Amir Lehavot, media befuddler, exits stage left

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Here’s Michiel Brummelhuis, doing the requisite Kara Scott interview (which I was calling “the consolation prize”) after busting 7th. Every player took his turn, except one. When Amir busted, the two of them and her cameraman met up at her spot on the side of the stage and started to set up, but there was a lot of hubbub in the house – the night was over, it was down to heads up for the title – so Amir and Kara waited a bit. Then they talked for a minute, and then Amir, undoubtedly the most stealthy third place finisher in the ten years since Moneymaker, left the stage. I didn’t ask him whether he told Kara no thanks, or it was just the last bit of ESPN’s not knowing what to do with the reserved, press averse, rounder, but either way, I’m sure he was happy about it.  I should be happy if he’s happy, but I’m not like him, a big part of me wants him want to be recognized, in spite of his own desire for anonymity. Admittedly, from Hellmuth to Esfandiari to Chad (McEachern seemed almost annoyed with Amir’s reticence, but who really gives a shit what he thinks, certainly not his partners in the booth), the commentators gave Amir tons of credit as a player, but as a person, they just didn’t know what to do with the man.

Below is the lone interview with Amir after the bust out. The audio is horrible at first, but improves about 45 seconds in. For those of you living in Western Mass, finding a video or audio interview with the man sometimes know as Player X is as common as sighting a fisher cat. In the next post, I’ll discuss the decision I faced once I arrived in Vegas – whether to be more friend/supporter or writer/press (with privileged access to a press-averse subject) and why it would’ve been hard to do both – I chose “friend” and my experience was so much the better for it.

During this interview, I was standing off to the side with others on the Fear Amir squad. What struck and impressed me about Amir then, and more so when we went celebrated Tuesday night and at brunch the next day, and what seemed to baffle, even annoy the interviewer, is that Amir was, just a few minutes after busting, genuinely happy, both with his performance and his results. Notice the interviewer’s repeated insistence on the GLORY and the DISAPPOINTMENT and Amir’s on “maximizing my expectation” and “playing poker.

Here are a few quotes that represent Amir and why he’s a lesson in how to succeed in poker, and from what I’ve learned, in life:

On how he feels: “[I’m] feeling very happy, fortunate to get to this spot in the first place.”

On disappointment, and being under the bright lights: “I love playing poker, so it was fun.”

In response to one of the questions about his aversion to stardom: “The spotlight wasn’t the goal, the goal was to maximize my expectation.”

The interviewer (I think it was Andrew Feldman, sounded like him, asked precidely the idiotic questions he’d ask), like the rest of the poker press, is utterly obsessed with that “spotlight,” just couldn’t understand Amir’s satisfaction, any more than they could understand how David Benefield (who, like everyone else but Amir, stood at the WSOP podium in the theater lobby to be interviewed) could possibly want to leave a super-high-stakes poker career to go back to college to study something as useless/zany as Political Theory and Chinese – you know, instead of stuff you’re supposed to go to college for, like hotel management, business, or, just maybe, law – of the corporate, of course or, for extreme bohemian types, maybe entertainment variety.

Money, fame – fame, money: these are the only concerns of the poker establishment – it is gambling, and Vegas after all. It’s an odd place, but also an essential one, for a reserved former engineer and chess player who really likes, makes his living at, and happens to be one of the best in the world at playing poker.

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LAR-RY WALK-ER

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When I arrived at the lobby of the Penn and Teller theater a week ago, there were a whole lotta people dressed more or less like this waiting to get in. It seemed weird, as there was no Irish player in the final nine These were the French-Canadians. Since one of their own, Jonathan Duhamel, one the Big One (click on his name for one of the most brutal and pivotal beasts in WSOP history) in 2010, they’ve had there own poker boom, had a great series this year, and another Quebecois made it to the final table, Marc-Etienne McLaughlin. They told me the green was for his Irish background, but I wasn’t sure if they were putting me on. (They weren’t.)

If you watched on TV, the people screaming “LA-RRY, WAL-KER” once every round (when their man was in the big blind, urging the other players all to fold, to give him a “walk”), were these guys. I haven’t checked the stats, but McL. got a whole lot of walks, certainly the most at the table. They were obnoxious as hell, but unlike the almost vicious Riess contingent, they were also good-natured and very inventive and fun. Their man played some exciting, aggressive poker too, before bowing out sixth.

 

Blind man’s bluff

Since Tuesday, I’ve written a whole lot of words about my trip, and have been sorting them out this afternoon. I just can’t seem to wrangle ’em into post shape, yet. I wanted to lead off my posts from back home with BIG thoughts and FEELINGS about my EXPERIENCE, but let’s have some fun instead, for now.

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From the audience, from left to right, Messrs. Esfandiari, Chad, and McEashern. Somehow, I like Norman (Chad) a little better, or maybe dislike him a little less is more like it, after seeing this. If only poker TV were as good as this more than once a year, with nearly real-time play, and  shockingly in-depth, insightful, enlightening commentary by Antonio. Sigh.

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.15 Seconds of Fame?

Last night, I finally got a chance to start watching the (DVR-ed) broadcast. This is from the same pre-show segment as the first pic. That’s my dear friend Case by my side (in the background/audience there) – he came in from LA to watch. He looks as if he’s brought his blind friend Jamie to the WSOP, right?

So many ways to think about seeing and being seen. A minute or so before or after I shot the picture, and a few moments before the trio left the stage (for a soundproof booth at an undisclosed location to watch on a screen while we watched it live), the camera caught me. When I took my shot, I was looking at them in a way one isn’t supposed to, sneaking a peek behind the curtain. The camera had no interest in me, and I’m guessing, not counting my wife, Anja, and me in the living room, (along with dogs and cat, but even they didn’t care about my cameo), absolutely zero of the millions watching around the world noticed me. Yet there I am, not noticing that I’m being seen by an eye that isn’t looking at me.

That’s about as best I can parse it for now without my brain starting to hurt. That’s a lie, my brain hurts.

Hi! / Query

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A few minutes before cards were in the air . . . .

After getting home from a pretty amazing adventure and decompressing a bit, and after a busy day at work today, I plan to return to posting on the ole bloggerooni tonight or tomorrow. Anyone have anything they’re curious about re the WSOP – the setting, the crowd, the poker itself, a hand in particular . . . . , etc. etc. and so on, that you don’t get from the TV or elsewhere on the interwebnets? I’d love to answer questions, and it would help me figure out what directions to head – there’s so much to say I almost overwhelmed! Feel free to reply via contact form or just comment. Thanks!

The Man

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One of the things that made it easy to take the knock-out was how content, even happy, Amir was. He played his A game, jumped two-mill. in prize money, and just didn’t catch cards. The next day at brunch (seen here), he even told us he couldn’t sleep at all because he was still so excited.