Serendipity, Fame, Penn . . .


(sadly, this is another one of those posts that’s inexplicably appeared all in italics – thanks wordpress.)

So after Penn gave me back my table at Greenfield Coffee a couple days ago, what with the serendipity of my heading off to an event at the theater that bears his name, I felt I had to buy his latest atheism book and go listen him talk at GCC. He’s a gigantic man with a gigantic brain full of gigantic thoughts and even gigantic-er opinions (that he expresses very eloquently in speech, less so on paper), and he seems to have a gigantic heart to match, and a gigantic ego to go with all that. He EXPANDS on subjects grandly and eloquently, from atheism to magic to music to comedy to racism to having children to being friends with Glenn Beck, to being from Greenfield, MA, to behaving with integrity and being kind, and back again.

Penn’s polymathicity and opinionated-ness, with moral integrity and generosity thrown in, remind me a lot of the many attributes beyond pure skill at cards needed to be great poker player and, in particular, of my friend Annie Duke – without Annie’s intense confidence, a brashness bordering on arrogance to go with her intense intelligence, drive, and beliefs, she could never have become such a success in the world of such egotistical, smart, often deeply cynical men as most poker players are.

(I met Amir and his family in person yesterday. His gentility and unassuming nature were beyond refreshing to find in a poker pro under the age of fifty. He’s 38, the oldest at the Final Table, btw.)

At this point, there may be someone out there reading this and thinking wtf did I just click on wasn’t this supposed to be a poker blog? Well, yes, sir or madam, it was, and it will be again.

The Penn lecture was one of those experiences I have sometimes when watching a famous person speak when, as the event progresses, I really start to feel like said famous person and I really have a lot to say to each other and we should sit down and have a conversation sometime and see where it leads. But that’s not usually going to happen. It’s frustrating and inspiring at the same time.

I’ve never been a fan (or a hater) of the man they call Penn. He was erudite and thoughtful and seemingly appreciative of his audience. Or, well, he was both appreciative and was doing that thing that happens to some people when they get very famous and/or rich. They OVERgive. They strain just a bit (in Penn’s case) or way more than a bit to be SO gracious because the spotlight is ALWAYS on and they’re good people and they know they’re good people (pretty much) but if someone sees them doing just one bad thing the world will think they’re BAD people so they act just a bit TOO good all the time. Penn’s excessive adoration of his home town, Greenfield, during his first visit back in years smelled a little of this kind of well-intentioned pandering. There’s the general embarrassment at extreme and extremely public success that comes into play here, as well, of course. And I’m pretty sure that’s somewhat how I’d act at times, if I were in Penn’s shoes, and I’d hate myself for it, so I don’t blame him, and, at such moments, I’m very happy I’m not rich and famous.

Which is not to say I’m not jealous as well, less of the money and fame than of the ability to collaborate with amazing artists on interesting projects all the time and get very well paid for doing so. And I should note that I’m typing from my hotel room in a building the outside of which is plastered with a twenty-story Penn Jillette.

But what I began writing this to tell you is that was a really inspiring talk that ranged from the Bible to parenthood to the history of American comedy and magic, to the greatness of Martin and Lewis, to how to make a long-term collaboration work, one that made me consider large issues about my own existence.

I like to think that I’m not a superstitious person, but, well, I’m a pretty fucking superstitious person, especially about the number nine (In fact, one of my worst poker leaks is playing A-9 and 99 in spots where they absolutely should be mucked), As I said, having run in to Penn as I was sitting down to write a post about travelling to his theater told me it was fated that I had to go to his event. During that day leading up to the event, I thought, well, he’ll probably be kinda interesting and then afterward maybe I can tell him about the serendipity (although, admittedly it’s way more interesting for me than him, as he has a theater with his name on it and people run into him before heading off to it every now and then, I’d imagine), and then I’ll give him one of the spiffy new business cards that had just arrived Friday morning. And he will take the card, scan the magic QR code on the back, take a look at the blog, think, hey, this looks kind of cool, I should tweet this, and I’ll have a few thousand more readers for the Final Table posts. That is what I felt fate had offered me, best case scenario.

