2008 World Series: Experience in spades
The popular image of a PokerStars qualifier as a raw, untested amateur is as outdated as a "Bob Dole for President" button, or the contents of my wardrobe. The young stars of the PokerStars cardroom often come bludgeoning into the live arena having played more hands and tournaments than all but the wiliest of wily veterans. Meanwhile, online poker is not the exclusive reserve of the under-30s, and some players have gone against the prevailing stream to take up playing on PokerStars after years in the toughest live games in any town.
Arguably the best example of this latter breed is Don "homer03" Fagan, who first became a friend of PokerStars blog back in 2005. He qualified for the main event on PokerStars back then, and we tracked him into the money -- 427th spot to be precise -- listening to his tales of the Vegas of yesteryear along the way.
"Kalooki Don" Fagan
Fagan, you see, was a member of the Irish invasion to the tables of Nevada in the 1970s and he regularly mixed it with the likes of Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim, earning himself the nickname "Kalooki Don" for his skills in that particular variant. He played, survived and profited in the toughest games in poker's most heralded era, and is doing the same in the online environment fully 30 years later.
"I never realised how good those Steps tournaments were," said Fagan today, underlining the extent of his adaptation into online player by referring to the unique PokerStars Steps qualification system, which provided his route into the main event this time around. "I went in at the $82 level and sailed straight through. I took a few days off before the final step, just to stay fresh, you know. But I sailed through that as well."
Fagan first played the World Series main event in 1983 and has lost count of his total appearances here since. He has kept some souvenirs from his career, however, and in 2005 he provided us with a photocopy of a payout sheet from a tournament he played at the Four Queens back in the day, where his name appears amid a list including Sexton, Slim, Moss, Brunson, et al.
This year, however, the story he remembers most vividly is the end of his tournament in 2006, where he was eliminated in 77th place after losing a huge pot to Doug Kim, the PokerStars qualifier who went all the way to the final table and a $2m payday.
"I was one pot away from it," Fagan said, of his closest skirmish with a bracelet. "You win that pot, you can sail through to the final."
It's rarely entirely plain sailing, of course, in these huge events but Kalooki Don really has been there, done that, and is now wearing the PokerStars T-shirt. Let's hope for another great chapter in this terrific career.
Don Fagan is just one of another huge number of PokerStars qualifiers in today's field. Often the table draw sends them out to fight a lonely battle in the furthest-flung reaches of the Brasilia room; sometimes they head to the television table and the studio lights. Other times they all wind up sitting together.
Jerry Lanteigne, from New Brunswick, Canada; Mike "V00D00CHILE" Foley, from Wilimington, N Carolina; and Bart Verbanch, from Belgium have created their own PokerStars corner on table 29.
From left Bart Verbanch, Mike Foley, Jerry Lanteigne
But for Mike's blue cap, the three of them are identically kitted out in their PokerStars track tops and designer shades. They'll be getting to know one another pretty well over the coming few hours.
Vincent Caesar, meanwhile -- a PokerStars qualifier from Brooklyn, New York, via St Louis, Missouri -- is making the acquaintance of Mike "The Mouth" Matusow and a few million ESPN viewers. Caesar came into the Amazon Room at noon today to play in his first World Series and the largest single tournament of his life to date, and found that he'd been drawn on the main feature table next to the notorious Mouth.
"It's awesome," Caesar said. "I'm really excited and this is an an added bonus. It should be a lot of fun."
Caesar, normally a cash game player, took a stab at a $310 second chance satellite and comfortably qualified. A couple of buddies made the trip to Vegas with him, and he was busy summoning them to the bleachers of the television table once he knew of his draw. Meanwhile, his two younger brothers Shawn and Kirt, as well as half-brother Jason are following him from afar.
In September, Caesar will marry his fiancee Erika, who is currently studying at Georgetown Law School and couldn't make the trip.
"Hopefully this will pay for the wedding," Caesar said, before being whisked off to have microphones attached for his day under the television's gaze. Hopefully so.
Our video blog team this morning caught up with a very familiar face to PokerStars players and television viewers alike. Kara Scott presents the coverage of the PokerStars.com EPT and is best known for providing the smiling face or shoulder to cry on when a player either takes down a huge payday or busts from an event and has to be interviewed. She's also a pretty good player in her own right, and has taken her seat in the main event today. Here's what she had to say.
Watch WSOP: Kara Scott Day 1c on PokerStars.tv
Be sure to watch the clip to the end to learn today's password for the PokerStars.tv freeroll tournament. And you can catch up with all the video blog action, and an archive of previous coverage (including plenty more of Kara from through the past couple of years) over at PokerStars.tv.