Gambling Related Essays and Reports by Andrew W Scott

World Series of Poker Main Event... Report number 10

And Then There Were Nine

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

July 16th 2007

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.

Earlier 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.

Of 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:

Winner $8,250,000
Runner-up $4,840,981
3rd $3,048,025
4th $1,852,721
5th $1,255,069
6th $956,243
7th $705,229
8th $585,699
9th $525,934

With 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 online tournaments.

With 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:

Seat 1: Jon Kalmar (Chorly, Lancashire, England)
Chip Count: 20,320,000

Jon 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.

Seat 2: Lee Childs (Reston, VA, USA)
Chip Count: 13,240,000

Lee 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 Titantic.

Childs 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.

Seat 3: Philip Hilm (Cambridge, England)
Chip Count: 22,070,000

Philip 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.

Seat 4: Jerry Yang (Temecula, CA, USA)
Chip Count: 8,459,000

Jerry 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.

Seat 5: Raymond Rahme (Johannesburg, South Africa)
Chip Count: 16,320,000

Raymond 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 final table.

Seat 6: Tuan Lam (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada)
Chip Count: 21,315,000

Tuan 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.

Seat 7: Alex Kravchenko (Moscow, Russia)
Chip Count: 6,570,000

Alex 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.

Seat 8: Lee Watkinson (Cheney, WA, USA)
Chip Count: 9,925,000

Lee 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 professional.

Yet 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."

When it comes to poker, Watkinson is not monkeying around. He arrives seventh in the chip count.

Seat 9: Hevad Khan (Poughkeepsie, NY, USA)
Chip Count: 9,205,000

Hevad "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.


Andrew W Scott is a high stakes gambler and gambling writer based in Sydney, Australia, who travels the world. His latest stories on the tournament are available here


© 2007 Andrew W Scott




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