But what I realized during the speech was that although I still wanted to give him the card (which I did, hurriedly, awkwardly, on the book-signing line, no time for even an elevator pitch), the real reason I was meant to run into him and go see him speak is that he made me think about what and why I’m writing here, why I’m here in Vegas now for the November Nine. I don’t know the answer, but I’m pretty sure that because of Penn Jillette the coming days’ posts, while chock full of November nine poker-y tidbits, will also have a bit more of the “Mom, and everything” stuff in them than I thought they might, and I hope that works for you.

We’ll be back with more great stuff, in just a few, live from LAS VEGAS!!!!

photo (2)

Amir’s Wild Day-7 Ride (that ESPN somehow missed almost entirely)

Day 7: How Amir “Player X” Lehavot fell and ROSE

(the last of the pokery-poker posts for a bit)

(If you’re new here and are curious how this Amir character became my dawg in the 2013 Main Event hunt, please see HERE. Start with the paragraph that begins “After she died” – it’s not as morbid as it sounds Thanks! )


Amir’s Big Adventure

You sure didn’t see ‘em on TV, so here, for your amusement and for you to consider just how incredibly condensed and often utterly lame ESPN poker “coverage” is, Amir went from 10th of 27 to 20th of 21 (with 1.7 million chips) to 2nd of the last nine in the course of just a few hours, even hitting QUADS along the way. Amir may not be a dynamo, but QUADS!??! Who doesn’t want to watch someone hit QUADS!?!?!  Here are the hands, from the live updates back in July:



This was a huge hand, that had Tommy Two Flops and I on the phone, giving sad last rites to our boy.

Soon he was at his nadir:

amir nadir

Then Amir started to chip up a little. A couple of shoves with no callers (surprising, with his short stack) got him back to around 5 mil, and then,

amir quads


Then came a few 1-3 mil pots. over the course of just few hours, 1.7 mil had become . . .

amir 25 mil

Then came busts of Texan dickwad bar-owner Alexander and then Carlos Mortensen absolutely lost his mind, and, before you knew it, nine, brain-dead exhausted, somber guys were running over to friends and family and jumping up and down and shaking hands, even hugging each other because they were GOING TO THE NOVEMBER NINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Day 7 Tweets of Amir:

Blinded down a lot, 1.7M now coming back to 100/200

That was a crazy level 1.7M to 17M

Boom!!! Thanks for all the support everyone – very much appreciated


The Final Table 

(NOTE: numbers below are seat assignments,. If you look to your right, you will see that Amir “Player X” Lehavot will be starting the final table on Monday in 2nd place!  Stay tuned!!!!

amir final table chip counts

Meet Amir Lehavot (video)

Here’s the ESPN intro for the many we used to call Player X, from Day 6, after which we see him lose a hand but make a good fold:


The blog must be legit – I’ve got these pretty cards! (with a QR code on the back and all!

Dept. of Omens: Penn (Jillette) Station, Greenfield, MA

So I just crossed paths with Penn Jillette (@pennjillette, fyi, who I didn’t know was a Greenfield native) in the nexus of famous people-sightings in the 413, Greenfield Coffee (here in Western MA, where I reside). In fact, the joint was packed and he gave up a table just as I arrived – Thanks Penn Jillette! He is apparently reading tonight at GCC – and/but here’s the wacky part – I just so happen to be hopping on a plane tomorrow heading out to a certain “sporting” event taking place in a theater that bears his name! (posts to come!) Wacky.



New around here?

Because I’m promoting a bit right now on Facebook (because the November Nine is Monday and Tuesday!!! so if there’s any time to start reading this, it’s NOW – you never know who might turn up in Vegas), I wanted to show any newcomers around. To wit:

Here are the first three posts of the blog, and another post called “This is a stupid game.”

Roots, Annie/Vegas, WSOP/Player X (Intro, pt. 1 of 3)

Mom / The Fan (Intro., post 2 of 3)

Dad/fandom – Big Guns & Regular Joes – WELCOME! (Intro., pt. 3 of 3)

This is a stupid game


Amir Tweets, Day 6

2013 WSOP Main Event, Day 6, Amir’s Tweets (@amirsf, btw)

3M on break, had huge spew to my right – unfortunately he got moved

3.1M on second break, peaked at 4 that level

Lost some pots than got almost a full double at 4M now

Ran good that level, about 6.7M on dinner break; would have felt like a mountain yesterday – just 67 bigs now

Around 7M at last break of the night

Looks like we are done for the night, bagged 7.3M

Day 6: X-MAN REVEALED, (Tran Deified, Alexander Reviled)

(When last we spoke, I mentioned that we’d be  jumping from the end of Day 3 all the way to Day 6 of Main Event 2013 because we’ve only got, well, now it’s just four! days! in real time! until the November 9!!!! So we’ll come back to the “Mom” and “everything” – the fans and hangers-on, the mayhem and hype, the triumph, and for one lucky (and skillful) soul, the triumph of 11/4-5/2013 at the Penn and Teller Theater in Rio. But first, we gotta get down to them nine Niners.)


