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Top 10 quotes from Nolan Dalla's WSOP reports

29 June 2015

Nolan Dalla is the hardest-working man in poker. The World Series of Poker media director wears a multitude of hats during the annual summer series, from running post-tournament interview sessions, to scheduling dinner meetings with poker media, players and others, to fielding random questions from fans and spectators whom he has never met before. He does it all with grace and a smile, even when he's incredibly busy.

But where Nolan truly excels is in his writing. His blog at is a must-follow 12 months of the year. During the WSOP, his production there slows down a bit, and for good reason (though it does sometimes give him an outlet for letting off some steam). Nolan writes the official tournament reports for roughly 90 percent of the WSOP events held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino each summer, often putting out two or even three a day. These summaries are full of interesting information, fun facts and quotes that help those following the action get to know the players who win bracelets and even those who come up a bit short.

So if you see Nolan sitting by the ESPN Main Stage in the Amazon Room, headphones on, banging away on his computer transcribing quotes, do me a favor: Please let the man write. And whatever you do, don't ask him for money.

The Main Event gets underway next week, so it's time to honor Nolan's work thus far in 2015 with a top 10 list of gems from his tournament write-ups thus far. See all the official tournament reports at

10. O'Donnell's lucky shirt - $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em (Event #47)
At the final table, (Matt) O'Donnell wore an unusual shirt, with a huge llama (animal print) emblazoned on the front. He called it his "lucky shirt," which was given to him by a friend.

"I told my friend that if I get to the final table again, I would wear this shirt. Now, I guess I have to wear it every time. I can't wash it now. That would be bad luck."

9. Italians have some catching up to do - $1,500 Razz (Event #9)
Pescatori is now 3-0 heads up in WSOP events, and 5-0 counting his two wins in WSOP Circuits which took place nearly 10 years ago. Moreover, he became the first Italian player in poker history to win three gold bracelets.

"Actually, I was the only player with two gold bracelets before this one," Pescatori joked when a reporter asked him about being Italy's best-known player. "Now, with a two-bracelet lead, they all have some catching up to do."

NOTE: Pescatori later won the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Eight or Better event, so he now has a three-bracelet lead over the rest of his countrymen.

8. Iacofano's promise - $3,000 H.O.R.S.E. (Event #35)
Kevin Iacofano took third place. The 29-year-old poker pro received $104,280. Oddly enough, Iacofano told his fiancé that if he won a WSOP H.O.R.S.E. tournament, he would buy her a horse.

"Me and my big mouth," Iacofano joked later.

At least for now, the soon-to-be Mrs. Iacofano will remain horseless.

7. Volpe's bluff - $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha (Event #15)
(Shaun) Deeb broke from the pack, and won in the most unconventional manner imaginable, snapping off a stone cold bluff by (Paul) Volpe near the end that basically decided the outcome of the tournament.

On a bizarre hand which will be talked about between all those who witnessed it for quite some time, Volpe enjoyed a slight chip lead and was the aggressor throughout the most dramatic moment of the tournament. Trouble for Volpe was, Deeb had flopped a set. Nonetheless, Volpe kept right on barreling away, and made a pot-sized bet on the river when he thought a scary card might push Deeb off his hand. Deeb snap re-raised all in, and Volpe was left sitting at the final table with the equivalent of his pants down, realizing there was no way he could win the hand. With millions of chips in the pot, Volpe folded sheepishly, and was left with just a tiny stack. Everyone laughed, including Volpe, as the two close friends could only amuse themselves over what had happened.

6. Importance of gaming to the economy - $565 Casino Employees No-Limit Hold'em (Event #1)
Most of the last 20 years at the World Series of Poker have honored casino employees with their very own gold bracelet event, a gathering designed not only to determine the top industry poker player, but also intended to recognize and honor the extraordinary work performed by all sectors of a much larger segment of national economy which employs far more people than many might realize.

Consider this: The gaming industry employees more people than either the automobile industry, or the airlines.

5. Learning the hard way - $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Eight or Better (Event #41)
Gary Benson, a 57-year-old poker player from Sydney, Australia and longtime veteran of the WSOP, was the first Aussie to win a gold bracelet, back in 1996 (finished fifth). The professional gambler and businessman has cashed 18 times since that debut victory. Benson came close to a second win but couldn't quite leap into contention against some very stiff and experienced competition. He earned $63,981 for fifth place.

An amusing side note — when Benson was asked during an interview how and where he learned to play poker, he answered, "The hard way of course, by losing my money."

4. A tough field - $10,000 Limit Hold'em (Event #50)
The 117 entries wasn't the biggest field at this year's series, but it was certainly one of the toughest. The prize pool amounted to $1,099,800, which paid out the top 15 finishers. Yu took the bulk of the sum, collecting $180,114 for the victory.

"It feels really good to play against the best players and win," Yu said. "Beating up on weaker players is a better way to make money. But the way to improve is to continually test yourself."

3. Give that man a pillow - $1,000 Seniors No-Limit Hold'em (Event #40)
From the $3,773,700 prize pool, (Travis) Baker's share of the money came to $613,466.

"I have no idea what I'm going to do with the money," Baker said, still in a state of shock and disbelief. "I haven't even had time to think about that yet."

The Seniors Championship remains one of the annual classic's most popular events. It's also been its fastest-growing over the past five years. This marks the fourth consecutive year this event has drawn more than 4,000 entries.

As for his immediate and future plans, Baker didn't seem much interested in celebrating.

"I'm an old man now," Baker said. "I think I'm going to go take a nap."

2. An unexpected champion - $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Eight Handed (Event #25)
(Jeffrey) Tomlinson's victory was something of a surprise — actually more of a shock — given the brutally tough lineup he faced at the final table. He even managed a dramatic comeback, overcoming a 3 to 1 chip disadvantage when heads-up play began.

"I don't have any fear. I mean, I'm here to play my game," Tomlinson said afterward. "It doesn't mean I'll win 10 gold bracelets, but from the moment I sat down I knew I could win."

Tomlinson was more than aware of the challenge he was up against.

"Before the final table started, one of my buddies told me — do you know that guy? He won a few bracelets. That one over there? He wrote a poker book," Tomlinson said. "Me? Hey, I'm a football coach."

1. Pham makes the "best mistake of his life" - $1,500 No Limit 2-7 Single Draw (Event #23)
Christian Pham made the best mistake of his life.

Three days earlier here at the 2015 World Series of Poker, Pham stepped up to the registration window at the Rio in Las Vegas and plucked down $1,500 in cash, thinking he was registering for the next day's No-Limit Hold'em tournament. Unfortunately – or fortunately, as things turned out – he had the wrong event number in mind. Pham was placed into the No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven Lowball Draw tournament, a game he'd never played before.

Unaware of the error, Pham took his seat at the beginning of the tournament and then watched in horror as cards were dealt out in a different way than he was expecting.

Pham had no idea what was going on, or what to do.

"They had started dealing already, so I couldn't do anything," Pham explained later. "If they had not started dealing, I would have told the floorman and asked to be unregistered."

Faced with no other alternative, Pham sat and watched. He folded most of his hands early on as he picked up more information about good starting hands and how to play.

Pham proved to be a prodigal student. He paid attention to the finer details and nearly 12 hours after sitting down at a table and playing a poker game he'd never seen before, Pham ended the first day as chip leader.

"I'd played lots of poker before, but not this game," Pham said. "I guess I learned fast."

Indeed, he did.

After Day Two, Pham was still the chip leader.

After Day Three, he was a gold bracelet winner.
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.