WSOP Main Event Day 3: Salles back on track

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I was all set to write a post about Gualter Salles chock full of cliché, dubious comparisons and quips about winning races. Then I realised we'd already done that last year, when Simon Young detailed his adventures so far in the World Series in this post.

But as things go I was too far through my half idea to apply the brakes and the post developed a momentum of its own. But it's a story that is well worth repeating, because Salles is one of the most interesting guys in the room.

A racing driver by profession and nature, Salles may have walked up and down the Rio corridors three times now in this event, having returned today with 118,000 chips, and each time he's enjoyed the relatively peace of anonymity. But were he to do it in his native Brazil, he'd be pursued by hordes of racing and poker fans, to whom Salles is one of the most recognisable figures.

Just as the first break of the day approached, Salles won another pot to take his stack up a little more. On the TV alongside the table were highlights of a recent stock car race which had the attention of at least two players on his table. Neither realised they were sitting next to one of the sport's most talented exports.

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Gualter Salles

"Some people who are race fans, they remember me from when I was racing Indy cars back in the nineties and the beginning of 2000," said Salles. "But no, I'm pretty much anonymous here as a sportsman."

Salles' spell as an Indy car driver took him around the world, competing in Championship Auto Racing Team (CART) open wheel racing, which later became Indy League Racing, alongside leading drivers at the time such as Eddie Cheever, Scott Goodyear and Greg Ray. He then returned to his native Brazil to drive in the Stock Car Brazil series.

It was in his homeland that Salles had the type of crash to makes mothers wince and make any red blooded male with more than 100 horse power under their hood take their foot off the gas.

Nudged going into a turn, Salles' car slid off the track, flipped over about six times - the chassis disintegrating after the second spin - leaving Salles strapped into his seat. The remains of his car were festooned all over the track. The remains of Salles were, thankfully, perfectly intact.

"I was pretty badly injured but I didn't break anything," said Salles. "I tore my ligament on my right knee and was bruised all over my body but I didn't break anything, thank god."

So how do you get back into a racing car after something so terrifying as a high speed crash?

"The most important thing is to get back into the car as quick as possible," said Salles. "If you start to think too much about it by the time you get back in the car you are slower and afraid that that might happen again. So as quick as you can get back in car, the better it is to forget that and concentrate on racing, so that's why I tried to get back in the car as quick as possible. I think three weeks after the accident, or four weeks, I was back in the car for a race."

Salles has since retired from driving and has instead shifted his efforts to a behind the scenes role, owning his own racing team and paying someone else to do the dangerous stuff. He's also adopted a potentially lucrative sideline playing poker, fast becoming a successful player both online and in live events around the world where he plays as a member of Team PokerStars Pro Brazil.

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"It's been improving a lot," said Salles. "I've been getting a lot of good results online. I've finished pretty high up on most of the regular tournaments on PokerStars and in live tournaments I've had already a few results in EPTs, WSOP and I finished 12th last year in one event (EPT London). So I'm very happy with the way I'm progressing but I know there is still a long way to go. But I'm confident that I'm still going to get very good results."

The good results continue for Salles who has dedicated himself to learning more about poker with the effort this previously dedicated to race car driving. But is poker, as well as racing, something that can be taught or do they depend on a natural instinct?

"I think anything can be taught and you can get good," said Salles. "The very talented guys, they're going to get further, always, whether it's in poker or racing or tennis or soccer. You can learn but talent is something that some people have more than others.

"I think in poker, with a lot of dedication, you can get to be really good, even if you don't have the talent to start with. But in racing you can practice as much as you want, but if you don't have that extra special thing you're gonna be good but you'll never be one of the best.

Salles' passion for poker has led him to set up an online training site www.tvpokerpro.com with Brazilian Team PokerStars Pros Andre Akkari and Alex Gomes. But after the swings of playing cards day to day and the unpredictable lifestyle that can bring with it, does he yearn to get back behind the wheel and put his foot down?

"I haven't driven a race car for three years already but I still love the sport and I'm sure that I will be back in a race car, but maybe not professionally, more like a hobby some kind of racing back in Brazil.

"But now I'm 100 per cent focused on poker and as a team owner in the racing business. To be able to race 100 per cent professionally you have to dedicate yourself to that, it's just impossible to race and be a professional poker player at the same time."

That dedication appears to be working.

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ELIMINATIONS OF THE HOUR

Anh Van Nguyen, Thierry van den Berg and Lex Veldhuis have departed.

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DOUBLE UP OF THE HOUR

Daniel Negreanu got jacks to hold up against Hoyt Corkins' pocket sevens and doubled what was a micro-stack at the time. KidPoker is back to around 45,000 now.

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CHIP COUNTS OF THE HOUR

Vanessa Selbst 301,000
Matthias De Meulder 295,000
Jason Mercier 134,300
Humberto Brenes 180,000
Jan Heitmann 85,500
Sandra Naujoks 72,000
William Thorson 240,000
Florian Langmann 132,000
Pieter De Korver 85,000
Joe Cada 85,000
Gualter Salles 135,000
Johnny Lodden 114,000
Chris Moneymaker 42,000
JP Kelly 85,000
Marcin Horecki 97,000
Angel Guillen 160,000
Vanessa Rousso 110,000
Barry Greenstein 165,000
Greg DeBora 140,000
David Williams 180,000
Pat Pezzin 42,500
Daniel Negreanu 46,000
Nuno Coehlo 75,000
Amanda de Cesare 34,000
Pierre Neuville 78,000

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STRANGELY EROTIC SALAD ORDERING OF THE HOUR

"Some of those peppers, yeah, some shrooms, shrooms, I missed the shrooms. Yeah, that's excellent. Really excellent. Oh yeah. A few more onions. Oooh. Yeah, excellent. Onions, hmmmm. And pea shoots. Yeah, gimmie some pea shoots. Sweet. That's excellent. Baby, that's an excellent salad. Yeah, that's a sweet one. Excellent." - Patron in the poker kitchen enjoys watching his salad being made.

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ARRIVAL OF THE HOUR

Chip leader and PokerStars qualifier, David Assouline

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SLOWROLL OF THE HOUR

As described by Vanessa Selbst: "Epic slowrolled by varkonyi. J845 board I raise w ppl to 30k he takes 8 full minutes to shove 100k. Same hand 67. Sigh "

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TWEET OF THE HOUR

Vanessa Rousso: "I raise 8d6d and get bb call. Flop 9d 5d4c bb leads 3800 I raise to9k he calls.Turn 2h. Ck ck. River 3c he cks I shove 41k he calls.110k!:)"

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STATISTIC OF THE HOUR

Number of big blinds in Barry Greenstein's stack: 126

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PRICE CHECK OF THE HOUR

How many orbits would you have to fold to lose the equivalent of a Main EVent starting stack: 6

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DUTCH TWEET AND RETWEET OF THE HOUR

"RT @mjhwouters: @Petedekorver gl sir, ned kampioen 2008 -» eur kampioen 2009 -» wereld kampioen 2010?!?! Ik zeg doen"

Roughly translated, that says: "Pieter De Korvr: Dutch champion 2008 -> European champion 2009 -> World Champion 2010?!?! Just do it."

De Korver is the last remaining Dutch Team PokerStars Pro in this World Series field.

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ATOMIC FIREBALL UPDATE OF THE HOUR

Kung Pao chicken + Atomic Fireball = Phew. (Wipes brow).