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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has worked as a writer and editor more than 25 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee.

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

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WSOP final table notebook

10 Nov 2008

By Gary Trask

LAS VEGAS - Of the many reasons given by Harrah's and the World Series of Poker for deciding to delay the Main Event final table, one of them was for the nine players to gain more exposure and, in turn, secure lucrative sponsorships.

Almost four months seemed like it would be plenty of time for potential sponsors to come knocking, but as a couple of players noted Sunday after they were eliminated, the timing just wasn't there for them to attain much in terms of sponsorships. The problem, according to the players, was that by the time ESPN aired all of its WSOP episodes, there wasn't enough time for the potential advertisers to make an offer.

"By the time the episodes aired, it was kind of late," said David "Chino" Rheem after coming in seventh place and taking home $1,772,650. "Everyone in corporate America didn't see [the coverage] until about two weeks before the final table. That's really not much time for them to negotiate with the players."


Kelly Kim liked the opportunity to chase sponsorships during the 117-day break, but felt the ESPN TV schedule hampered his efforts. Photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City

Eighth-place finisher Kelly Kim echoed Chino's remarks.

"I love the fact that they're giving us a shot to get corporate sponsorships, because we as poker players put up our own money," said Kim after picking up $1,288, 217. "But because ESPN wanted to air it as real time as possible, it's really hard to hammer out deals where we can get promotions or sponsorships when they don't who you are, they don't what's going on. It's hard [for the advertisers] to adjust."

Both Kim and Rheem are from California and both wore logos for, a non-profit organization that, according to the Web site, "provides empathy and financial support for the families left behind when a law enforcement officer or firefighter dies assisting the citizens of Los Angeles County."

Emotional response
Rheem was a trendy pick to prevail at the final table. But his day came to an earlier-than-expected end when he was the third player to be eliminated. Despite his near $2 million in winnings, Chino was not exactly in a cordial mood for his post-elimination meeting with the media.


An emotional David "Chino" Rheem admitted Sunday that the Main Event was about more than just about the money. Photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City

The first question came from an ESPN reporter who asked, "How are you feeling right now?"

"Are you being serious right now?" Rheem snapped. "I mean what the fuck kind of a question is that? Seriously. How do you think I feel right now? Like, not to be rude, but I put my heart into it and my heart is broken right now. How do you think I feel? I feel like shit. It's that simple. You can quote me on that. I feel like shit."

Eventually, Chino composed himself. Once he calmed down, he talked about what a once-in-a-lifetime chance making the final table was and how that fact made the pain of being eliminated even worse.

"I'd like to stay positive and say there's always next year but the odds of for anyone to make the final table are just so sick,' he said. "I'm fortunate that I was able to make it and experience all of this. But I really feel like I blew my chance here today.

"I've always said that I play the game for the money. And making this money is great. But this is a tournament I really wanted to win, not just for me but for all my friends and family. That's why I'm hurting so much right now."

Who needs the spotlight when you've just won $3.7 million?
As out of line as Chino was after his elimination, at least he actuallu showed up for his "required" media session following his dismissal. Of the seven players who were eliminated on Sunday, Ylon Schwartz was the lone player to be bounced who decided to skip out on the media.

Instead of facing the press, Schwartz, who finished fourth, waltzed past the media that had assembled for his arrival with a beer in his hand and his friends at his side. Some members of the media followed him out into the lobby but, undeterred, Schwartz continued walking at a brisk pace while briefly answering a couple of questions.

The Poker Brat speaks
Phil Hellmuth was in the house for most of the day and he told Casino City that he was impressed with the energetic atmosphere in the room.

"It's an exciting day for poker," said the all-time leader in WSOP bracelets with 12. "If people could see this theater they'd be in shock. You've got thousands of people sitting so far away from the action it's amazing. The crowd's really brought a lot of energy to the event. I'm really enjoying sitting back and taking it all in."

Hellmuth lived up to his Poker Brat name when he was introduced to the crowd and got an earful of boos.

"Go ahead, keep booing," he told the fans with a big smile on his face. "I'm used to it."


Hevad Kahn and Jamie Gold talk before final-table play gets underway. Photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City

Faces in the crowd

The final table brought out a number of the game's biggest and brightest stars to the Rio. Here's a list of the ones we spotted: Hellmuth, Hevad Kahn, Grant Hinkle, Evelyn Ng, Barry Greenstein, Chris Moneymaker, Tiffany Michelle, Maria Ho, Tom "Durrr" Dwan, Nenad Medic, Jen Harman, Phil Gordon, Cliff Josephy, Robert Mizrahi, Michael Mizrahi, David Williams, Cyndy Violette, Lacey Jones, Hoyt Corkins, Daniel Negreanu and JC Tran.

In addition, 2007 Main Event champ Jerry Yang was given the honor of announcing "Shuffle up and deal," while Doyle Brunson was on hand to introduce Duane "Dewey" Tomko into the Poker Hall of Fame. Henry Orenstein, the man who invented the "Hole Card Cam," was also inducted into the Hall, which now has 37 members.

Do the math
Kim came in as the severe short stack, but was able to avoid being the first player eliminated. That honor went to Craig Marquis. After his elimination, Kim was asked if he had done the math to see what the payout difference was for eighth and ninth place.

"Yeah, I think I have an idea," Kim said.

"It's around $350,000," the reporter added.

"No, it's more like $380,000," Kim quickly interjected with a smile that told everyone he had a lot more than just an "idea" as to what the difference was.

A change of heart?
Before the play began at the final table, Darus Suharto said that he would probably return to his job as an accountant at York University in Ontario. But after finishing in sixth place and picking up more than $2.4 million, the 38-year-old seemed to be hedging a bit.

"I'm not sure what the future holds," he said. "I'm going back to work next week for sure. After that I just don't know right now. I told my boss that I would be back no matter what. I'm the type of person that keeps a commitment when I make one. If I were to leave my job, I would want to make sure that everything was in order before I left. Right now, I just don't know what will happen."

Greenstein prevails in star-studded 'warm-up'
PokerStars PR man Matt Clark told us about a table that unfolded inside the Rio poker room on Friday that would have likely drawn just as much interest than the actual final table if it had been publicized. With nothing but pride on the line, a game between Suharto, Moneymaker, Greenstein and Khan materialized. Rounding out the table was one of Greenstein's friends and two ESPN producers.

There was no money on the table and it was played with turbo blinds. After an hour or so, Suharto was the chip leader and then let Clark take his place. Clark took advantage of the lead and made it to the heads up portion of the table, eliminating Moneymaker in the process. But in the end, Greenstein was too much for Clark to handle.

"I couldn't do anything with him at all," Clark said. "He wasn't even really paying attention. He was actually paying more attention to text messaging people, but I couldn't get any kind of read on him. But it was fun."

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