WSOP Main Event: A Tale from the Midlands (England)

Rob Hewlitt has only played in two live poker tournaments before reaching Vegas but they were both -- in their different ways -- momentous occasions. I'll start in reverse order because ... well, because it's funnier.

Tournament No. 1 took place last November and was held at the Shaftesbury Casino in West Bromwich which is somewhere in the middle of England and just up the high street from where Rob lives.

Just to give you an idea how big the Shaftesbury is, it has 12 slot machines. Yup, that's it, 12 -- oh yes, and a couple of card tables, but no dealers (you deal yourself at the Shaftesbury).

Anyway, Rob and his mate Matt Wright had been lured to the £5 pot limit event not by the prospect of making big bucks, but because the casino was offering a free steak dinner to anyone who turned up. It was enough to get 40 people out of their homes on that wintry evening -- creating a gigantic prize pool of, ooh, £200.

Rob did pretty well in the tournament and made the final table. He didn't actually win any money because he came sixth and the pay-out was only to the top 5. And he didn't get the steak either - because he was still playing cards when dinner was served. Nor did he get on television, because they don't actually have camera crews at the Shaftesbury -- although Rob thinks some of his play might possibly have been accidentally picked up on the casino's CCTV system.

On to Tournament No. 2, which actually took place before Tournament No. 1 -- about a week after the end of last year's WSOP. Rob had won a free-roll to a seat in the London Open and headed down south. Suddenly this 32-year-old PE teacher finds himself sitting a table with Mel Judah, Gus Hansen, Willie Tann, Scott Fischmann, Carlos Mortensen, Dan Alspach and the comedian Dave Gorman. He's finding it all a bit intimidating until he opens up his packet of wine gums. "Oh, I'll take one of those," says Scott and suddenly Rob is sharing candy with some of the best players in the world.

Ice broken, he's even happier when Dave Gorman gets knocked out ahead of him -- until Dave's seat is taken by the Hendon Mob's Joe Beevers, that is.

Anyway, I'd like to tell a fairy story here and say Rob outlasted everyone, won the London Open and is now superbly rich. But I can't. Rob was unlucky, busting out 20 minutes short of the end of Day 1 when his pocket Kings lost to Willie Tann's Qs.

His WSOP 2006 seat came courtesy of winning a PokerStars freeroll tournament, run in conjunction with Poker Player magazine. His appearance here means he's missing the family holiday with wife Becky and sons Charlie and Fred -- but Becky doesn't mind. In fact, she doesn't even mind if he misses the couple's wedding anniversary on August 5. At least, he'll be in the right place -- the couple married here in Vegas four years ago. So good luck, Rob -- and hi to Becky! Hope you're still here on August 10th.

For more news on Rob, check out his website:

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker