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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Eric Drache

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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.

Throughout the history of poker there are a number of events that seem like little things at the time, but when you go back and really examine those periods of history you will see that they are largely responsible for the spectacle poker is today.  Chris Moneymaker has been credited with giving life to online play by winning a satellite and then going on to win the World Series of Poker championship.  Doyle Brunson has been called the “Godfather of Poker,” partly because, despite an advanced age, he has tirelessly marked poker for over 50 years of his life, becoming the most well known ambassador the game has ever known.  Then you have people who are also responsible for how the game has matured to this level that you wouldn’t be able to pick out of a line up, at least not by any poker players under the age of at least 30.  

Eric Drache fits that last description.  His life plays out like a long poker session, with plenty of ups and plenty of downs, but despite being short-stacked at times, he always manages to make a comeback.  

In 1973 Eric Drache became the first tournament director of the World Series of Poker.  At the time many people wondered why the WSOP even needed a tournament director.  After all, the WSOP at this point consisted of two tournaments, the championship event, and a Five-Card Stud event.  Also, the 1972 Main Event, the year before Drache took over as director featured only eight players.  Who needed to be directed?

In his first year at the helm Drache introduced four more events, a Razz, Stud , and Deuce to 7 draw event, and a smaller buy-in No Limit Event.  So, in his very first year he more than doubled the amount of events the WSOP had.  By 1989 the number of participants in the Main Event sky rocketed to 178 entrants, and the number of events skyrocketed to 14, including a Women’s 7-Card Stud event.  

However, Drache’s most significant contribution to the world of poker came when he was watching a cash game before the 1978 WSOP Main Event.  Drache had already seen the number of participants in the “big one” rise to 34 participants, but he was still thinking of new ways to get more people to join it.  Drache noticed that all ten players at the cash game had at least $1,000 dollars in front of them.  He then came up with the thought of telling the players to leave $1,000 in front of them, and play a freezeout tournament with the winner getting $10,000, which is the price of the entrance fee to the championship.  As you’ve already probably deduced, this was the birth of the satellite.  

Not only was Drache able to figure out how to make poker better, he was also able to handle his own at the felt.  During the same time he was making the WSOP the premier poker event in the world, he was also considered one of the best seven-card stud players in the world.  In both 1973 and 1981 he finished second in the seven-card stud event he was responsible for bringing to the WSOP.  He also was regarded as one of the best cash game stud players in this era, which at the time was considered a big achievement.  However, Drache had always had bankroll problems, routinely playing games with his entire bankroll, usually against equally solid stud players.  One magazine famously stated Drache was the seventh best stud player in the world, but: “His problem is that he only likes to play with the top six.”

Despite his bankroll problems, which would haunt him even more later in life, he was still a hot commodity because of his work with the WSOP.  After also working at the “Golden Nugget” as poker manager he was asked by Steve Wynn to move to his new mega-hotel “The Mirage,” to become their first poker room manager.   Wynn took a huge chance with building a poker room because in the late 80’s hardly anyone took much notice of poker on the Strip.  Drache once again made poker popular in a place it wasn’t by making the Mirage one of the best places to play poker.  Despite usually playing in high stake games himself, he had quite the astute eye and kept an eye on everything going on in his room.  

Despite the high success he was having in his business world, his personal (and business) world would come crashing down when the Internal Revenue Service came calling.  Drache was prosecuted for unpaid taxes, and in the process also lost his gaming license.  During the time he left Las Vegas and moved to Los Angeles, where he spent nights sleeping in his car because he couldn’t afford a place to stay.  He also owed money to a lot of people in Vegas that he had borrowed from over the years, but had no way to pay for that.  While he wasn’t trying to avoid paying these people, he knew he had no way to pay them, and thought it best if he tried to get his life back on track in L.A.

The ten years following the call from the IRS in the early 90’s, to the turn of the century are a mystery for the most part.  He did start a family and had two daughters, but any poker in his life had been seemingly completely wiped away.  But, in the poker world, people have a way of remembering people who have had success.  

The first call came from Larry Flynt, owner of “Hustler” magazine, who was building his Hustler Casino in southern L.A.  Flynt asked Drache for his advice on a number of things, including where to locate the poker room in the casino, right down to the colors of the room.  Upon the completion of the casino Flynt asked Drache if he could recruit some high stakes players to come to his games.  Like a long lost relative, Drache caught up with old friends in Vegas to tell them about the new casino in L.A., and just like that the chips were stacking high again.  

Shortly after successfully recruiting players to come to Flynt’s casino, he was asked by Henry Orenstein, inventor of the camera that shows the players pocket cards, to help on some television projects.  Drache has since been a consultant on many of the top rated poker television shows, including NBC’s “National Heads-Up Challenge”, FOX’s “Poker Superstars”, GSN’s “High Stakes Poker”, and CBS’s “International Poker Championship.”

Eric Drache’s newest “work” will be featured this November, as he is one of the producers for the live final table of the WSOP, broadcasted on PPV.  It’s been quite a remarkable journey for Drache, but sometimes you can go home again.

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