Related Essays and Reports by Andrew W Scott
Series of Poker Main Event... Report number 10
Then There Were Nine
Vegas, Nevada, USA
At first it was just a dream. With 6,358 people in
the starting lineup, winning the main event of the
World Series of Poker couldn't be anything other than
a dream, even for the absolute best of the best -
even for the eight or so former winners of the event
that were in the field. But for these nine men now
remaining, the dream stage is long past, and each
and every one of them can smell victory. They have
now made the final table, a very special club comprising
nine very special men, who have already endured a
gruelling 60 hours of intense poker, just to be here.
the event had a carnival atmosphere, with the field
sprinkled with a heavy dose of hopeful poker amateurs,
a handful of pretty female players, and some celebrities
like Seinfeld star Jason Alexander, comedian and TV
star Norm Macdonald and Tobey Macguire from the recent
Spiderman movies. But that carnival atmosphere is
now long gone. The celebrities are gone. The amateurs
are gone. The last woman was knocked out in 38th place.
All that is left is the bedrock. The really tough
nuts to crack.
the nine still alive, six describe themselves as poker
professionals, and two others have already experienced
considerable major tournament success. On day 1 of
the event (actually held over four days due to the
enormous size of the field), each of these nine men
began with a starting stack of a mere 20,000 in chips.
That seems like a long, long time ago now. Now, at
day 7, even the man currently coming last has over
6 million in chips. By the time the dust settles sometime
Tuesday night (or perhaps in the wee hours of Wednesday
morning), one man will have the entire 127 million
chips in play. He will be crowned World Champion of
Poker for the next year and claim the first prize
of $8,250,000. Already $37,765,053 has been awarded
in prize money to those who placed 10th through 621st.
But the serious money will go to the final table.
Their prize money will be:
the winner receiving more than fifteen times the ninth
placed finisher, tomorrow's final table will most
likely be the highest stakes poker these nine men
will ever play in their life. The famous cry of "shuffle-up
and deal!" will start the action at 12 noon Las Vegas
time. Many hours later, there will be one last man
standing, and his victory will be the catalyst for
a year's worth of corporate sponsorship, publicity
tours, countless interviews, lucrative endorsements
and serious TV time in the world's major poker tournaments.
It is the dream of every poker player, from the battle-hardened
pros to the amateur recreational players who try to
qualify for the $10,000 buy-in event by winning cheap
its world-wide popularity boom over the last few years,
poker is no longer just a great American pastime,
but a global phenomenon. More than half the final
table are from overseas. Along with the four Americans,
there is a Vietnamese-born Canadian, two Englishman,
a Russian and a South African. Please meet them:
1: Jon Kalmar (Chorly, Lancashire, England)
Chip Count: 20,320,000
Kalmar is a 34-year-old professional poker player,
who plays mostly in clubs located in the north and
the midlands region of England. He is married with
one child. Among his prior accomplishments, Kalmar
was once the lead singer in a punk rock band. Before
entering this year's world championship, Kalmar admitted
to enduring a "terrible" run of bad fortune at this
year's World Series of Poker. He failed to cash a
single time in the preliminary tournaments. But everything
changed the night before the main event began. Dejected,
Kalmar tried to switch his airline ticket and return
home early. But he was told the cost to change his
departure from Las Vegas back to England would be
about $600. So instead, Kalmar decided to enter the
last mega-satellite at the Rio just before the start
of the main event. He ended up winning a $10,000 seat.
And now, here he is at the final table ten days later
- third among the chip leaders.
2: Lee Childs (Reston, VA, USA)
Chip Count: 13,240,000
Childs is a 35-year-old aspiring poker professional
from suburban Washington, DC. He is married with no
children. Childs holds a BBA in computer information
systems from James Madison University, in Virginia.
Just two months ago, he voluntarily took some time
off from a high-tech position with a firm affiliated
with the National Geographic Society. He worked on
"The JASON Project," which is an educational foundation
for students dedicated to scientific expeditions and
research founded by the person who first located the
has been on his own for a few months - and is pursuing
one of his dreams which is to play in the World Series
of Poker. He says that he would not be here without
the love of his incredible wife, dad, and all the
support of his family and friends. His is currently
fifth in the chip count.
3: Philip Hilm (Cambridge, England)
Chip Count: 22,070,000
Hilm is the chip leader coming into the final table
of the 2007 World Series of Poker. He is a 31-year-old
online poker pro. Hilm is a native of Denmark, but
currently lives in England. Family is very important
to Hilm. He spent two years living in Poland to get
to know his mother's side of the family before moving
on to England. Ten years ago, Hilm earned a degree
in economics from the Copenhagen Business School.
He formed a company with 12 employees, but eventually
went bankrupt. Just four years ago, Hilm was at his
lowest point - selling coffee machines at grocery
stores to make Christmas money so he could buy presents
for his family. Then, Hilm discovered poker on the
Internet. Before long, he was earning enough money
to make a decent living. And now, he is the largest
stack at the final table of the main event.
