The tables in the Amazon Room were stacked on Friday as rounders from across the country and around the world hoped to bring their A-game to the $565 Colossus III and survive for another day and a shot at the $1 million top prize and gold bracelet. We decided to take a look at some of the players who turn out to play each summer and tell their own unique stories – ranging from a retired soldier to a former pitcher for the Texas Rangers.
FASTBALLS AND FOUR-BETS
Occupation: Retired pitcher for the Texas Rangers
Hometown: Short Hill, N.J.
Living now: Jupiter, Fla.
Favorite poker players: Daniel Negreanu and Antonio Esfandiari
After a career in baseball throughout the 1980s capped with a few years with the Texas Rangers, Michael Loynd now spends much of his time playing poker and fired a bullet in the massive Colossus field. Scott Miller, Loynd’s friend since fourth grade, was railing his friend in the Amazon Room and said Loynd was doing well in early action. Miller says calls himself Loynd’s "poker caddy."
Miller said the former hurler is in town for three weeks and began playing in the WSOP when it was still held at Binion’s. He has a few cashes along the way and has a simple goal in mind: "Crush the competition."
OLD SCHOOL SOLDIER
Occupation: U.S. Army, retired
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Living now: San Antonio, Texas
Favorite poker players: Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, T.J. Cloutier.
After the rigors of boot camp and life in military service, sitting for hours at the poker table can’t be too much work for Reggie Crump. In the Army, he worked in transportation logistics and was stationed in San Antonio. While in the service, he played in quite a few barracks games, and now hosts a once-a-month home game for friends in the Navy and Marines. Crump says he gets inspiration from some of the game’s players from the past.
"I’m old school," he says. "Seeing some of these older guys doing well kind of encourages me to keep playing."
In town with a few buddies, Crump is looking for that first WSOP cash and says it would be a story to share with the grandkids. Either way, he just loves the entire experience.
"The most important thing for me is meeting and playing against other players from around the world," he says. "We watch the WSOP back home and Poker After Dark, all these different shows. Just seeing the variety of players from around the world, and understanding the different skill sets that they bring to the table, it’s pretty cool."
Crump adds: "Texas in the house. Great event, love the venue. It’s awesome just being here – a poker player’s dream."
ON A CASH QUEST
Occupation: Property manager
Hometown: Henderson, Nev.
Living now: Los Angeles, Calif.
Favorite poker player: Daniel Negreanu
In her third year playing at the WSOP, Barron is still seeking out that crucial first cash and adds laughing: "Today’s the day." A regular player at the Bellagio’s $2/$5 cash games, she plans on playing a few satellites and hopefully playing the Main Event. Improving her game is important to Barron, who also believes being in better shape physically helps at the tables.
"I’ve been trying to set aside time to learn more about poker and I just want to get more into shape because you have to be in shape to put in the long hours physically," she says.
Barron loves the event and says she has even seen improvements in the few years she has been playing at the Rio.
"I think it’s very well-organized," she says. "I was here a couple years back and it wasn’t as organized I think as it is right now. Everything is running on time and I don’t have any complaints at all."
One of her passions is promoting more women to get into the game.
"I think more women should try it," she says. "It’s kind of hard to put up with the guys because they think they’re pretty tough, but I think more women should be involved. It’s a fun game. It keeps your mind occupied, you have to remember, you have to think, you have to figure out people – it’s really exciting."
MINI-SERIES TO WORLD SERIES
Occupation: General manager of White Spot restaurant
Hometown/living now: Chilliwack, B.C., Canada
Favorite poker players: Daniel Negreanu, Gus Hansen, Fedor Holz ("I like their different styles and read ability")
For Steve Biddiscombe, the Colossus did not end well. His pockets aces were cracked by quads on Day 1. But poker is not always about winning for this recreational player. He just loves to play the game, especially thinking about strategy. At home in Vancouver, Biddiscombe plays in a regular game made up of an interesting mix of professions including a fire captain, a realtor, a butcher who owns his own shop, an orthopedic surgeon, and a printer/graphic designer. The game allows him and his friends to put the demands of their jobs on hold for bit.
"It’s mainly about a good time and hanging out," he says. "No one gets hurt except some ribbing here and there."
This British Columbia poker crew has a unique satellite system, hosting a five-game "Mini Series," as they call it, to send four guys to the Colossus. Biddiscombe was one of the winners. A couple others joined for group of six poker making the trip to Vegas.
"If anyone cashes, we share the winnings," Biddiscombe says. "It’s all about having fun and enjoying the competitiveness. It's pretty cool seeing the poker stars in person. In a few years I plan on dedicating more time to poker. The skills you pick up here in Vegas are awesome."
Biddiscombe says his crew’s game always has some hijinks – from no-look calls and to joking about the quickest eliminated. In a recent game, in the second hand played against a buddy, Biddiscombe no-look raised and was called by his friend. The flop was J-4-4. His opponent bet, and Biddiscombe re-raised without looking at his cards. When his friend moved all in, Biddiscombe looked for the first time – J-4 for a full house. His buddy grabbed his gear and made a quick exit.
"Then the next week he knocked me out four hands in with a flush over my trips," he says. "It’s karma I guess."
FOLLOWING THE PROGRAM
Occupation: Computer programmer
Hometown/living now: Seattle, Wash.
Favorite poker players: Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan
This is Philip Ghere’s second year coming to the WSOP. He’s hoping for a nice cash in today’s Colossus, which would be his first. "Still working on that," he says.
Still unsure of how many events he’ll play this summer, Ghere said it depends on the results of his first few efforts, but plans on having some fun either way. Just being at the felt is a rush to this young poker player. When not playing in Vegas, Ghere’s home game is a little bit unique. He began by jumping into a game at work with co-workers. After a tough day at the keyboard, Ghere and some other programmers pull out the cards and chips at the office and get the game going. No doubt there are plenty of analytical minds at the table.
"They are all cash game players," he says. "They are really good." Hopefully those skills have rubbed off and his office game skills pay off.
Stay tuned for more stories of players taking their shot at The Colossus III this weekend!
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