Posted: Wednesday July 13, 2005 4:48PM; Updated: Wednesday July 13, 2005 4:48PM
It was a short, strage trip for two-time WSOP champion and Deadhead Howard Lederer, who was eliminated on Tuesday.
LAS VEGAS -- The folks at Full Tilt Poker were handing out candy bars yesterday, thus making it possible to subsist at the Rio entirely on free chocolate and complimentary casino cocktails (Is Las Vegas a great city or what?). The wrapper on the bar reads simply "Full Tilt Poker" -- although the company might want to consider naming it after this year's grand prize: "$7.5 Million Bar."
Meanwhile, at 3:30 p.m., a trio of Full Tilt-sponsored players, all of them multiple World Series of Poker bracelet winners, found themselves seated at Table 133. There was John Juanda, the former door-to-door Bible salesman who has won three bracelets; Howard Lederer, the most even-tempered of players and a two-time bracelet winner; and Phil Ivey, who has four bracelets to his name (none of the above nine bracelets were won in this, the main event of the WSOP).
Table 133 possessed more poker prowess than the final table likely will, and the railbirds knew it. An elder gent seated right behind the ropes wore a "GO PHIL IVEY" T-shirt and button and held a "GO PHIL IVEY" sign. Ivey, 29, has been called the Tiger Woods of poker -- the precociousness parallels are there, but I think he resembles a brown-eyed A-Rod ("I'll take 'Songs Van Morrison Never Recorded for $300, Alex"). He has eschewed his company yummy chocolate bars in favor of apples during the tourney, by the way.
Anyway, just beyond Table 133, a WSOP official held seven red cards. A red card is the WSOP equivalent of a military dog tag: It's what a knocked-out player hands in when he is eliminated. At this point in the tourney, once that official holds eight red cards, he will break up a full table and disperse those players to the eight vacated seats at other tables. The next table scheduled to be dispersed: Table 133.
Thus the railbirds enjoyed the talent assembled at 133 with the full knowledge that it could be broken up at any moment (kind of like the Mötley Crüe reunion tour). You'd think the players would play tight until that moment came, waiting for an easier table, but Lederer, whose stack was precariously low, did not have that luxury.
Lederer, who may be better-known for having taught his sister, Annie Duke (the world's best female poker player), how to play cards, went all in with an A-J. His Full Tilt teammate, Juanda, called with an A-K suited. The flop came K-6-3. Fourth and Fifth Street proved to be dead ends, and just like that, Lederer, who has attended more than 125 Grateful Dead concerts, was truckin' (got his chips cashed in).
Afterward, Lederer, who finished 132nd ($54,965) graciously signed autographs and posed for photos (damn those cell phone cameras!) for at least 15 minutes. He reflected on what a short, strange trip it had been.
"I feel like I got knocked out Day One," said Lederer, who played in the Saturday preliminary stage and had thus spent more than half of the previous four days seated at a poker table. "The difference in a tournament as large as this is that you have to pace yourself. I just tried to play like I was in a side game. You know it's the World Series of Poker, but it's just difficult to stay that intense for seven days."