4: Jerry Yang (Temecula, CA, USA)
Chip Count: 8,459,000
Yang is a 39-year-old psychologist and social worker
from southern California. He holds a Masters Degree
in health psychology. Yang was born in Laos. He is
married and has six children. Yang started playing
poker only two years ago. He won a seat into the main
event via a satellite held at the Pechanga Resort
and Casino in Temecula, CA. His total investment in
this event is $225. The socially-conscious Yang is
determined to give something back to charity. He is
pledging 10 percent of his winnings from this tournament
to three different charities - the Make-A-Wish Foundation,
Feed the Children, and Ronald McDonald House.
5: Raymond Rahme (Johannesburg, South Africa)
Chip Count: 16,320,000
Rahme is the first person ever to appear at the final
table of the main event from the continent of Africa.
At age 62, he is also the senior participant at the
final table. He and his wife Teresa have six children.
Prior to his retirement, Rahme owned and operated
a bed and breakfast inn. Although he played Stud for
three decades, Rahme has only been playing the game
of Hold'em for about two years. Yet Rahme has already
enjoyed significant tournament success. He's taken
first and second place at major events held in South
Africa. He also took fourth place in the "All Africa
Poker Championship" recently, which was the largest
poker tournament ever held in Africa. As part of his
prize, he received a travel package to Las Vegas and
an entry into the 2007 main event. And now, he is
ranked fourth in the chip count at the start of the
6: Tuan Lam (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada)
Chip Count: 21,315,000
Lam was born in Vietnam on New Years Day in 1966,
during the war. He eventually immigrated to Canada
at the age of 19. He now lives in the Toronto area
where he plays poker professionally. Prior to turning
pro, Lam worked as a general laborer for a metal company.
Then, he learned how to play poker from friends and
has made it all the way to the final table of the
2007 main event. This is his third year to attend
the WSOP. His prior cashes were 46th place in an event
last year and 78th place in a WSOP tournament held
in 2005. He is married with two children. Lam arrives
at the final table ranked second in the chip count.
7: Alex Kravchenko (Moscow, Russia)
Chip Count: 6,570,000
Kravchenko is a 36-year-old businessman originally
from Archangel, USSR. He has been playing poker for
about eight years. He is married and has two children.
Kravchenko became the first Russian citizen in history
to win a WSOP gold bracelet when he was victorious
in the $1,500 buy-in Omaha High-Low championship at
this year's WSOP - in what was the largest Omaha High-Low
field in history. Russian immigrants have won previously
at the World Series. But Kravchenko's victory was
clearly a milestone. Kravechenko has an impressive
history of poker tournament wins in Europe. He won
the Austrian Masters Pot-Limit Championship in 2001.
He also won the Russian Pot-Limit Championship held
that same year and won a Limit Hold'em title at the
Helsinki Frezeout in 2002. He has cashed over 30 times
in what is becoming an illustrious poker career. This
is Kravchenko's fifth time to cash at the WSOP in
2007. Kravchenko faces the biggest challenge of any
player in the finale, as the lowest stack at the table.
8: Lee Watkinson (Cheney, WA, USA)
Chip Count: 9,925,000
Watkinson is a 40-year-old poker pro, businessman,
and animal rights activist from Cheney, WA. He is
one of only two players at the final table who currently
owns a WSOP gold bracelet. In 2006, Watkinson won
the Pot-Limit Omaha World Championship. He owns a
few businesses as well, including a record company
and a clothing line - which were started exclusively
with his poker winnings. The Washington State native
holds a degree in economics, which perhaps explains
why Watkinson is so astute as an investor and poker
often when he is interviewed Watkinson is quick to
shift everyone's attention to a greater, more humanitarian
purpose. Watkinson and his fiancé Timmi DeRosa share
a commitment to rescuing and retiring captive chimpanzees,
many of which have been used in everything from movies
to research laboratories. Watkinson and DeRosa told
about how chimpanzees are not as useful as they become
older and are commonly discarded. So a few years ago,
the couple made a commitment to rescue as many creatures
as possible and eventually build an animal sanctuary.
"All the animals need our help," Watkinson says. "But
we really try to focus on the chimpanzees."
it comes to poker, Watkinson is not monkeying around.
He arrives seventh in the chip count.
9: Hevad Khan (Poughkeepsie, NY, USA)
Chip Count: 9,205,000
"Rain" Khan is a 22-year-old professional poker player
originally from Poughkeepsie, NY. He attended college
at the State University of New York-Albany. He has
since moved around the country, living in both the
San Francisco bay area, and Las Vegas. Khan's claim
to fame before arriving at this final table was his
extraordinary ability to play multiple poker games
simultaneously. In what can only be described as a
prodigal Bobby Fischer-like capability, Khan has played
in as many as 43 poker games all at once on his home
computer. Today, he must play in just one poker game
- the biggest and most glamorous event in the world
for the world championship. Khan arrives eighth in
the chip count at the start of the final table.
W Scott is a high stakes gambler and gambling writer
based in Sydney, Australia, who travels the world.
latest stories on the tournament are available here
2007 Andrew W Scott
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