WSOP, Main Event 2013, Day 6

68 players left

Still no sign of the man known as X.

Phil Mader is still alive, but fading.

So, amazingly, is 2012 November Niner (and Bluffy-McBlufferson-extraordinaire)  Steve Gee, and big-time tournament pro Yevgeniy Timoshenko, and Aussie Jackie Glazier, this year’s “last woman standing” (last year, two women stood all the way until 10th and 11th, incredibly impressive considering the tiny fraction of the field they make up) . The common belief is that a woman at the final table would be a big boon to poker, and that a woman (or a person of color) as champ would be huge.

Defending champ Merson (167th, for $43k, a great follow-up year) is gone, as is, well, just about everyone we saw earlier.

Someone named Sami Ruston is the chip leader, but he’ll be gone by the end of the day, so we’ll skip him. In second stands Canadian Marc-Etienne McLaughlin, a relative unknown to, sometimes called (by those intrepid journalists McEachern and Chad) a businessman, other times a tattoo artist, never called (nor does he call himself) a poker pro, but who’s made deep runs in ’09, ’11, and this year. Also with a big stack, in 4th, is “Canadian Lawyer” Jason Mann. I haven’t said much about Mann because, well, he’s kind of boring – heck, “Canadian lawyer” is just about all Lon and Norman have had to say about him for several episodes. Mann isn’t making any huge mistakes on camera, but is clearly out of his element, unsure of his decisions, yet here he is – with the help of luck, big hands holding up at the right times and okay play – still standing on Day 6. As I always like to say when someone grumbles when I suck out on him, “Luck counts.”

Chad tells us this is the 8th straight year the Big One has had 6k+ entrants, but for the past three years (since Black Friday) the numbers have decreased slightly – many were expecting a huge drop-off. A young bro/guy/duder (and Vegas nightclub VIP escort) named Jay Farber, with pumped up arms covered with tats, crushes pro Noah Schwartz’s dreams as Farber’s AA hold up over Schwartz’s KK, making Farber one of the big stacks. Luck counts, alright – six days grind, one hand played the way it pretty much had to be played, and . . . gone. Some – Schwartz himself among them – have suggested that Schwartz, still with a very solid stack, could have let the hand go, even four bets in; that Farber had to be huge at that point and Schwartz had to know it. And sure, I’ve seen some big laydowns in tough spots, but KK preflop, with millions already in the middle? Could YOU lay it down? Perhaps we’ll take a deeper look at that hand another time.  Well, Schwartz isn’t quite gone after the hand, and he quickly triples back up to 1.7 mil – not much, at this point, but he’s alive. Farber, despite my diss of him as a party-boy-Vegas-musclehead, is playing solid poker (another reason Schwartz, who I believe is friends with Farber off the felt), I believe, could’ve/should’ve folded). In fact, similar to how Annie describes even good players misreading/underestimating her because of her gender, Farber surely gets misjudged because of his looks, as he actually mentions in an ESPN interview. Well, until now, I’m guessing, as you’ll be seeing a whole lot of him on TV a lot next week and his cover will be blown big time.

Players busting are now taking home about $120k, a “sick” return on a week-long $10k investment, but no one seems too happy about heading the cage to cash out. The camera makes sloppy love to each mini-tragedy, one after the other. It’s pretty boring, but focus groups must say otherwise or ESPN wouldn’t  show them all night.

Jackie Glazier joins the TV table, with Timo and revitalized tourney superstar,  JC Tran. Tran has won millions, was a World Poker Tour Player of the year, and has cashed in the Main Event six times in the Boom era, but hasn’t had a big score in several years. The Cali pro (and wife and baby, with another on the way) is the clear ESPN darling.

Down to 60. Still no X.

Halfway through the episode, stoic, yet somehow baby-faced Timoshenko is the new chip leader with 9.5 mil.

And 6,352 are down to 52.

