The Chicago area had a champions battle during the Windy City Poker Championship in mid December as one World Series of Poker champion, two World Poker Tour champions and four Heartland Poker Tour champions were in attendance.
Colorful high-stakes amateur Rick Rahim (made famous from his stint on Fox’s the Big Game) was there along with fellow Big Game Loose Cannon Nadya Magnus. Rahim flew in a soldier from the East Coast who fought in the Iraq war.
“The WCPC tournaments are unique, giving local players a chance to battle it out with the top players in the world,” said Dick Carlson, playing in his third WCPC event.
Amanda Musumeci and Jamie Kerstetter, who both cashed in the 2011 WSOP main event, were on hand as well.
The four-day event kicked off with the Ante Up Magazine-Chicago Poker Championship as Nancy Fallah returned to try to defend her title and 2009 champ Leroy “Talk Show” Carver and 2010 winner Mike Sabbia were there.
For David McDermott, co-creator of the WCPC, this tournament may be his most memorable. The savvy veteran, runner-up at the Chicago Poker Classic six-handed event in 2010, found himself facing his son, David Jr., for the Ante Up Championship. David Jr., an 18-year-old business major at Illinois State, showed he was just as talented as his dad. His aggressive style in his first live tournament proved too much for his father, winning the Ante Up Championship.
The High Roller Winner Take All Invitational for the second year drew a star-studded field, including Jerry Yang, Richard Roeper, Faraz Jaka, Chad Brown, Rahim, David Kaplan and last year’s champ Nick Brancato. Two female amateurs, Meg Bertini and Nikki Griffith, were among the field, too.
“The $1,500 winner-take-all event was a great experience, giving me the chance to play with a caliber of player I usually don’t get to experience,” said Bertini, who won her seat that afternoon in a $75 satellite. For Griffith, who lost her mother to cancer, this was a special experience knowing proceeds from this event went to cancer research.
Harrah’s Joliet could not have timed the spring 2011 opening of their World Series of Poker room any better. The Department of Justice had just shut down online poker in the US and players, like me, were left scrambling to find a place to play. For a few weeks I bounced around between The Horseshoe, Majestic Star, and Hollywood Joliet, while waiting for Harrah’s grand opening. When it did finally open its doors I was there and have been a regular ever since.
I live much closer to Joliet than Hammond, so convenience was the biggest draw to Harrah’s. Once I started playing I found many more reasons to continue. Due to its smaller size (8 tables) it is very easy for the players to get to know the staff, and vice versa. From the poker room manager, Doug Walters, down to the dealers, the number one priority has been to cater to the regular player’s needs and requests. From lowering the initial rake, to starting a weekly poker league, adding more chips to the starting stack of the tournaments, instituting tier credits for poker players (17 per hour), and most recently adding additional cash games, Harrah’s has been taking the advice of the players and changing the room accordingly since they opened their doors.
For the first few months as the room was still in its infancy, the standard games were 1-3 NL Holdem, and a nightly 3-5 NL Holdem. The 1-3 is their most popular game and most days have 2 to 3 tables running. The games play nine handed with a $100 minimum and a $300 maximum buy-in. The rake on this game is 10% with a $6 cap on a full table. If you are an early bird they reduce that rake to a $4 cap from 9am-12pm.
Wow…. What a wild ride that was.
I’m sitting here, looking back on the last 12 months and I’ve got to tell you, I’ve come a long way. This time last year I spent every single day sitting in my apartment, at my desk, with my computer and my 2 monitors, playing 10 tables at once for 12 hours a day. I would wake up around noon and go to the gym, get home at 2:30pm, order food for the entire day, and play online until like 3am. I was working my ass off when online was around and was 100% dedicated to learning, winning and working as hard as possible. I watched players who I knew were better than me and it motivated me to catch up to them. It was during this period that I took my game to the next level. I played so many hands and discussed poker relentlessly. I also had the privilege of having an unbelievable mentor.
During the period where I played online every day, I was able to watch, play and discuss poker with Kevin “Bel0wab0ve” Saul for hundreds of hours. He is among the greatest online poker players of all time and he took me under his wing. I have always been a live player, I’ve been playing in casinos since I was 19. I would drive to Indiana twice a day with Ralph’s ID to go play. However, it was the online fundamentals that brought my game to where it is today. To be honest, I wish I had started playing online 5 years ago. If I had, who knows where I would be right now.
Anyways, something pretty crazy happened… Online poker in the US got all screwed up. And guess what? It was time to play live again. This ended up being great for me because it forced everyone to have to play me in my arena, where I thrive. Live poker is what I was meant to do; I honestly know and believe that it is my calling in life. It’s kind of exhausting to explain but if you know me or have seen me play, then you know what I mean.
With live poker comes a lot of travel, and I have been to quite a few places this year. It started with Tunica, St. Louis, and New Orleans. I took a train cross country with my close friends to Vegas for the World Series. We stopped at a few places along the way including the Grand Canyon. We hiked all the way to the bottom of the Canyon, slept there overnight, and climbed out. When we got to Vegas we stayed at the Golden Nugget on Fremont Street in old Vegas for a week. Then I moved over and stayed at the Gold Coast, next to the Rio where the World Series is held. I lived there for over 6 weeks. During that summer a lot of crazy shit happened and I had a lot of experiences. I took part in some of the best partying I’ve ever been around in my life. Cabanas, clubs, bottles and bullshit... All of it. I never really spent money at any of them either.