It is estimated that nearly 60 million people play poker in the United States alone. Some play for the friendship and fun of it, some play to make a little additional money and some play as their exclusive income. So what do the players who come to the World Poker Tour Boot Camp have in common and what drew them to the two day seminar held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino?
One thing that wasn't common was the people themselves. You could scan the fifty faces that showed up bright and early on April 30th and see that it was pretty much a cross section of the faces of America. Young and old sat beside each other, experienced players, looking to pick up that extra edge for their game, shared thoughts and ideas with the newest of the players on the block and, yes, there were women mixed throughout the group (approximately ten in the class). Even celebrity was featured, as All-Pro NFL football stars Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor of the Miami Dolphins were there to take the classes (wouldn't that be an interesting table to play at!).
Surprisingly, there was quite a bit of media attention as well. Local television and newspapers were there to cover the Boot Camp and Clonie Gowen's debut as a teacher of the game. Both her and Alex "The Insider" Outhred were called away on occasion to do quick interviews with the local media never, however, forgetting about the importance of the camp to the audience. Even some of the local people who were attending the class were "celebrities for a day" as the news media paid them the same attention as that paid to the stars of the show.
I was delighted to have the opportunity to mingle around our great class. Everyone was fun to talk to, about poker or other things and, even during breaks and meals, there was not an open seat as we sat around and enjoyed the camaraderie of the game and each other.
I was able to catch up with one of the two sets of brothers we had at the camp, Jerry Rosenberg of Jacksonville, FL and his brother, A. J. "We play quite a bit, really," Jerry commented. A. J. piped in "Yeah, we've been to Vegas and played there. Something like this will hopefully help out our games when we play there."
Pete LoPrimo from Miami was one of our more entertaining characters. A muscular beach type, he was nevertheless one of the friendliest people at the event. "I play quite a bit, but I am looking to learn more. At the least, I get to play poker!," he laughed. George Smart from Durham, NC (good to see someone from my neck of the woods!), chimed in as well. "I have only been playing for a short time, and I play badly!," he confessed to laughs from Pete and myself. "This will definitely teach me something."
The women at the Camp featured the new, the intermediate and the experienced player. Sally Primo, who traveled the farthest to attend the seminar (she came from Pontiac, MI), said she had been playing exclusively online for the last six months. "I play at UltimateBet quite a bit and, while I have been doing OK, I want to learn how to do better." One of the more experienced players at our gathering was a dealer from New Jersey, Janet Occhipinti. "I am pretty much a Limit player, and No-Limit has always intimidated me a bit. This course should get me a little more comfortable with the game and allow me to gradually work into playing it."
The one thing we all had in common was a love of the game of poker. We listened attentively to both Clonie and Alex as they raced us through the wealth of information they had. They critiqued our play, discussed different playing options and even took time from the breaks and their chance to eat to talk the game over with everyone who wanted to.
The rest of the WPT Boot Camp staff was ready and waiting to talk as much about the game as well. One of the unsung heroes of the camp, Crispin, helped out Clonie and Alex during the labs and setups for the physical parts of the experience. He was also very helpful, as he is a fairly successful online player himself. Both Steve Berman and Ron Rubens, the very founders of the event, hustled around to get everything set up and provide the special touches to everything. And, finally, Jackie Lapin and Jennifer Concepcion were both extremely helpful and attentive as they checked everyone in with a smile and a tremendous welcome.
As I said in the first part of this article, when the all too short two days wrapped up, it seemed no one was ready to leave. We lingered around the hall, soaking in the final moments of two days of training and exchanging our thoughts on it. It was a resounding 100% of the class who felt that they walked away from the weekend a better poker player than when they came in. I caught up with our other set of brothers, 27 year old Jeff and 31 year old Jason Gombard of Chicago, IL, who were reflecting on the trip their parents had sent them on. "It was well worth the time and money," Jeff remarked and his brother agreed. "I read a lot of the forums online and, while they help, this will help my game out more than I can imagine."
If you are considering a poker camp to attend, the WPT Boot Camp should not be missed. Several events are yet to come this year, and it would be a weekend well spent should you decide to go. You can check out everything you need to know at wptbootcamp.com and get on "The Fast Track To The Final Table!"
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