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Saturday, July 29, 2006
Survival at its best


The hand played itself.

There was nothing that Mike Stegemann could have done to avoid his final hand of the 2006 World Series of Poker. Sometimes, it just happens that way.

Stegemann, the ESPN Poker Club winner, started Day 1A on a high note as in his fifth hand, he was dealt pocket kings. Unfortunately, that was the best part. Cold-decked for a good majority of his tournament, Stegemann grinded back from his low point of $3,200 in chips to just over $17,000 at the break after level five.

Mike Stegemann

"Heading into the break after level five, I felt like I really had a shot," Stegemann said. "I was rolling at the end of level five and thought I had a chance to get up to 21,000, 22,000 or 23,000 by the end of the night and go into Day 2 with some chips I could play with. But I lost a couple pots early in level six and felt some urgency. I just wanted to get a hand and capitalize."

Unfortunately, around 2 a.m., Stegemann picked up a hand in a tough situation. In the first hand at a new table, Stegemann, holding over $12,000 in chips, was in the big blind. Everyone folded to the button, who limped into the pot for $400. The small blind called, and Stegemann went into deep thought and finally raised to a total of $2,000.

The button then re-raised $7,000 more, essentially putting Stegemann at risk for all his chips. Stegemann pushed and, after a sigh from the player on the button, was called with pocket kings. Stegemann flipped over J-J and was eliminated after no help could be found on the board.

"I had a great time," Stegemann said afterward. "I want to thank ESPN and the poker club. I thought I played about as well as I could, and it was just one of those days where I didn't have the cards to make big moves."

Stegemann's greatest success came at the third table he was moved to during the fourth level. Entering the table with just over $7,000, Stegemann built his stack to over $17,000 before the next break. What's more impressive, Stegemann had two of the toughest players in the world in Matt Matros and Shane Schleger sitting directly to his right.

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Big names with chips

After Day 1A there are a lot of big names at the top. Leading the way is Francis Cipriano with $123,200. Australian Mark Vos, who previously won a bracelet in a preliminary event, is the closes known notable with $85,375. Other big names at the top of the chip counts include Cuong Do, Jeffrey Lisandro, David Pham, Hoyt Corkins, Layne Flack, Mike Sexton, Shane Schegler and Barry Greenstein.

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Quote of the day:

"There's a line around the corner [40 to 50 people long] waiting to get Daniel Negreanu's autograph. Meanwhile, Pete Rose is sitting over there waiting for someone to walk over." -- Brian Balsbaugh, Negreanu's agent.

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Small blinds: The goal after every Day 1 is to have no more than 900 players remaining. The situation gets more interesting because if they aren't down to 900 by the end of level six, they must play to the end of level seven. So what happens if one of the days plays longer than the other? Where do the blind levels start on Day 2? I asked one of the tournament director assistants Heather, figuring she'd have the answer. Nope. "We don't know," she said. "They all need to play the same amount of time." … Fittingly, the customary "Shuffle up and deal" order to start the 2006 main event was uttered by actor James Garner, the original card-playing "Maverick," who then proceeded to take his seat at a table. … Things only get more interesting for Phil Hellmuth. Earlier this week, the "Poker Brat" won the $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em Rebuy tournament and collected $631,863. But more important, Hellmuth captured his 10th gold bracelet, tying legendary Johnny Chan and even more legendary Doyle Brunson for the most in the World Series' 37 years. Hellmuth, who has been keeping company with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, was called upon Friday night to give poker lessons to former NBA star Charles Barkley, current NBA star Chris Webber and several Seattle SuperSonics. An inveterate gambler, Barkley plans to play in the main event. … Gus Hansen folded to a bet on the turn, and the player to his right promptly asked him for an autograph.