2007 World Series: At sea with the dolphin

If you do a Google search for "killer dolphin," you end up with a lot of results about a likely urban legend surrounding trained Navy SEAL dolphins with blowdarts mounted on their heads.

If you'd searched the Amazon Room at the Rio for a killer dolphin, you'd have found him sitting at the final table of the $1,000 no-limit hold'em re-buy event. In polite society, he goes by the name Dolph Arnold. On PokerStars, where he plays a VIP Club Supernova, he is simply "dolphin."

Dolph lives up to his screen name, skimming quickly just under the water's surface, and then exploding with enough force to surprise everybody at the table.

Off the table, Dolph is a genial guy who will ask if you want him to suck in his gut while you take his picture. At the table, however, he has the look of a grizzled poker veteran. Underneath an orange Texas cap and behind black shades, the man from Houston seemed to come out of nowhere.

It would only seem that way, though. In fact, Dolph's been playing poker since the late 1940s and has had no small amount of success on the poker circuit. He's made seven World Series final tables over the past decade and, after today, can boast of more than $400,000 in lifetime tournament winnings. As a a retired casino marketing man, Dolph's been around casinos for longer than some of his opponents have been alive. And there's the matter of some of the world's biggest players calling Dolph a "cash game legend."

In the early going at the final table, it didn't look like the dolphin had much of a chance at open waters. In fact, when he got all-in with KQ vs AJ, it looked like it was time to head back to Houston. Then, he spiked his king on the river for the double up.

With chips to play, the dolphin the found himself facing off against Amir Vahedi. On a Jd9c2c flop, Dolph pushed all in with Tc7c against Vehedi's pocket queens. A red queen on the flop gave Vahedi his set.

And then an eight on the river turned Dolph into the chip leader. Vahedi, crippled, was out just a few hands later.

If there was any tension in the moments leading up to four-handed play, a dinner break ended with the four remaining players arm-in-arm and laughing. I don't think anyone has ever said anything about dolphins being good mediators, but I, for one, think they are. Or, at least Dolph "dolphin" Arnold is. For any direct confirmation about the post-dinner lovefest, we could only nod as one official said, "We ain't talkin' about it."

From there, the love ended for the dolphin. Less than an hour after players returned from dinner, Dolph's luck turned, and with it, his day ended.

Dolph finished in fourth place for a win of more than $150,000.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in