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Gaming Guru

Jeff Simpson

Jeff Simpson on the past two winners of the World Series of Poker's main event

29 October 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- A few weeks ago I viewed ESPN's telecast of the final table of the World Series of Poker championship event.

Harrah's Entertainment made an incredibly shrewd business decision in 2003 when it acquired the rights to the World Series of Poker, and the company has done a decent job with the event and its recognizable brand.

But after a couple of great final tables in 2004 and 2005, won by lawyer Greg Raymer and Australian chiropractor Joe Hachem, respectively, the WSOP has had a couple of bad years in terms of the players, and play, at the final table .

Last year Hollywood agent Jamie Gold won in a most irritating style, talking nonstop and goading his opponents into mistakes.

Even worse, Gold became embroiled in a bitter legal dispute over his reported failure to live up to an agreement to split his $12 million in winnings, a battle that diminished the champion in the eyes of many people in the poker business.

This year's winner, Jerry Yang, a Laotian-American from California, was way more likable than the obnoxious Gold, but the unassuming therapist found a way to annoy me during his final table triumph.

Yang, it seems, is a devout Christian. Good for him.

But there's something unseemly about a gambler, in the middle of a gambling event, beseeching God for help.

Among Yang's televised remarks at the final table were: "Let people see a miracle "; "Thank you Lord, Thank you God "; "Lord, you know you have a purpose for me "; and "I will glorify your name."

During one particularly tense hand, after all the chips had been pushed into the middle but a couple of cards had yet to be dealt, Yang asked for help.

"Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, let me win this one," he murmured.

Maybe it's me, but it just seems wrong to be asking God to deliver a card.

And maybe I'm the only one, but I'd sure like to see some old-time poker pro win the main event next year.

And I bet Harrah's and ESPN would too. • • •

I spend most of my time editing In Business Las Vegas, and if you've read In Business during the past year, you've seen a lot of front-page stories about problems in the Las Vegas residential real estate market.

Foreclosures here are the worst in the nation and will likely get worse. The subprime mortgage market has almost dried up.

The inventory of homes on the market is at an all-time high and existing home prices are dropping and are expected to drop even more.

Homebuilders are cutting back on building and some are thought to be getting ready to exit the market.

I'm often asked why we dwell on the negative, with the questioner suggesting that the negative news becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

First, we report what is happening. Stories about real estate sales, prices and foreclosures are based on the numbers, and in stories about where the market is heading we try to find the best experts available.

Second, what is negative news for those with houses to sell or for those counting on equity appreciation can be positive news for those hoping to buy a house or invest in real estate - as long as they can get the loans to buy.

And third, I didn't get any such criticism two and three years ago when we reported on the red-hot market, with its rapidly rising prices, homes selling hours after being listed and the huge influx of out-of-state investment.

Jeff Simpson on the past two winners of the World Series of Poker's main event is republished from