Wicked Chops Poker at Nine – Part I of Part IV

Sooooo...this happened.

Sooooo…this happened.

To cap off our why-the-hell-are-we-celebrating-nine-years-nine-year-anniversary, the Entities have compiled some of their favorite memories from working in poker over the years. Some of these are stories we’ve never told (at least in full) publicly. Others just stand out.

We’re breaking this into two parts. In absolutely no particular order, here are our Top 9 Favorite Poker Industry Memories:

1. Bodog Party at Tao—Bodog hosted this big gaming conference in 2005 (where they famously butchered Daniel Negreanu’s name). In 2006, they planned to do the same conference, only bigger and better.  We had grown in stature by that time to where Chops was asked to speak at it (right after Magic Johnson, no less).  Bodog cancelled the conference at the last minute for fears the government would arrest Calvin Ayre, but they still ended up throwing a massive party at Tao.

Entities Brian and Colin did PR for the party and were in charge of promoting and working the event. The party was absolutely freaking nuts. It had naked girls painted with body art, midgets dressed as ninjas, hookah bars, more midgets dressed as ninjas, and midgets dressed as ninjas. We wrote one of our favorite posts ever about the event (a post, if written today, would surely include some Merch moonshine quotes) on our old WCP site. It was almost a complete fabrication. Like, none of it happened. Two of the three Entities don’t even drink, and none of us have even seen, let alone done, coke. But the post at least captured the spirit of the event, which was utterly insane.

2. Ivey’s Hole Cards—It was the 2005 Main Event. It’s the first time the WSOP was held away from Binion’s, having moved into its new home at the Rio. It was our first WSOP. The WSOP was a little looser and more liberal with its media rules and regs at the time. We shared a folding table with Dr. Pauly near the featured TV table. We were right in front of table 20 or 21 in the Amazon Room. It midnight at the end of Day 2 or 3. We were about to shut down and head back to our hotel. As we’re packing up, Phil Ivey gets moved to the table directly behind us. We decide to unpack and just observe for awhile. Maybe because it was late, or maybe because he’s Phil Freaking Ivey and he didn’t care, but Ivey was not protecting his hole cards very well. We could see every hand he was playing for two solid hours. We watched Ivey steamroll the table, making moves with complete air (6-2, J-6, etc.). It was like getting a Masters in poker. We were all winning players at the time, but we all went on absolute tears after this, just because we (unknowingly to him) learned from the best.

3. Amarillo Slim Kind of Threatens Us—We don’t take too kindly to peds/sexual offenders. In 2003, Amarillo Slim had plea bargained to charges that fit the legal definition of sexual assault/being a ped. So in two posts in 2009, we referred to him as something like “pedophile Amarillo Slim.” This started coming up on Google, as we crushed SEO back in the day. Slim had a bargain basement fanboy attorney who noticed this and reached out to us to take it down. The Entities are all fathers, so Slim pleading “no contest” to an aggravated assault charge with a minor didn’t sit well with us. We didn’t want to change the writing. This was not a case where it was good for the industry to protect one of its own. So the lawyer calls Chops to discuss it.

As Chops recalls:

In a previous life, Colin was an accomplished lawyer. So before I spoke with the attorney, Colin made sure what Slim pled no contest to was sexual assault, which it was. We weren’t writing anything that was factually inaccurate. When the lawyer challenged me on this, I told him as much. Then the lawyer said, “Well, Doyle Brunson, the legend that he is, said that he doesn’t believe Amarillo did this. And if Slim said he didn’t, then Doyle believes him. So if Doyle Brunson doesn’t believe it’s true, how can you?” I said something back like, “Is Doyle Brunson a lawyer? Last I checked, Doyle doesn’t have a law degree.” I could then hear some aggravated huffing and puffing on the line. Turns out Slim was silently listening (unannounced) on another line the whole time. Not too long after that, as the call was winding down, my cell phone died. Maybe an hour later I get to a charger and it boots up, and there’s a voicemail waiting for me with an Amarillo, TX ID. I’m thinking, “No way this is actually Amarillo Slim.” But yep, it was. He left me a 2-minute rant voicemail asking me to “hash this out” in his room at the Bellagio. In a million years, I was not going to his room at the Bellagio. So I ignored it.

Back at the Rio, Entities Brian and Colin were working on media row. Who shows up? None other than Amarillo Slim, holding a piece of paper with Chops’ name on it (misspelled) asking people on media row if they knew where he was. We believe it was Paul Oresteen at BLUFF who finally responded to him, but wisely, with spider senses going off sensing something was up, Paul says Chops doesn’t hang around much and he didn’t know where Chops was. Brian and Colin, unfortunately, were right there, and ended up saying they were with WCP and could talk. So Brian, Colin, Slim, the lawyer, and two of Slim’s goons grabbed a table in the Amazon Room to hash it out.

As Brian recalls:

I remember feeling threatened and that the goons hinted that we should watch our backs if we don’t edit the post or apologize. We then tried to give a PR lesson saying this will go away and the more you continue the conversation, the more conversation will be had.

Remembers Colin:

It was weird. First, Slim had these two goons with him. They didn’t look intelligent at all. There was something missing. They seemed like the type of guys that have definitely busted some kneecaps and could take things too far. We were all legitimately concerned they may jump a corner and do something to us. Then there was Slim’s fanboy lawyer, who made no legitimate legal argument as to Slim’s innocence. Then there was Slim. I remember looking into his eyes many times. You could tell there was a lot of stories—and probably a lot of bad things he’d seen and experienced—by looking in his eyes. They were weary. They reflected a very hard life. At the end of the conversation, Slim made what could be interpreted as a threat. I asked him, “Was that a threat?” He said, “I don’t make threats son, I make promises.”

We eventually agreed to remove the sexual assault language around Slim’s name in our posts, just to put the issue to rest and not have to watch our backs for the rest of the WSOP. Maybe what Slim said was true and he didn’t commit the crime. We just know if any such charge was ever levied against us, there’s no way would not fight it to the end to clear our name. Slim spent a good portion of that WSOP trying to clear his name. He wanted to leave behind a more positive legacy for himself. Something more fitting and reflecting of the legendary status he earned over the years.

4. 2009 WSOP Day 7– It was approaching midnight, right before the November Nine was set. This was the most electric atmosphere we’ve ever seen at the WSOP. There was so many storylines to follow, it was a so-called journalist’s dream. You had Phil Ivey chasing poker immortality. You had Darvin Moon defying all of the odds to be Main Event chip leader against a stacked field. You had Jeff Shulman saying he’d throw the WSOP ME bracelet in the trash if he won (he told this to us verbatim, and we posted it). Then you had Dennis Phillips agenting deals, trying to flip people from Full Tilt sponsorships to PokerStars, acting like a poor man’s Oliver Tse. We actually watched Phillips follow one of the final 18 into the bathroom and pitch him by a urinal. Another time, with around 14 remaining, Phillips pretended to want to take a picture with a guy and then pitched him. We listened literally inches away from Phillips pitching Eric Buchman just minutes after making the November 9, aggressively trying to switch him from Tilt to Stars. It was just…weird. Hard to explain, but had to be there.

But there was so much energy, chaos, and excitement that night. It didn’t matter who you were, you got wrapped up in it. Even the stoic Phil Ivey did. As Chops remembers:

This was the only time I’ve actually ever spoken to Ivey. I introduced myself maybe 5 or 10 minutes after he made the November Nine, congratulating him. He was grinning ear-to-ear like a happy child. You could tell, despite all of the money he’d won over the years, and despite his very distant (at the time) public persona, how much making the N9 meant to him. It was cool.

Part II coming this weekend…

 

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