Saturday, March 08, 2008


I was watching an episode of Poker After Dark last night, and the theme was "Dream Table," where an amateur won a contest and was able to choose the five players he'd most like to play against.

And he made some pretty good selections, as three of his five are in my Top 10 List, if I was ever to be lucky enough to play at a full dream table of my own. The amateur, Ken Light, chose Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman, Scotty Nguyen, Mike Matusow and Phil Hellmuth.

When I was in Vegas last April, I got to check out the poker room at the Bellagio for a few minutes, and saw the high-stakes room partitioned off in the corner...nothing flashy, just a few tables, a small seating area, and several well-known faces. But the money that must have been exchanging hands in that room is probably something I can't even fathom.

I walked over by the entrance, but if you stood there and gawked for too long, you were ushered away and told to move along. Sammy Farha was sitting in a chair right near the door, and as I watched for a bit, he looked out at me, probably used to the attention from Ordinary Joe passers-by like me.

But it really struck me. There, about 15 feet away from me, was Sammy Farha! A guy who...looks the part of a poker player, and whom I've seen on ESPN many many times. Also in the room were Allen Cunningham, Gabe Thayer, Barry Greenstein. It was one of the highlights of my trip. (although...isn't Vegas pretty much one big highlight from start to finish?) the past I've compiled most of a list of a Dream Table of my own, so I thought I'd fill in the holes and publish it. And because the Tournament of Champions a couple years ago had a 10-person table, here would be my top nine, with one seat left open for me, of course.

Daniel Negreanu. Easily my favorite poker player, and a great personality to have at any poker table. He talks a lot, jokes around a lot, and is scary good at reading people and the cards they hold.

Johnny Chan. A 10-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner (in poker, it's all about the bracelets as far as bragging rights go). The guy's overflowing with style and poker smarts. It would be an honor to sit at a poker table with him.

Jennifer Harman. Not only is she a great poker player, but she's all perky and bubbly and cute and...yeah. Huge crush. Huuuge.

Gavin Smith. The dude's just funny...what more is there to say? He knows his poker, but he's also a big gambler. Guaranteed fun when he's at the table.

Phil Ivey. Some say he's the best player in the world. I just wanna win a pot off of him while he's got me in one of his patented staredowns.

Antonio Esfandiari. A former professional magician, he can do some pretty amazing chip tricks. (The more chip tricks you can do, the more table cred you sometimes get. I can do, chip tricks. Therefore, no cred.) He's also very witty.

Sam Farha. Like I said, Sammy looks like a poker player...often wearing a sportcoat and no tie, cool-guy shades and holding an unlit cigarette as a prop. He plays a LOT of pots, no matter what his first two cards are. I like the gamblers.

John Juanda. Very quiet at the table, but he's wicked smart. And when you least expect it, he comes up with some one-liners that can make you roll.

Phil Hellmuth. As much as I hate to include his name on any list of poker players, the entertainment value he provides makes it a necessity. One of the best in the world (or the best, if you ask him), he holds the record for most WSOP bracelets with 11. He's better-known for berating his opponents at the table than he is for his skill, however. His nickname is "Poker Brat," but that's only because they can't print what he really is on T-shirts. Truly an asshole, and an awkward human being...but he makes for good TV.

The slogan at the World Series of Poker is, "anyone can win." If I sat at a table with these nine players, I think it's obvious that that slogan would not apply to me. But it'd be a fun couple hours until I lost my chips.

"I am the Jack Nicklaus of poker,
the Tiger Woods of poker,
the Mozart of poker."
—Phil Hellmuth

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