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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now - Jim Bechtel

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

Jim Bechtell is two very distinct things.

1. He is a cotton farmer who lives in Gilbert, Arizona.

2. He is the 1993 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion.

If you knew neither of these facts, especially the second one considering this is a poker website, don’t be discouraged, you are by far not the only one. Bechtel is sort of like the “cicada of the poker world” coming along every few years, making his mark, and then retreating off to wherever it is cicadas go when they aren’t seen; in Bechtell’s case, his farm. Interestingly enough, Bechtel is also the middle of a trio of people to take down the biggest prize in poker to only disappear just as quickly. The difference between him and 1992 Main Event winner Hamid Dastmalchi and 1994 champion Russ Hamilton though is that Bechtel didn’t give up tournament poker for other pursuits. Dastmalchi has gone on to become a very successful cash game player and Hamilton has become a successful businessman, including being the founder of the “Ultimate Blackjack Tour.”* Bechtel still plays tournament poker. In fact, he has never stopped. The “cicada” effect comes from the fact that with the exception of his huge win in 1992 he has hardly ever made big cash, but at the same time has very quietly cashed in 13 WSOP events, while collecting upwards of 2.5 million dollars.

The final hand of the 1992 WSOP Main Event seemed about as unassuming as Bechtel himself. In what has been described by poker historians as one of the most anti-climatic finishes to the end of a WSOP main event, Bechtell’s jack high held up against rags, giving him his first, and to this point, only bracelet.

If the final hand was anti-climatic, it was because of Bechtel’s play at the final table that made it that way. Going into heads up play against dentist Glen Cozen, he held nearly a 100 to 1 chip advantage. The huge chip advantage came when Bechtell successfully coaxed third place finisher John Bonetti into going all in while he had made a set of sixes on the flop. If Bonetti would have held off one more hand Cozen would have been forced all-in by the blinds, virtually guaranteeing second place money, with just a slight chip disadvantage going into heads-up play.

In the inflated fields of today, it’s more than even odds to put your money on an amateur player to take down the WSOP Main Event. An argument can be made that because of the huge fields it’s tougher to take down a huge tournament simply on a stamina front. However, with so much “dead money” it’s possible for a mediocre player to accumulate a large stack, giving him plenty of room for errors against accomplished pros. It’s more than fair to suggest that recent winners have this to thank, at least in part, for their titles. The smaller fields of yesteryears were filled with a small percentage of amateurs, competing with professionals on their “home court.” Any “home court advantage” is theoretically gone now.

In 1993 the field was much more competitive, with only 220 entrants, most of which were former bracelet winners, or known poker professionals. Bechtel was neither of these. With the victory Bechtel became the second amateur to win the coveted first place bracelet, only a few years before it would become a reoccurring theme. (The first was the equally inconspicuous Hal Fowler in 1979, with an even tougher field of only 54.)

So, what’s known of Jim Bechtel is that he shows up every now and then and takes a decent prize, not including the huge prize of one million dollars for his Main Event win, then disappears back to his farm in Arizona. After the 1993 win Bechtel returned home, only embarking on a trip to Las Vegas for some of the bigger events, predictably including the WSOP. Between 1993 and 2005 he had about a dozen cashes in some of the lesser buy-in events, but never duplicating his success in 1993.

However, in 2005 he reemerged at the 2006 50k H.O.R.S.E Event. The H.O.R.S.E event has gained popularity among poker purists (see: anti-amateur) as being the toughest field in all of tournament poker. First of all, the 50k buy-in is the largest at the WSOP, and didn’t offer any satellites, meaning it’s mostly all professionals. It also means that you are competing in all aspects of poker: Hold’Em, Omaha, Razz, Seven Card Stud, and Seven Card Stud high-low Eight or Better. Nearly all of Bechtel’s tournament cashes had came in either Hold’em or Omaha. Unbeknownst to most was the fact that Bechtel even knew how to play the other games involved in H.O.R.S.E.

Bechtel managed to make it to the final table which featured a virtual “Murders Row,” of poker playing legends. In fact, it has been called perhaps the greatest final table in the history of poker, and many magazine and online articles have been written about it.

Bechtel found himself among the late Chip Reese, Andy Bloch, Phil Ivey, T.J. Cloutier, David Singer, Dewey Tomko, Doyle Brunson, and Patrik Antonius. It’s my guess that if you say Jim Bechtel’s name among this list of players you would have either thought he was the dealer, or had sat down at the wrong table. Bechtel proved his worth, finishing in 4th place for $549,120. He also proved that somewhere along the lines he has managed to become more than passable at nearly every type or form poker has to offer. Before his 1993 WSOP victory he had also final tabled and won a few smaller 2-7 draw events.

To say that Bechtel is one of the more underrated players in the history of poker is quite obvious. He has proven that it is possible to be successful at poker without making it all you think about. He has also managed to keep his private life private, which in this day and age is almost as impressive as any of his tournament poker wins. It’s hard to say what Bechtel is up to right now, but chances are before too long you’ll find him at a final table.

*This article was written before Russ Hamilton's name was associated with the Ultimate Bet cheating scandal.

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