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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Past champs get early exits

11 July 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- As the World Series of Poker's main event moved into the elimination rounds Tuesday at the Rio, many of the game's more recognizable names had joined the rail birds, poker fans who watch the action from behind the tables.

Two of the past four world poker champions busted out following the four-day opening round of the $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas hold 'em event. Last year's winner, Hollywood producer Jamie Gold, was eliminated Monday evening. Also gone from the action are 11-time World Series of Poker event winner Phil Hellmuth and two-time world poker champion Doyle Brunson.

Joe Hachem, the 2005 world poker champion and one of just a handful of ex-champions still in the field, entered play Tuesday with $35,500 in tournament chips. But Hachem was gone from the field within 90 minutes. Chris Moneymaker, the 2003 champion, plays today.

Several Hollywood celebrities, however, survived the opening round and drew the fans interest Tuesday.

Brad Garrett, co-star of the television series "Everybody Loves Raymond," began play with $69,600. By midafternoon, he was up to more than $80,000 in chips but he was eliminated by 3 p.m. "Spiderman" star Tobey Maguire began the day with $24,200 and was slowly building his stack. By midafternoon, he had more than $90,000 in chips.

Three former world champions still remained in the hunt Tuesday: Scotty Nguyen (1998), Tom McEvoy (1983), and MGM Mirage executive Bobby Baldwin (1978).

Garrett, who also stars in the television series, " 'til Death," has played in the World Series of Poker's main event three straight years. This is the first time he's reached the second round.

"I was gone in six hours the first year, and the only reason I lasted eight hours last year was because of the dinner break," Garrett said.

Poker attracts the Hollywood crowd, according to Garrett because, "show business people are notorious gamblers." He's played poker for 16 years but calls his game average compared to the professionals.

"Phil Hellmuth let me sit behind him recently to watch him play and I learned a ton in just a few minutes," Garrett said. "I love this sport and I'm happy to get through into the second day."

Hachem, who won $7.5 million in winning the 2005 world poker title, doesn't mind seeing the celebrities, especially those who can play the game.

"Some of them have become really good players," Hachem said Tuesday after he was eliminated. "Tobey has really made himself into a good player, and he's very competitive."

In previous years, when players were put into the tournament by Internet gambling sites, many Hollywood celebrities and B-list actors bought their way into the event, hoping to score at least $10,000 worth of publicity. Hachem thinks that's no longer the case.

"Honestly, the Hollywood crowd have turned out some pretty good players," Hachem said. "The old story is that actors want to be rock stars and rock stars want to be actors, but they both want to be poker players. Actually, we have some poker players who want to be actors."

Garrett said actors such as Maguire, who recently starred in his third "Spider-man" blockbuster, don't need the publicity from appearing in a poker tournament.

"I don't think it has anything to do with publicity," Garrett said. "Poker is a great game and we're all competitive. We all want to win."

Television talk show host Montel Williams made it into the second round but survived play for just an hour. He said most of the celebrities who buy into the championship event are dedicated poker players.

Williams said he was playing in support of the American military, using an Armed Services coin as a card cover.

"This was my first time here, but I'll be back," Williams said. "I'm going to continue to play in some tournaments and be ready for next year."

Past champs get early exits is republished from