WSOP Main Event Day 1C: Mr. Ambassador

wsop2010_thn.jpgIt would be perfectly reasonable for a poker player to hit a big score--something in the millions, say--and then escape into obscurity. It would be just as reasonable for a poker player to do achieve something fews others have--say, make the final table of the WSOP Main Event--and never do anything in the poker world but sit and play. There's no reason a player would be forced to give interviews, sign autographs, or even be nice. And make no mistake, there are a lot of people who are just right jerks, whether they've had a big score or not. Among all of those people--the good, the bad, and the furiously ugly--is Dennis Phillips, a man who has proven a natural poker ambassador.

As you no doubt know, Phillips was a member of the original WSOP November Nine. In 2008, Phillips placed third for a $4.5 million payday. He came back last year and finished 45th out of more than 6,400 entrants. With more than $5 million in live tournament winnings, Phillips could easily go back to St. Louis, build a nice house wallpapered with $100 bills, and tell everybody to leave him alone. Such an idea has to be tempting, especially for a guy who actually worked for a living for most of his adult life.

Phillips, however, didn't escape. He didn't hide. And he didn't turn into a self-important creep. Instead, he became one of the game's greatest ambassadors. Topped by his trademark St. Louis Cardinals cap, Phillips has traveled all over the world giving interviews, raising money for charity, supporting poker legislation, and generally just being a nice guy.

A quick story:

A couple of weeks ago, I sat with some media colleagues in a small bar in Lima, Peru. We were having a nightcap after a long day at work. The waitress appeared beside me and said in broken in English, "The man wants to buy you all a drink."

"The man?" we asked. We typically don't turn down drinks, but thought it best while in a foreign country to be sure.

"The man in the red hat," the waitress replied.

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Sitting a few feet away was Dennis Phillips with a few American friends. We told him he didn't have to buy us anything. He responded, "I want to. I know how hard you guys work."

This isn't to say a guy can buy favorable media coverage with a Pisco Sour. It's simply more evidence that Phillips' massive success hasn't let the fame and fortune go to his head. He simply seems happy to continue to support the game he loves. It's no big surprise that the people we call The Clones continue to come to Vegas to support their man.

Phillips has spent the first level staying out of the way. In the first 30 minutes of play, his table saw aces, kings, queens, jacks, and quads. None of the hands were Phillips, but it's still early days here.

Yep, it's tough to find anyone to talk bad about Dennis Phillips and there is little question why. If he someone manages a deep run for the third straight year, there is no doubt he be the guy buying the first few rounds at the bar afterward.

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Sweating Dennis Phillips


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CHIP COUNT OF THE HOUR

David Williams at 80,000 after getting aces versus kings in the first level.

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KARAOKE PERFORMANCE OF THE HOUR

"Jukebox Hero" --Man standing at urinal in men's restroom

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JOE GIRON PHOTO OF THE HOUR

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All eyes at the WSOP on the World Cup

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JERKY MOMENT OF THE HOUR

Nick "FU_15" Maimone picking up his year's supply of beef jerky form Jack's Links after making the qualifying quad jacks during today's first level.

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WHAT'S WRONG WITH SMALL, MEDIUM AND LARGE? OF THE HOUR

Overheard phonecall in Starbucks:

"You wrote 'grande white mocha venti extra shot.'"
Pause.
"You wrote 'grande white mocha venti extra shot.'"
Pause.
"Well do you want grande or venti? They're different sizes.".