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Best of John Grochowski

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2006 World Series of Poker Winners

29 August 2006

If you hadn't heard before now that Jaime Gold is the winner of the 2006 World Series of Poker No-Limit Texas Hold'em Championship … well, you must have had the TV turned off and skipped reading the papers.

Gold is a former Hollywood agent who once counted James Gandolfini among his clients, and that he produced 10-time WSOP winner Johnny Chan's instructional poker DVD. And that makes him a near-perfect media winner for what has become an enormous annual media event.

It wasn't always that way, of course. No one outside poker pro circles paid attention in 1970 when Johnny Moss became the first WSOP winner. He was elected champion by his peers, who voted Moss as the competitor who had played the best during the event. The following year the freezeout formula, playing until one player had all the chips, was adopted, and Moss won again.

Moss won $30,000 for that 1971 freezeout, a far cry from the $12 million won by Gold this year. Today's big money is the result of the phenomenal growth in poker, especially no-limit Texas Hold'em, that has been spurred by televised and online tournaments. There were 8,773 entrants this year, each with a $10,000 buy-in, whether that buy-in came via actually ponying up the 10 grand or by winning their entry for a fraction of the cost in satellites at Harrah's casinos across the country or on the Internet.

The Internet connection is bound to be a source of controversy and angst in the coming years, depending on how aggressively the federal government chooses to pursue controlling online gambling. The U.S. House of Representatives this summer passed a bill that would outlaw banks and credit companies from handling transactions for online gambling. It doesn't appear the Senate will approve such a measure, so we're at an uneasy status quo in which the federal government holds it to be illegal for U.S. residents to gamble online, but doesn't seem to be in position to control it.

Against that backdrop, Antigua has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization, contending that any U.S. crackdown on online gambling violates international trade rules. The WTO can't stop the U.S. from passing anti-Internet gambling rules, but it can impose economic sanctions.

The economic sanction that Antigua is seeking would sting the industry where new World Series of Poker champion Gold makes his non-poker living. Antigua plans to ask the WTO for permission to copy and export U.S.-made DVDs, CDs and other entertainment media without paying royalties.

That raises the stakes far beyond a $10,000 entry to the World Series of Poker, and even far beyond Gold's $12 million windfall.

** ** **

Scanning the list of players who finished in the money in the No Limit Texas Hold'em Championship, I kept an eye out for anyone with a local connection. The top Midwesterner was Dan Nassif of St. Louis, who made the final table and finished ninth, good for $1,566,858. No. 1 in the Chicago area was Walt Schafer of west suburban Aurora, who finished 104th, winning $51,129.

The World Series of Poker is far more than the final championship, with 45 events covering the poker spectrum. The top Chicago-area finisher in any of them was Shawnee Barton of Chicago, who finished second and won $123,178 in the $1,000 buy-in Women's No Limit Hold'em championship.

** ** **

Off the poker track, my wife and I took advantage of a vacation day to drive to Milwaukee and visit the Potawatomi Bingo Casino. It had been a few years since I'd been able to make it there, and wanted to get a good look around. Potwatomi does a great job with its theme, using Native American photographs, artifacts and imagery around the property. That includes a huge false flame that symbolizes the Potawatomi status as keepers of the fire in alliance with the Chippewa and Ottawa tribes.

We had a fun day, mostly dabbling in nickel slots. What the casino is most of all is a slot lover's haven, with games from a variety of manufacturers --- IGT, WMS, Bally, Aristocrat, Atronic and Konami. This was the first casino where I got to see Atronic's e-Millions in action --- if you bet the maximum, you're eligible for a million-dollar progressive jackpot. If not, you can still become a nickel-aire, with a jackpot of a million nickels.

Food service is outstanding here, with Dream Dance being one of the best casino restaurants around. We were there on a seafood buffet night, so we opted to make some cold cracked crab claws the center of our meal.

Expansion is coming soon to Potawatomi, and I'm looking forward to seeing what that brings.

** ** **

Since February, I've been hosting a weekly casino talk show at 7 p.m. Saturdays on WCKG-FM (105.9) in Chicago. On Sept. 9, we're taking it on the road. I'll be broadcasting live from Majestic Star casino in Gary's Buffington Harbor. I look forward to taking comments and questions for those who are there, so come on out to Majestic Star and look for me there.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com, and to his casino talk show from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday on WCKG-FM (105.9), streaming at http://1059freefm.com.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski