2008 World Series: Til bust out do us part

Back in June at the LAPT event in San Jose, Costa Rica, I had the pleasure of following the progress of Max and Maria Stern, PokerStars sponsored players in that tournament who were unique in that they were (and still are) the only married couple each to have won World Series bracelets. Maria won a stud event in 1997, the same year in which Max triumphed twice, in a hold 'em and a stud split event.

The Sterns' record is safe, at least for this year, but PokerStars qualifiers Bill and Alice Purle, from Berkshire, England, have today set a new mark at the World Series. Although we can't confirm it definitively, no one at PokerStars blog can remember a married couple both qualifying for the same main event on PokerStars. And by a quirk of tournament scheduling, they're playing on the same day one in the same small area of the Amazon Room. "There she is over there," said Bill, pointing no further that a chip's flick away to where Alice sat.

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Bill "Miros" Purle

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Alice "mini1" Purle

Although it's tempting to write a saccharine-laced piece about the couple -- a twee tale of back-to-back laptops in their perfect gingerbread cottage, bringing one another cups of tea as they struggle through the satellite fields -- Bill explained their qualification in much more direct terms on his personal blog, amid details of the couples' poker playing year to date.

"January was off to a fine start," Bill wrote. "Alice got the ball rolling early by hacking up in a Stars tournament for $10,000. Which was nice ... Then I got one over on the jammy tart by winning the Sunday Warm-Up for $109,000. Which was nicer." He continues through to June: "June seems to be progressing on a nice upward curve all-round. I fluked my way to winning a step 6 for my seat in Vegas, and on Saturday Alice followed up in a $650 satellite. For the first time we will both be playing the World Series Main Event."

I asked Bill permission to quote these lines on this blog, and mentioned that I found his final line in the entry particularly amusing. "I don't fancy my chances in a last-longer," he had written. "Well, obviously I do now," he snapped back today, referring to the fact that he's sitting with close to 88,000 to Alice's 12,000 or so.

Of the two, only Bill is actually a professional poker player -- Alice works as a civil servant at the REME Museum, near Reading in England -- but they both have excellent tournament form. Although this is their first time at the World Series together, they've been in the same field twice at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas, again as PokerStars qualifiers. Poker is clearly a strong suit in the family home.

But the picture-book tale also wouldn't really suit Bill's image as the one-time most hated man in online poker. It's something of an old story now, but Bill is one of PokerStars' earliest players, and he has been qualifying for the big dance since the site was very young, and an average satellite tournament would yield just two seats. In 2004, he managed to outrage a whole clutch of players when he refused to allow third and fourth placed competitors in an online satellite to chop up the third placed prize money, even though he was the dominant big stack and a lock for one of the main event seats.

He even went so far as to ask the third and fourth placed players to pay him to allow the deal, explaining that it's a poker player's job to know when he has an edge and to push it as far as he can. Unfortunately, most folk didn't see it that way and began an internet-forum based campaign of disgust at his actions.

All that is long past, thankfully. And even if there's still an axe to grind against Miros, perhaps mini1, as Alice is known on PokerStars, can still bring home the bacon.