WSOP Event #32: Poker Karma - Emad Tahtouh makes final table

by Alison Lightman

Is there such a thing? Many cling to lucky hats and unwashed clothes and card protectors, and I've even been known to part my hair on the other side hoping to change my luck, but until the other night hadn't seen a collective shout of "that's Karma" at a table.

It was a small sit and go at the Rio poker room, scene of the WSOP. Nine of us were seated when the dealer realized he was $20 short on buy-ins.

No-one admitted getting too much change and the poor dealer was all gloom about the $20 that would later be leaving his own wallet.

Two kind players reached into their own pockets and gave him ten bucks apiece. The now-smiling dealer had the cards in the air in a flash and the first two large pots were taken down by guess who? His benefactors. Makes you think.

If there is such a thing, Emad Tahtouh, a 24 year old Australian, should be due for some. He's the guy 2005 World Champion Joe Hachem credits for persuading him to come to Las Vegas and enter the Main Event, which he took down along with the richest prize in poker history.

The story goes like this. It was Joe's birthday in April last year, and Emad and a few other mates were celebrating with Joe at his Melbourne home. They had a few drinks more than planned, so Emad spent the night at the Hachem family home intending to drive home the next morning and go to work.

As luck (Karma?) would have it, Emad's car broke down, so he went home and did what so many of us do in our free time - logged on to PokerStars for a game. There was a WSOP satellite running which to Emad's joy, he won.

He got straight on the blower to birthday boy Joe to share the good news, and Joe realized this might be the chance they'd been looking for to go to Vegas together and play in the WSOP.

Now Emad and the rest of us know his satellite win that day led ultimately to Joe Hachem taking down the Main Event 2005, and the richest prize in poker history. Sporting rivalry between mates being what it is, Emad is now looking for a bracelet of his own, and is well on track.

He's down to the final 14 in the $5 000 Pot Limit Hold'em event. His stack, $137K is just above the average $131k, and he is feeling fantastic.

After 39 sleepless hours, he crashed out for ten last night and is restored and revived in the way one good sleep can do it for a 25 year old.

As players returned to the tables after the dinner break to battle it down to nine, I asked Emad his thoughts about poker Karma.

"There's no Karma. I have no beliefs and no superstitions," he said. "You can be unlucky for sure, but you can't control luck."

And he didn't feel the need for Karma has he sat down, fed and watered after the dinner break, with 137k and the blinds at 4k -8k. In a good place to battle the remaining 17 for a place at the final table tomorrow.

But that grin disappeared in the first few minutes of play. The action had folded around to Emad in the small blind. He made it $20k to play and was called by Michael Tedesco in the big blind. The flop came 10h 10d 3c and Emad bet out 30k. But Michael Tedesco raised it $50k more, forcing Emad to fold and leaving him well under average, with 86k.

The smile was back on his dial soon enough. A few hands later, the small blind completed and Emad, in the big blind, just checked. The flop came Q 5 2 with 2 clubs and the small blind bet $11k. Emad called. The turn came a 4 and when the small blind checks, Emad made it $17k and the small blind folded, restoring almost 40k to Emad's stack.

With the final table and that $536 000 first prize in sight, everyone was changing gears and tightening up their play. A lot of pots were being taken by pre-flop raises, with Emad not getting involved.

Emad told me after the dinner break that he was most concerned about Chau Giang and Kirill Gerasimov, and must have sighed with relief to see Giang's stack whittled down before he was knocked out in 12th place, hot on the heels of Laura Fox in 13th place.

Emad then looked down at his hand from early position, and raised to $25k. Michael Tedesco, wanting some more of Emad's chips, called, and Ben Arnold went all-in for his last $51k. Emad got away from the hand and it went to a showdown with Tedesco showing AcQc, and Arnold, KdQh, on a Queen high board, putting Arnold out in 11th place.

Nam Le, the chip leader for much of today, was seriously short-stacked by this stage of play and went out in 10th place after running his QQ in Michael Sass' KK.

Emad now takes his place amongst the final 9 tomorrow afternoon, and although he is the shortest stack, he is looking forward to playing his best game.

Seat 1- Michael Tedesco- $278,000
Seat 2- Jason Lester- $222,000
Seat 3- Tony Hartmann- $163,000
Seat 4- Stuart Fox- $214,000
Seat 5- Alan Sass- $431,000
Seat 6- Emad Tahtough- $97,000
Seat 7- Kirill Gerasimov- $124,000
Seat 8- Gregg Turk $122,000
Seat 9- Tommy Smith- $238,000

Today's reading:

Event #34: $1,000 NL Hold'em rebuy: Swimming with the sharks

Event #34: The Usual Suspects

Event #33: Nam Le and Emad Tahtouh nearing final table

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker