Top-10 off-the-felt highlights from the 2014 Main Event
13 July 2014
By Dan Podheiser
LAS VEGAS -- I can't believe I've been here for more than a week.
When I first arrived at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino last Saturday, I was overwhelmed by the sheer carnival that is the World Series of Poker Main Event. I wrote a column highlighting my top-10 impressions of the tournament to that point, and most of the list was just me projecting my feelings of being overwhelmed.
But now I'm a seasoned Main Event veteran, and I've had a hell of a lot of fun this week. The poker has been great; the side action has been better.
Here are my top-10 off-the-felt highlights from the 2014 Main Event.
10. Ray Romano loves hookers
Actor/comedian and star of "Everybody Loves Raymond," Ray Romano, played on Day 1B of the Main Event. He kicked off the day by making the ceremonial "shuffle up and deal" announcement, and told the crowd he had bought his son, Matthew, into the Main Event for his 21st birthday.
"If we both bust out early, we'll go the Chicken Ranch," Romano said to boisterous laughter from the crowd.
Later, I asked Romano why he chose to play Day 1B as opposed to Day 1A or Day 1C.
"1A I couldn't do because I was coming in from out of town," Romano told me. "1C my buddy couldn't do, and it's also really the most crowded."
He then added: "And the hookers are much better today."
9. Vitaly Lunkin loves long-term lodging value
Vitaly Lunkin has more than $6 million in career live tournament earnings. He has two six-figure scores under his belt already in 2014, and he won the $50,000 EPT Barcelona Super High Roller tournament last August for more than $1 million.
But Casino City has discovered that Lunkin is willing to go to drastic measures to minimize his hotel expenses, at least during the World Series. Casino City Editor-in-chief Vin Narayanan spotted Lunkin coming out of the Extended Stay hotel, the same hotel where Vin and I and most members of the working media stay.
Vin struck up a conversation with the poker pro, and we can now confirm that Vitaly Lunkin is/was staying at the Extended Stay. I now have a whole new respect for the man. Then again, maybe I don't.
8. Whoah, Richard Seymour is big
Thousands of players joined in the Pavilion room to play Day 1C of the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event on Monday, July 7. (photo by Vin Narayanan/Casino City)
Speaking of Vin, I had asked him to come to the Pavilion on Day 1C to take a picture of Dean and Colleen Baranowski, the Dallas couple at the Rio for Dean's second Main Event
As Vin lined up his shot, a very large human being approached him on his way back to his seat. Richard Seymour, former defensive lineman for the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders, was playing on Day 1C of the Main Event. And Vin was in his way.
Seymour accidentally bumped into Vin, and I'll never forget the look on Vin's face as he turned around and realized whom he had just been hip-checked by. There aren't many people who dwarf Vin; Seymour had him by five inches and at least 100 pounds. Vin took the hit like a champ, though. He could probably stop Seymour from getting to a quarterback one second longer than anyone else in the room.7. The media tournament
I picked up a lot of chips on the second hand of the media tournament, when I raised with pocket
Kings pre-flop and got three more streets of value out of WSOP
.com Managing Editor Jessica Welman after I flopped a set.
But the tournament was a hilarious turbo structure -- we started with 10,000 chips and the blinds at 100/200, with 20-minute levels. Within 45 minutes, I had dwindled down to 6,000 and was forced to shove with K-5. I busted to A-K.
Still, the event was a blast. The atmosphere at the tables was fun, I got to meet some other people in the media, and, of course, there was free food. Those pulled pork sandwiches weren't too shabby.6. Bust the Main, head to the cash tables
I played a little $1/$3 no-limit Hold'em
at the Rio for a few nights after I had finished working. I played with no less than five people who had either already busted the 2014 Main Event or were still in the tournament.
One guy, who had made it through Day 1C, sat to my right the night of Day 1A/B. It was about 2 a.m. and he was due to resume his $10,000 buy-in
tournament at noon, but he was screwing around at the low-limit cash game
The guy told me that he was the best player in his home game, and his friends put him into the Main Event every year. They buy 100 percent of his action, and he gets 50 percent of his winnings. It's an absolutely dreadful deal for his friends. And judging by the way this guy played at my table, the deal is even worse.5. Rally beers
I want to play the Main Event for no other reason than to still be alive at the end of at least one day and order/drink a rally beer. It's apparently a custom for players to order beers during the last level of the day, though many wait until the last hour, just to be sure they can enjoy the beer without the pressure of possibly being eliminated.
In the last level of Day 5, David Tuthill -- who had a whirlwind run that day -- ordered his rally beer as soon as the final level started. He then ordered another, and then another. By the end of the night, he was hammered. But he made it to Day 6.4. Raffi's story
On Day 1B, I wrote a story about Raffi Boyadjian
, a limo driver from Waltham, Mass. Casino City Senior Editor Aaron Todd had met Raffi while playing in a tournament at Foxwoods Resort Casino
a few months ago, then asked Raffi to drive him and his wife to a Red Sox game for an anniversary date.
Aaron knew Raffi was playing on Day 1B and he told me to look out for him. I found Raffi at his table, introduced myself, and at the break we chatted for a bit. I didn't expect anything to necessarily come out of the introduction.
But Raffi started telling me about why he was here. Fourteen years ago, his son, Raffi Jr., passed away from a brain tumor. This year, Raffi won a satellite
tournament in his home poker league that sent him to the Main Event. The tournament was played the night before Father's Day.
"This was a gift from my son," Boyadjian told me last Sunday as a few tears streamed down his face. "That night driving home, I decided -- this was my Father's Day gift. So I gotta win."
Raffi didn't win -- he built a nice stack going into Day 2B, but some bad luck sent him to the rail
before the day ended. But my conversation with him is something I will never forget.3. My Aaron Paul selfie2. All American Dave
I'll admit it: I am completely biased. My favorite story of the tournament so far has been my feature on the All American Dave food truck
, which sets up outside the Amazon Room at the Rio and serves healthy food to poker players and spectators at the World Series of Poker.
I've been eating All American Dave grub all week -- I signed up for a meal plan. And it's some of the best food I've ever had. I spoke with truck proprietor Dave Swanson for 45 minutes late one night, and he's a really inspiring guy. I look forward to seeing where he takes his business -- and I look forward to seeing him here next year.1. A foosball God is among us
William Pappaconstantinou (say that five times fast) won a crazy, massive four-way all-in
late on Day 5, and he entered Day 6 24th in chips with 3.37 million.
The Dracut, Mass. native has a strong crew on the rail. One his friends noticed my Emerson College (Boston) sweatshirt and we struck up a conversation. Apparently, William is one of the top foosball players in the world and he goes by the name Billy Pappas.
Yes -- foosball is taken seriously by many people, and there's apparently money to be made. Before he came to the Main Event, Pappas was in Europe playing in a major foosball tournament.
"Is there a lot of money in foosball?" I asked one of his friends.
"Yeah, it's not bad," he said.
"Probably not as much as he could win here though, right?"
"No, not even close."
It's common for poker players to have pool/billiards backgrounds. Poker is often played in pool halls. And foosball tables are generally found in those types of settings, too. It only makes sense that we'd eventually find a foosball grinder making a deep run in the Main Event.