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Poker News | World Series of Poker | WSOP2008 | The Works

This One Time... At Poker Camp – The 2008 WSOP Comes To An End

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As the lights were turned off on the 2008 World Series of Poker, not many people noticed Dean Hamrick. They were too busy celebrating the good fortune of the “November Nine.” Players and their friends and family were high fiving and hugging one another and the media was busy capturing these moments. Hamrick, eliminated in 10th place, made a quick exit out of the room. Alone. This is the tragic part of the game we love. Everyone has to lose except for one person. The “November Nine” makes it a bit different because for three months we will have nine victors instead of one, but it is the Hamrick's of the world that go unnoticed and are often forgotten.

There are two things I am going to take from the 2008 WSOP more than anything. The first is that vision of people losing and how much loss meant to them. In the few years that I have been covering poker, I have often focused on the winners and the glory they receive. This year, I made a concerted effort to watch players as they made their exit after a horrific beat or maybe just a really bad play. What did I learn? What I already knew, but it clarified the reality for me. Losing sucks.

It is this fact of life that makes tournament poker so difficult. It is not out of the ordinary for a player to go twenty, even thirty, tournaments without scoring a significant cash. How a player handles themselves during this stretch will often define their poker career. Too often, I hear stories of players who had a nice cash of say half a million dollars who just threw it all away and they become the person that is all too commonplace in the poker world. They become the beggar. The “will you back me into this tournament” or the “I promise I'll pay you back” guy. They become the gambler. The “I'll get it all back at the craps table” or the “I just need one good winning session” guy. They become the person no one wants around and where this leads is often down the road to nothingness.

I've always ground out a moderate living playing poker. I've never won six figures in a tournament, but I've always made enough to pay my bills and not have to get a real job. Sure, I have dreams of the big score, and I give it the occasional shot, and someday it might happen. I understand reality though and take what is given to me. I see these “losers” struggle and I want to take them aside and tell them what I know, and I've done this before, but it only falls on deaf ears. All they see is what they want to see. All they hear is what they want to hear.

The second thing I am bringing back home with me is how much money affects and changes people. I'd seen it before, but never on the level I’ve seen it this year. Make no mistake about it, money is what makes the world go round, and it is everything and the ONLY thing when it comes to poker.

I saw innocent people crushed losing tens of thousands of dollars. They didn't know what they were getting themselves into. The thing about losing money is that it hurts, and that you feel the need to get it all back. That's why Vegas is such a dangerous place. Lose $1,500 in a poker tournament? Well then, let's go to the roulette table to try and get it all back. $2,000, $10,000, $20,000 later, there is no where left to go. Their life has been ruined. The money they had worked so hard to save is gone. Money earmarked for a mortgage or car payment is no longer there. It's the vicious cycle that is all too common but when people write about poker, it's not what you hear about. All you hear about is the glory of poker and the possibility of winning millions of dollars. It's what the poker sites want you to hear. It's what Harrah's and the WSOP and ESPN want you to read about.

For every Chris Moneymaker , there are at least ten Eskimo Clark's. Clark is a running joke among media members because he's a lifetime degenerate. He is seen at every poker stop and he does anything and everything to find money and get action into a tournament or game. Clark's not alone, he's just easy to pick on. I almost feel sorry for Eskimo because he's much more the reality of poker than say that of someone like Daniel Negreanu or Phil Hellmuth where nothing can go wrong, even if they lose twenty tournaments in a row.

There are other effects money has. I could write chapters about backing and staking deals, loans, agents, the fight to get a player to wear a logo on their shirt or hat, cheating, and underhanded things you'll never hear of. For example, someone I know very well who is in a very high position at the WSOP told me to take a look at all the rebuy events that took place at the WSOP. He told me that the total amount of chips in play was always off from the amount that should be in play, and it wasn't because of color ups. His implication was that whomever handled the rebuy accounting at the WSOP was pocketing a $5,000 chip (or two) each time there was a rebuy tournament. With five different rebuy tournaments, this could add up to a very nice payday.

Furthermore, my source told me that the guy that did the rebuy accounting always did so in a back office where there was no surveillance. I crunched the numbers on the first two rebuys. The first one was off by 7,000 chips. The second one was off by 22,000 chips. It's not hard core proof, but it's enough to make people wonder what is going on. I know I wonder. Enough that someone who has been around the game for a long time is coming up to me and telling me about it. There is money all around the poker world and every one is after it. Whether they get it legally or illegally, doesn't seem to matter much.

I'll remember the wonderful moments of the 2008 WSOP. The professionals winning their first bracelet like J.C. Tran and Erick Lindgren. The joy on a player's face as they won that big pot that would propel them to victory. High fiving a crowd of professional poker players after Chino Rheem hit a miracle card on the river to get the Main Event down to 10 players. The friends I have and the new ones I made. More than anything though, I will take away the fact that the world in which I have chosen to be a part of is a lonely world filled with problems. Problems that go unnoticed and aren't talked about.

I think about why I got into poker. It wasn't about the money to me. It really never has been. If money was important to me, I would have finished my third year of law school and gone on and worked 80 hour weeks as a greed filled corporate lawyer. It was because it was fun and I liked the competition. It's something I have to remind myself of often, because if I don't I might end up on that road to nothingness like so many others.

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