2007 World Series: Chasing the Lizard King

We met Isaac Haxton seven months ago. Long, dark hair spilled over his shoulders and frame his dark sunglasses and occasional wry smile. He started the final table of the 2007 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure with a massive chip lead. He ended up finishing in second place and earning a whopping $800,000. At the time, he reminded me of an early-days Jim Morrison. I dubbed him the Lizard King, a moniker he seemed to like. I had no reason to believe he wouldn't be the only famous poker player I would ever meet from New York's Manlius Pebble Hill School. A newspaper article today proved me wrong.

This story is not about Haxton. I lead with him here, only because, between he and his best friend, Haxton got famous first. His buddy, Alex Melnikow, is looking to get into the big money next.

Back when Haxton and Melnikow were grade schoolers, they played chess tournaments together. They've been buddies ever since. And, frankly, it's already been a good year for them both. While Haxton had his big score in the Bahamas, Melnikow had one of his own just a few weeks ago. He won first place and more than $150,000 in late June in a Bellagio Cup event. He also cashed three times in preliminary events at this year's World Series.

So, while his buddy may have scored a place on TV, Melnikow is becoming a little famous on his own. His hometown newspaper has already taken notice and tracked down the guy's father. Here's a great Dad-quote from the paper about his willingness to let his son go out into the poker world.

"He had a 3.9 average in college and he had a six-figure income," recalled his father, Walter Melnikow, of Fayetteville. "He's done pretty well for himself. He bought himself a condo, and he has a retirement plan at the age of 22."

Melnikow is a PokerStars VIP Club Supernova and has found quite a bit of success online. Today, he's proving that his early tournament successes this summer are no fluke. With more than half of today's starting field already gone, Melnikow (known on PokerStars as hadouk3n) has 300,000 in chips--no small amount with the blinds still at 600/1200.

Friendship can take people many places. For Melnikow and Haxton, let's hope it takes one or both of them to the final table.

I'd like to see that newspaper story if that happens.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in