for the cash games that also are going on and turning a profit for the casino).''
And another thing, McClelland wants to ask Thaler: "Why wouldn't you rather play 10-handed when the blinds come around slower?''
SLEEPING IN: You've seen it on television when players show up after a tournament has started, sometimes well after. And you might think it's stupid to miss hands and get blinded off, because whether you're sitting in your chair or still sleeping, you're posting blinds.
But there's some financial sense to it, and maybe some physical sense, too. Bellagio poker floor supervisor John Nieznanski walked me through the math in blowing off the first five hours of the World Poker Tour Championship because it's a deep-stack tournament where you start with $50,000 in chips.
"The first level of blinds starts at $25-$50, then goes to $50-$100, then $50-$100 with a $25 ante,'' Nieznanski began. "Each level lasts 90 minutes, followed by a 15-minute break. Figure 50 hands are dealt out each round on average.
"So at a 10-handed table, the first level costs you $750. The second level costs you $1,500. The third level is another $1,500, plus the antes - about 50 of those at $25 - which is $1,225. That adds up to about $5,000, right?''
Actually, it's $4,975 to be exact, but the point is, you could miss the first three levels - about five hours - and be down less than 10 percent of your stack, which means you'd still have $45,000, which is a lot of chips.
Right about now, you're asking why you'd want to get blinded off like that, and so, I'll tell you why: Because you would be five hours fresher than the players who have been sitting there getting stiff and bored during the cautious first three levels, and what's more, 15 people who did show up on time were busted out of the tournament by the end of the third level of Day 1 of the WPT Championship.
YOU BET: Daniel Negreanu and fellow pro Barry Greenstein have a bet on women. Women players, that is.
Negreanu contends that his friend Jennifer Harman is the best woman player in the world. Actually, as Negreanu states in the upcoming book "The Best Hand I Ever Played'' to be published by ESPN, Harman is one of the best poker players, period. Greenstein contends that Mimi Tran is the best woman player.
"There's not a man in the world with a bigger ego than my man Barry,'' Negreanu says. "He not only thinks he's the smartest poker player ever, but he thinks he's the greatest teacher since he teaches Mimi.''
So, here's the deal: The men bet $100,000 on which woman makes the most final tables of televised events that they both enter. Negreanu is up $100,000.
HIGH, HARD ONE: Toronto native Negreanu will throw out the first pitch at an upcoming Blue Jays game. "I have to get my arm in shape,'' Negreanu said.
Steve Rosenbloom is a contributor to ESPN.com and writes a syndicated poker column for the Chicago Tribune.
Many celebrities are playing a part during tournaments. Tobey Maquire is playing poker.