The final starting flight of the Colossus III got underway on Sunday with players from across the globe hoping for a bit of luck and good run of cards. From every walk of life and skill level, these players brought their wits and, hopefully, their best games to the Rio poker tables. PokerNews caught up with a few of them to relay their poker tales.
Let's Go Clubbing
Kumar Bangalore (and the Plainview Poker Club)
Occupation: Network engineer
Hometown: Plainview, New York (originally from India)
The boys from Plainview, N.Y., are in the house – the Plainview Poker Club that is. The club is a collection of about 20 friends who play a weekly game, all in the Plainview area. When the WSOP approached, the group held a satellite to send one player to play in the Colossus. Kumar Bangalore won.
Bangalore's victory came with a bit of tale. As he and his friend David Martin played heads up, it was getting quite late and the two were about even in chip stacks. "We just decided to start going all-in every hand," Martin says. Kumar won, and on Sunday bought into the fifth starting flight.
Along with Bangalore and Martin, club members David Lumerman and David Weiss also made the trip to Vegas and were on the rail next to their friend.
"We're just here to support him," Martin says. "He's just a good friend from the neighborhood and we invited him to play."
The club has about 20 members who rotate in and out of the weekly games. Most have known each other for at least 15 years.
"Most of us met through our kids being involved with Boy Scouts," Weiss says. "We're just all good friends through our kids' scouting. Three of our kids are Eagle Scouts and one of them is working on it."
Unfortunately, Bangalore didn't cash, but was all smiles after exiting the Amazon room. The next "meeting" of the Plainview Poker Club should be quite a celebration reliving his time at the WSOP.
"It's been a great experience," Bangladore says. "I definitely want to come back."
Shipping it on a Navy Ship
Occupation: Retired, U.S. Navy
Hometown: Detroit, Mich.
Living now: Colfax, Wash.
Favorite poker player: Maria Ho ("She's friendly and has a nice personality," he says)
Being stationed on a naval ship in the middle of the ocean offers little in the way of entertainment. Steve Aspenwalld knows this first-hand. A retired senior chief petty officer, he spent many hours aboard a ship managing people and training. Poker was always a way to bond and pass some time so far away from their families.
"On a ship back in the '70s , the only thing we had to do was watch reel to reel movies," he says. "So you either played blackjack or poker. It was a pretty friendly game. We kept it kind of easy so we didn't lose paychecks."
Aspenwalld retired from the Navy in 1993 after having served aboard destroyer class ships, fast and maneuverable warships that escort larger vessels in a fleet, based out of Norfolk, Va., Naples, Fla., Long Beach, Calif., and other locations. He also served in Operation Desert Storm abourd the U.S.S. Ranger aircraft carrier.
This is his third time in the Colossus and he's looking for his first WSOP cash.
"I'm going to cash," he says. "I've been practicing."
This former Navy man has been working on patience, strategy, and using table position better – and hoping it pays off.
Poker in Paradise
Occupation: Warehouse worker
Hometown/living now: Honolulu, Hawaii
Where do Hawaiians go for vacation? For Dhemer Macalibog, he booked his trip to Vegas to play in the Colossus. Hawaii may not have casinos, but Macalibog says plenty of Hawaiians play poker throughout the islands.
"Hawaiians like playing poker," he says. "It's a gambling state. They like to gamble and all like to come to Vegas."
Macalibog has a regular game with friends and family. Living on the islands can be expensive, Macalibog says, and many people work extra jobs to make ends meet – and for him – build a poker bankroll. Away from the tables, he enjoys fishing and hiking and taking advantage of all the outdoors activities the island of Oahu offers. This is his first time to the WSOP and he has high hopes: "I have a low stack, but I'm still hanging in there."
Strategy of Survival
Hometown: San Diego, Calif.
Living now: Los Angeles, Calif.
Favorite poker player: Daniel Negreanu
She can sell houses, but can she sell a bluff? A realtor by day, Emily Olmstead says the job doesn't translate too well to the poker table, but she's hoping her experience at the tables transfers to her first shot at a WSOP event in the Colossus.
"I was a poker player before I was a realtor," she notes.
No stranger to the poker felt, Olmstead does have a few nice stats in smaller events, including a fourth-place finish at a WSOP-Circuit event in San Diego in 2011 for $6,642. She got her start in online poker's early days playing on partypoker and also grew up playing with family. While online poker was fun, she likes the feel of live poker much better.
Olmstead was set to play in the second flight. Her plan for such a huge event? "Just to survive," she says. "That's my big strategy."
Craving the Action
Occupation: Information technology professional
Hometown/living now: Santa Ana, Calif.
Back even before the debut of the World Poker Tour or Chris Moneymaker's historic 2003 Main Event win, a documentary appeared on the Travel Channel about the WSOP. The big money, bracelets, and action fascinated a young Jaime Godoy. He later watched every WPT episode and couldn't get enough of the WSOP on ESPN.
"I just started playing online a lot," he says. "We'd play garage games, house games, and hit the casinos."
That online play even included a few nice four-figure scores. Godoy has been attending the WSOP for the last seven years and still gets a charge out of having someone famous playing at his table. On one occasion he was playing with 2007 Main Event champion Jerry Yang and actress/poker player Shannon Elizabeth.
"I actually had a hand against her and I bluffed her and won," he says, adding: "she was really nice."
A cash in Colossus would also certainly be nice.
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