An all-star cast gathered at the Rock Room at the Palms for a media meet and greet and poker tournament with Team PokerStars during the WSOP.
Practically the entire team was there, with new member Daniel Negreanu as one big exception. The attendees included Vanessa Rousso, Katja Thater, Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, Isabelle Mercier, Chris Moneymaker, Luca Pagano, Joe Hachem, Tom McEvoy, Steve Paul-Ambrose, Noah Boeken, Bill Chen, Humberto Brenes, Greg Raymer, Victor Ramdin and Barry Greenstein. Celebrities Jason Alexander and Shannon Elizabeth were also on hand for the event.
A clip of PokerStars' accomplishments in the last year was shown. With the departure of Party Poker from the U.S. market following the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, PokerStars has grown into the largest online poker room. It has 9 million registered users and dealt its 10 billionth hand recently.
Hachem, the 2005 World Series of Poker main event champ, served as the emcee of ceremonies, introducing each player in turn.
Of Moneymaker he said, "He also turned $39 into $15 million because between him, Greg Raymer and me, we won $15 million in the World Series of Poker."
Of Mercier he said, "She's kind of like our mascot. Look how cute she is."
Of McEvoy's famed tome with T.J. Cloutier entitled "Championship Pot Limit and No Limit Hold'em", he said, "I've personally read it at least ten times." McEvoy replied, "You never told me that. I'm flattered."
Of Paul-Ambrose, a World Poker Tour champion at age 22, "He still looks 12, but he's 24."
The most interesting tidbit from the introductions was when Greenstein walked in late and Hachem asked him to talk about this "rabbi business." Apparently over the weekend, a friend of Greenstein's 19-year-old nephew decided to log onto "The Bear's" 2 + 2 forum account and made up a story about a $3 million prop bet that Greenstein allegedly took in which he learned Hebrew and led a Jewish congregation. Greenstein said the fake story got at least 180 immediate responses.
"When I came home after losing $500,000 at the Bellagio I had to respond to this," he said. "I might take someone up on the offer. I could use the money."
Some of the PokerStars pros dealt the tournaments, while others played. Elizabeth and Alexander also joined the gathered media, but both busted early.
Paul-Ambrose dealt at my starting table, which included Hachem. A journalist asked Paul-Ambrose about his Series, to which the young gun replied that he made only one final table and that was the first open event - the $5,000 mixed hold'em. Apparently, it was downhill from there.
"Who's the worst pro PokerStars has got?" asked the writer.
"Steven Paul-Ambrose," replied Paul-Ambrose.
In the first hand with any action, a woman to my right raised the 50-100 blinds to 300 and Hachem called. After a flop of , he called a 500 bet by the journalist. When the hit the turn, Hachem folded to a 600 bet.
"Queen-jack?" asked the media member to my left.
"Good call," Hachem replied.
"You folded queen-jack?" asked the woman bettor. "You shouldn't have done that."
Paul-Ambrose confirmed this when he peeked at the cards and told Hachem with at least some delight, "You got bluffed."
Rousso was moved to the table and seemed to have trouble keeping the chip colors and amounts in order, betting 1,200 when she meant to bet 250. "Oh no!" she exclaimed.
We all joked that she probably had aces, but the blinds folded and Rousso won without showing.
"Nice angle shoot Vanessa," Paul-Ambrose said.
Both Rousso and I busted on the same hand when I raised pre-flop with and was called by Rousso and the journalist to my left. The flop brought and I pushed all in, only to be called by the other journalist and Rousso. She had a flush draw; he had a set of sevens. The set held up.
The tournament continued into the evening. The winner received $300 in his or her PokerStars account.