Noah Schwartz finally gives up the ghost, 52nd, $151k

The blinds, by the way, are now at a staggering 30k and 60k, with a 10k ante, for a total of 170k in the pot to start each hand.

Carlos Mortensen (click for some great vintage video), perhaps the most famous pro left and only Main Event winner (2001) wins a big hand, flush over two pair, over Tran, for 1.8 mil. Tran is down to around 3 mil, Carlos up to 3 mil.

Soon, Carlos is shown with KK, as obnoxious Texas bar owner and ESPN poster d-bag of the last few epi James Alexander sits down at the feature table. Sometimes it seems like every other player is a bar or club owner or employee, or the nebulous “businessman,” but we’ll get back to that kind of stuff on the weekend.

On the turn, Mortensen’s opponent (Walthus) hits a set of 7s. Carlos checks the river there’s two mil in the middle – and Walthus bets almost a mil. Mortensen counts out calling chips, and sits and waits, and waits and waits. On TV, of course, they edit it down radically, as players will sometimes think for a, a minute, two, five. Timo is notorious for tanking on just about every decision. The best are subtly, stealthily looking for any hints, tells from their opponents as to whether they make the big call.  Alexander mentions that it’s been twelve minutes (the ESPN emcees point out that it hasn’t been twelve minutes at all). Soon Alexander calls time on Mortensen – an official comes over and starts a clock. Mortensen has 70 seconds to decide. He makes the good fold as time expires. Patience patience patience patience AGRESSSION patience.

Next hand, JC Tran with 88 gets into a hand with Walthus, AA. Tran hits the 8 on the flop. Walthus bets 655, Tran raises to 1.5, Walthaus raises, Tran shoves, Walthaus calls and we’ve got an 8 mil pot, and this, friends, is how you get to the final table of the Main Event. Skill, and a lot of luck, and a the right moments. Sick. Mortensen showed the discipline of an old pro, Walthus the impatience of so many young ones.

Phil Mader busts with A-Q to A-K, 43rd, $185k. And ESPN’s Cinderella 2013 is gone. Jay Farber did the deed, and now sits with a very comfy stack.

And Somar Al-Darwich, a seemingly nice enough rook who rose to first when Mark Kroon lost his mind what now seems like weeks ago, is gone.  He tells the interviewer it was his first time in Vegas!

Someone named Josh Prager sum ups busting deep in the Big One up after his KK loses to AA. “Win this much money, how can I complain?  I made 18x my money and yet I’ll never be here again, so I complain.”

Jackie Glazier busts 31st, for $230k, and somehow, somehow, with four tables left, STILL no Player X. I’m beginning to wonder whether he’s still in it after all.

But finally, FINALLY, at the very end of episode 16, with 27 left, they show the entire leaderboard. German Anton Morgenstern sits on top with nearly 22mil, followed by Loosli (France), thanks to the huge suck-out, with 14mil (quite a jump from 1st to second), with Tran in 4th with nearly 12mil, and Carlos Mortensen in 6th with nearly 11. Timo is hanging in at 18th with 5 mil.  Steve Gee is still grindin’, but with just 3mil. David Benefield (former online super-high stakes pro who went back to college, of all things) sits in last with 1.8, but, wait! Back up a sec! Holding down the 11 spot,  ladies and germ, I give you Player X, Amir Lehavot, with 7 million beautiful chips. We haven’t seen the man, but we’ve seen his name, and his stack.

(next: Meet Amir Lehavot, aka Player X)

The Tweets of Player X, Days 4 and 5

oct 29 2013 X 001So, while X hasn’t appeared on the TV yet, he did make it safely through Days 4 and 5. Coming up in just a couple hours, DAY 6! Here’s what X had to tweet:


1.3M on last break, made I’m pretty sure in hindsight is a terrible river call for 125k oh well

Good last level, bagged 1.78M



Been 45 minutes my table has played 10 hands

2.4M on first break TT>AQ vs 300k stack

2.6M on break

Just shy of 3M on dinner break, awful table but it’s next to break

Oh sucked out that level My A4 vs AK all in pre BvB vs 600k stack, got a chop

2.7M on last break

Ended the day with 2.65M

OT: R.I.P. Lou Reed

This is one of those posts where the “…and everything” at the end of the blog’s name comes to bear. Just wanted to raise a glass. Maybe more comments later.