by Chris Capra
This was the scene around 11p.m. on Saturday night in the Caesar’s Palace poker room during the 4th annual National Heads-up Poker Championship in Las Vegas. The game, orchestrated by yours truly, was a lesson in fun, camaraderie, banter and, oh yeah, poker.
Sitting $1/$3 with a $200 max buy-in may have been a once in a lifetime event, one that most serious poker players would give an arm or a leg to do. For me it was a rather selfish chance to sit next to an actor I have admired for almost two decades, to bond with some great people that I have worked with for the last several years, and to put work aside to have some fun.
Lesson One: When playing with two world champions, no matter how close you are to them in your day-to-day life, they will not cut you a break on the poker table. If you are going to take a pot from them, you really have to work. This was a lesson learned quite the hard way by my colleague Matt and Eric Morris, Publisher of Bluff Magazine (pictured here with Orel Hershiser)
While the three of us collectively lost more than $1500, considering the company, we got off cheaply. It was the fabulous poker advice from the champs that really made the investment worthwhile. “Chris, you really suck at this,” were the words of wisdom I got from Joe Hachem after taking a big pot from me around 3 a.m. I always thought Muppets were good things. Apparently in poker, you don’t want to be considered one (this was Joe’s 3:30 a.m. observation of my play). This was a far cry from the home games in NY that I can take down just by showing up wearing a PokerStars shirt.
Lesson Two: When you put four top professionals from different lines of work together at a poker table, you are going to get some good stories. Orel Hershiser gave the game a locker room feel and, although he had gone further than any other PokerStars player in the NBC Heads-up Tournament, I overheard him say at one point, “This is like Pros vs. Joes, except in this case I am the Joe!” He had to face off against Andy Bloch on Sunday morning in the “Final 8” so he only stopped by for a little while. While Jason got poker advice from Greg, we all kidded him about his Seinfeld days and even learned his all-time favorite George Costanza line.
Lesson Three: You don’t leave this table until all the money is gone... Well at least not until the pros have taken all of our money! Eric Morris summed it up the best, “Had we actually won against two world champions, the poker universe would have been out of alignment.” We weren’t there for bragging rights, we were there to have a good time.
Lesson Four: Beware of the those who are good friends with professional poker players. Case in point, Joe Hachem brought his good friend Scott Lazar to the game (pictured below to the left of Orel Hershiser). Scott finished sixth in the main event of the World Series of Poker in 2005, the same year Joe won his bracelet. This information was not made readily available to us Muppets until several hours into the game. Scott is the producer of the poker movie “Deal,” being release later this year, and is a great guy all around. This of course did not stop him from picking our pockets clean. In fact, he was ahead more than Joe by the end of the night.
Lesson Five: Eating breakfast at 6am witih Joe Hachem after an all-night poker game has its benefits. Notwithstanding the preferential treatment we received at the diner just by showing up with Joe, hanging out with him is pretty cool. You always learn something about people when you break bread with them and this for me was the perfect way to top off a great night.. We recapped the funny moments of the game, (especially the time Joe called Matt out for not playing any hands and then busted him out when Matt did!)got some great stories about this crazy world of poker and had a pretty decent breakfast.
Just for the record, Joe paid!
Chris Capra is a public relations executive from New York. He recently returned from Las Vegas where he worked with Team PokerStars during the NBC Heads Up Championships.