By Bill L.
Our annual trip to the World Series of Poker was off to a great start even before I got there. I was flying in separate this year after a trip to NoCal which included a Giants game, a day of small production Zinfandel tasting in Sonoma and the Nascar race at Infineon so The Fluge was on his own for a few hours until my flight landed.
After his casino host pulled him aside in order to skip the long check-in lines The Fluge was escorted into the VIP area for the platinum guest private registration. Knowing I was a few hours out he decided to hit the blackjack tables for awhile. Now I know I understand blackjack – I’ve even played in the World Series of Blackjack in my younger days but I truly don’t enjoy it that much so I mainly stick with poker – but Nick LOVES 21 and is AMAZINGLY good at it. I’ve watched him play many times now and he consistently beats the house.
In the three hours just waiting for me he was betting big and playing multiple hands. Just the kind of Big Player the house loves and takes very good care of. The problem is – Fluge WINS. So not only did his first three hours of play net cash in his pocket and comps galore but the Casino upgraded his VIP status to Diamond level – the highest you can get. It can take most gamblers years of play to attain this level but in rare occasion you can become “Diamond in a Day.”
I finally arrive, check in, toss my stuff in my room and make my way down to the tables to find The Fluge and try and get his head into poker mode. He, like most smart players has no problem getting up from the table, so after coloring up, tipping both his dealer and cocktail waitress we head to the WSOP Pavilions. We barely make it half way and here comes multiple WSOP bracelet winner Scotty Nguyen yelling FLUGE, FLUGE – Everyone remembers the big guy so we catch up for awhile and wish the poker gods to bring good fortune to us before hitting the registration desk for tomorrow’s event. We find we’re at tables 107 and 17 respectively and chat with a few of the pro’s we’ve met over the years who are in line with us.
Nick and I decide to meet later at Voodoo Steak on the top of The Rio for our usual pre-tourney dinner. After ordering we both agree we think we’ve had the same dishes for the past ten years only changing the wine selection based on what’s currently on the list. I have to say this year’s bottle of a Turley Juvenile Zinfandel was outstanding! We caught up on multiple adventure possibilities and vineyard happenings before getting to business and finalizing our strategies for tomorrow. By the time the last bite was gone and the only the dregs of Zin were left we were rock solid comfortable with our game plans for the big event.
I could see from the glimmer in his eyes that a little black jack would be on the agenda for the remainder of the evening so I followed the master to his favorite high-limit table for a few hands of 21. I could only keep up with his pace for a short while basically breaking even and I left him for the night in the good hands of Yasmine the dealer and Brenda the cocktail server.
Finally- Poker Day is here and Nick and I meet for our traditional breakfast and leisurely reconfirm our strategies from the night before. I can see Fluge is focused. Normally with an hour to kill he’d get a few hands in at the bj table – but not today. It’s all business. We decided to head back to our rooms for a quick freshen-up and gather our gear for what hopefully will be a marathon of poker. With a few minutes to go before the start of the event Nick, being Nick, decided he’d like to get the winner’s vibe form the sacred bracelet podium and jumps the velvet rope and heeds to the podium where the winner’s bracelet resides in waiting and the wall of champions is located. Maybe we’ll see him up there collecting his own bracelet down the road.
We each head to our tables – stand for Ben “Benba” Lamb’s bracelet presentation for winning the previous event – taking place at that podium Nick just left. We stay standing for the national Anthem then it’s those famous words – “Shuffle Up and Deal.” Our event has begun.
Nick is way across the huge pavilion of almost 3000 players so I can’t see him but texts are flying back and forth. Up 2k – down 1k – up 3k. At the first break after two rounds of one hour each we’ve had no crazy hands just solid poker. We have 20 minutes to fight the hoard for a bathroom break. Rounds 3 and 4 – blinds are up and so are we. Nick about 6k and me right behind at 5k. Four hours and so far so good. Rounds 5 and 6 and we’re seeing a large exodus now. I keep looking around a no Fluge – a good sign. I get a text and he’s up to 15k. NICE. After 6 hours of poker and 40 minutes of breaks it’s dinner break time. Chip counts are Nick @ 17k and me at @ 16k. We have 90 minutes for dinner and lines are huge but The Fluge flashes his Diamond VIP card and we walk by the lines right to a table. That’s how we roll. Our separate strategies are holding and all is good. Neither of us has had huge wins or losses – just steady “grinder” poker.
On to rounds 7 and 8 – blinds are getting big and we now have antes. We’ve outlasted 1800 losers so far but we need to make some moves and add to our stacks. Nick’s holding around 17k and I’m up to 19k but there are some big stacks at each of our tables. We’re still alive after round 8 – down to 800 left. There will be 2 more rounds tonight before chips are bagged and play resumes tomorrow. We both agree we’re here for the final table and there’s no reason to go into day 2 with a short stack so we are going to attack and go for greatness tonight. Round 9 we’re still alive but our stacks are dwindling. Nick’s text says he’s down to 12k. I’m at 17k and my table breaks and we each head to a new table. As my luck would have it I’m assigned a new table and there are four huge stacks. Matt Jarvis is showing off his bracelet from winning event #40. There’s Ronny “RoNasty” Bardah who went deep in last year’s main event and Pro Matt Stout who I spent many hours seated next to last year. He looks at me twice and says “Hey – grape guy.” He remembers me but unfortunately his next line is “too bad you’re short stacked.”
Twenty minutes to go I get a tap on the shoulder and my man The Fluge is out. He played real well but couldn’t catch the cards near the end. Mike Stanton from the World Poker Tour is there and tells Nick he watched him for awhile and he played great. Mike was wondering when we’d try our luck in a WPT event. Fluge is not down though and says he’s off to kill ‘em at black jack.
15 minutes to go and I get a hand. This is it. There’s a raise from under the gun and everyone folds around to me on the button. I’ve got pocket 10’s and go all in for about 20k but the big blind with the big stack snap calls all in – not good –and the first raiser folds. I turn over my 10’s and he turns over a wired pair of Kings. The flop, turn and river are no help and I’m out in 400th place. Better than 2600 others but not good enough after almost 13 hours of play.
It turns out this year’s winner from our event was Athy Polychronopoulos. He was the big blind with the big stack who took me out.
Our 2011 WSOP is over – we didn’t win a bracelet but it was a blast as usual. We’ll get ‘em next year!
PS. This year’s WSOP Europe is in Cannes in October. Will there be an Art/WSOP Poker story from the South of France? Stay tuned.