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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel.

Contact Gary at and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

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WSOP final table heads-up notebook

11 Nov 2008

By Gary Trask

LAS VEGAS -- Erick Lindgren is generally regarded as one of the most well-liked poker professionals, both by the fans and fellow pros. And if you consider the generosity he has shown towards his family, it's easy to see why.

When Lindgren finally won his long-awaited World Series of Poker bracelet in June, the first thing he did was call his parents back home in California and tell them he was sending them the actual bracelet as a reward for all of their support. On Monday night before the heads-up showdown between Peter Eastgate and Ivan Demidov, the WSOP officially awarded Lindgren his 2008 Milwaukee's Best Light Player of the Year award as well as a Red Rock custom-made Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

The snazzy-looking bike had a set of five cards representing a royal straight flush on the front and the hole cards ace of hearts and two of diamonds on the back. Those were the cards Lindgren was holding when he drew a wheel straight to clinch his first bracelet in the $5,000 Mixed Hold'em event.


Erick Lindgren checks out the custom-made Harley-Davidson that was given to him on Monday night as part of his winning the 2008 WSOP Player of the Year award. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

Lindgren told Casino City that he would be once again handing over his prize to a family member. This time his older brother Doug will be the recipient.

"He missed out on getting the bracelet so I told him the bike is his," said a relaxed Lindgren as he sipped a bottle of beer and accepted congratulations from his fellow pros before the opening ceremonies. "I'm glad to keep it in the family. Besides, I'd probably dump the thing the first time I got on it anyway."

In addition to earning his first bracelet this summer, Lindgren had four other cashes, including a third place in the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament. Overall he cashed in for more than $1.3 million. His 245 WSOP Player of the Year points helped him edge out second-place Barry Greenstein, who compiled 235 points.

Lindgren added that he was "blown away" by the enormity of the show the WSOP put on for the final table.

"I give them a lot of credit," he said. "A lot of people doubted them [when they decided to delay the final table]," said Lindgren, who sits 20th on the all-time WSOP earnings list with more than $7 million. "But if you look at the crowd here tonight and the ESPN ratings and I'd say that they knew what they were doing. This is a great thing for poker."

Lindgren was asked to address the crowd after WSOP Commissioner Jeffery Pollack introduced him. The Full Tilt pro from California saluted the crowd for coming out, said how honored he was to win the award and wished the two finalists good luck. He then added that he spoke to Doyle Brunson and Texas Dolly wanted to pass along to Eastgate and Demidov that he'd be willing to play a cash game after the final table was over. We think he was kidding.

In the Buffer zone
The Main Event already had the feeling of a "big event," but having renowned boxing announcer Michael Buffer come in to belt out the introductions on Monday night sealed the deal.

While Buffer admitted that it was his brother and WPT regular Bruce who was the big poker player in the family, he was more than happy to be invited to the festivities Monday night. Surrounded by four Las Vegas showgirls, Buffer gave the festivities a boxing-like feel when he announced Eastgate and Demidov as weighing in with their respective chip counts.


Michael Buffer goes over his script with Tournament Director Jack Effel." (photo by Vin Narayanan)

"It's exciting," Buffer told Casino City as he sat tableside preparing for his duties about 30 minutes before show time. "I'm glad to be here. This is Las Vegas. It's a big event and you've got two guys going mano-a-mano in the center ring, so to speak. So I think me being here is a natural fit."

Buffer said that this was his first poker tournament gig, but not the most unusual event he has been asked to announce. In addition to nearly every big boxing match, NFL games, the NBA Finals, the World Series and the Stanley Cup Finals, Buffer said he's also lent his pipes to events as obscure as women's tennis.

"I've even done a few bar mitzvahs," he said with a laugh. "Hey, if they can write the check I can be there."

And in this corner…
The boxing theme for the heads-up match actually began earlier in the day at a press conference in the Masquerade Tower at the Rio. WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla was wearing a tuxedo and announced Eastgate and Demidov with the Rocky theme song "Eye of the Tiger" blaring over the speakers. Each combatant was escorted down a long, spiral stairway with a Las Vegas showgirl around his arm. At the bottom of the steps on the stage there was $9.1 million in cash as well as the WSOP bracelet.

In an orchestrated bit, Dalla asked the players a question and got a response from each of them in their native tongue. The two players are friends and have known each other a long time and it showed as they hammed it up on the stage. Eastgate playfully swiped at Demidov with a wad of the cash in his hands while Demidov chided his friend for admiring the bracelet.

Faces in the crowd
For the second straight night, the Penn & Teller Theater was filled with poker celebrities. Coming out for the Main Event finale were Hevad Kahn, Grant Hinkle, Barry Greenstein, Jesper Hougaard, Jamie Gold, Chris Moneymaker, Daniel Negreanu, Jeff Madsen, Cyndy Violette, Lacey Jones and Chris "Jesus" Ferguson.

Final tableists Dennis Phillips and Darus Suharto were the only players that were eliminated on Sunday to show up at the start of Monday night's action to witness the grand finale in person. "Why wouldn't I want be here?" said Suharto, who was wearing a "Joba Rules" T-shirt in honor of New York Yankees embattled pitcher Joba Chamberlin. Phillips, of course, was wearing his patented white trucking shirt and St. Louis Cardinals' hat. Craig Marquis made his way into the theater during the late stages of the night while Ylon Schwartz showed up just as the tournament ended at around 2:30 a.m.


Daniel Negreanu, Erick Lindgren and Chris "Jesus" Ferguson were just a few of the big stars to come out for the heads-up match Monday night. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

Checks and raises
On the first hand of the night, the flop was 10, king, 10. The turn and river were both kings, creating a full house. Demidov was first to act and he raised eight million. Eastgate shook his head and smiled before folding….The line started forming outside the Penn & Teller at around 5 p.m. Monday night, more than five hours before the cards went in the air. Despite the absence of Dennis Phillips Nation, the theater was near capacity. At the outset, it seemed that the crowd wasn't favoring either player….When you're Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, it's difficult to actually do anything without being noticed, particularly when you're at the WSOP Main Event final table. The 2000 Main Event champ tried to quietly sneak into the theater as the opening ceremonies were going on. As soon as he was spotted by the fans, Ferguson received some applause. One fan shouted, "Party at your house Jesus!" to which Ferguson responded with a big smile and two thumbs up.....Phillips announced before the final table that he would donate 1% of his WSOP earnings to "Put a Bad Beat on Cancer," a donation that PokerStars said it would match in full. Do the math and thanks to the St. Louis resident's $4.5 million in final table winnings the charity will receive a check for more than $90,000.

A viewing party for ESPN's "same day" telecast of the final table on Tuesday evening was scheduled for the Lucky Strike bowling alley inside the Rio. The media was invited and Casino City was told that all nine final tableists were "required" to attend, but the thinking was that not all of them would actually appear. The two players most likely not to show were David "Chino" Rheem and Ylon Schwartz, neither of whom exactly adore the men and women toting microphones and notepads....Speaking of the ESPN coverage, on the preview show that will air one hour before the Main Event telecast on Tuesday night, Demidov was a popular choice to win the $9.1 million first prize during the prediction portion of the program. Guests on the show that chose the Russian as the winner included Phil Hellmuth, Negreanu and Evelyn Ng. David Williams picked Rheem. Hellmuth also announced that Erik Seidel liked Demidov while Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan were picking Rheem. Kenny Tran was the lone person to even mention Eastgate as a possible winner.

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