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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now - Allen Kessler

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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.

When someone mentions AK at the poker table, your first thought is about two cards, an Ace and a King, not about Allen ‘Chainsaw’ Kessler. He always seems so surprised when people recognize him at the poker table—when in fact, between the boys from PokerRoad Radio and his excessively sniveling-whiny posts on 2+2; ‘Chainsaw’ is practically a global phenomenon.

There is some discrepancy as to who should get the credit for the nickname ‘Chainsaw’—many thought it was Gavin “Birdguts” Smith on PokerRoad, but in a post on 2+2 someone named GambleGambel takes the credit—and Kessler himself seems to remember someone other than ‘Birdguts’ being the originator of the ‘Chainsaw’ prodigy.
He is a self proclaimed gambling junky—enjoying computer games, backgammon, any form of casino gambling and all live poker action that comes along. Although he is a gambler, his nitty (overly cautious/super tight) style of play at the poker table annoys many of his opponents and lulls them into making calls that they probably shouldn’t make.

Allen was born and raised in Huntington Valley, a village (originally referred to as Goosetown) near Philadelphia, PA that has one of the highest per capita incomes and standards of living in the greater Philadelphia area. After graduating from Temple University in Philadelphia, he used his strong mathematical background to secure a job as an internet marketing executive and worked as a pollster for such media organizations as ABC News.

Using his intellect and his knack for numbers, he could look at a list of phone numbers and tell you which ones would be the most profitable and he could immediately tell you what word a phone number spelled on the telephone keypad. Kessler also had an amazing memory and he could recall facts and figures on how Americans polled on a variety of past issues.
On his first trek to a casino Allen only took $200 with him, all he felt he could afford to lose. But he didn’t lose—he decided to play live poker, and he parlayed his $200 in to a modest win—soon he was making regular trips to the Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, NJ. Playing with the likes of Cyndy Violette and Phil Ivey, Kessler quickly moved up in limits—playing $30-$60 mixed games—he soon found that playing poker was lucrative enough to quit his day jobs.

After playing cash games for a few years, Allen decided to take a stab at the tournament circuit. In 2001 he attended his first World Series of Poker (WSOP)—making a very respectable 16th place finish in the $5,000 Omaha High-Low Eight or Better event—but this was just the beginning for the tournament newcomer. In 2004 he scored his first win in the $500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo event at the Winnin' o' the Green in Los Angeles, taking home $14,440.

Although he continued to play cash games, Kessler was now devoted to the tournament circuit year round—playing in a wide range of events. He enjoyed traveling and loved the casino atmosphere—but it’s often hard to tell if Allen is really having a good time or not.

In 2005 Allen won a Bellagio Weekly Tournament and placed in two WSOP events, including a $132,000, 2nd place finish to Todd Brunson in an Omaha Hi-Lo Split event. The next year he managed to place 1st at the Poker 101 tournament in Las Vegas and the United States Poker Championships; he also cashed in four WSOP events. His hopes of taking home a gold bracelet at that WSOP ended when he was knocked out of event #28, a 7 Card Stud event, in 4th place—he did collect nearly $77,000 though.

Over the next three years Kessler cashed in over fifty tournaments, including a 6th place finish at the WPT’s Foxwoods Poker Classic in 2007, worth $136,452.  What makes him such a dangerous player is that his expertise is not limited to one game—he plays limit—no-limit—and pot limit. He has placed in Omaha and Stud Hi-Low split events and cashed in HORSE and Deuce to 7 events—and because of his super tight play he can often run a good bluff at the pot.

But at the 2010 WSOP he wasn’t running any bluffs. Many players began referring to it as the year of the ‘Chainsaw’—you can even get a signature tee-shirt with the original "Texas Hold'Em Chainsaw Massacre" logo on the front—find it online at Bustout Poker—very reasonable. Allen took the 41st annual WSOP by storm, placing in eight events, which consisted of seven different types of games—for a grand total of more than $375,000.
Not usually an attention getting event, the final table of the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split Eight or Better Championship was starting to draw quite a crowd. People were eager to see ff John Juanda could win his fifth bracelet, if Jennifer Harman could snag a 1st place in the Year of the Woman, if Dario Minieri would continue to be a rising star, or if Allen Kessler would find something to complain about.

By now you can guess what actually happened. But when it was all over it was another day of shattered dreams for Kessler, when his quest for that first WSOP bracelet turned into another 2nd place (worth $276,486)—bested by Frank Kassela who did take home his first bracelet.

As we said earlier, Kessler is a grinder, his primary goal is to finish in the money and there is little celebration during his play. After scooping a huge pot that would help set him up for his 2nd place finish, his lack of jubilance prompted Kassela to voice the memorable line—“I’m happier when I lose than Allen Kessler is when he wins.”  It may very well be the best quote of the entire 2010 WSOP.

Jubilant or not, most players can only dream of having such a successful WSOP run—so watch out for AK—Chainsaw—Allen Kessler, he might just cut into your chip stack.

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