Two weeks at the 2022 World Series of Poker – Tampa Bay Elite Poker League

Every year Mark (Winchell) and I head out to the WSOP for about 2 weeks – just long enough that our dog Gabby (aka Doge) doesn’t think we died and are never coming back.

Generally we take Southwest to get there the fastest and every year they change our ticket a month or so ahead of time to be the worst possible time -this year it even changed to two stops on the way. We then changed it back to something reasonable. I guess it’s better than the flight being canceled as we’ve heard about Spirit Airlines.

We drink on the flight to warm up for Vegas

Pro Tip: For an extensive Vegas stay, if you are a coffee drinker, the more expensive the hotel the less likely they’ll be a coffee maker in the room. Bring a hot pot to boil water, your favorite coffee, filters and a pour over coffee holder and you don’t need a coffee maker. Also – I experimented – you can bring those little half and half creamers in your luggage and they don’t explode on the plane!

Every year there seems to be memorable moments during the World Series of Poker.

Memories of the 2019 World Series of Poker:

-Phil Ivey busts level 1 of the Main Event in Rio bowling alley. A group of Tampa Bay players found themselves playing in the Rio bowling alley for the huge “Big 50” tournament due to the record number of players. That’s actually where Mark got to know AJ Kelsall.

-Player gets DQ’d for mooning table. He also threw his shoe at the dealer.

-7.1 earthquake sent players running. It was toward the end of that trip for us so we were pretty happy to be going home. There were two earthquakes.

In 2020 the regular WSOP was canceled but there was an online version. Ryan Depaulo won a bracelet sitting in a store parking lot by himself in New Jersey.

In winter of 2021 the crowds were limited due to the WSOP requiring vaccination against COVID. The weather was wonderful that time of year and Mark and I played our first Main Events – we had both won our seats over the past year or so in the Elite Tampa Bay Poker league. My table was picked to be a feature table during our day 1D of the Main so it was a pretty amazing experience. We both made day 2 and I made it to the tail end of day 3. I really need to win another seat and try to cash!

WSOP 2022 had it’s share of stories. With no COVID restrictions in place, there seemed to be way more international players in the events and there were near record breaking fields. Along with this, as a “super spreader” type event, most poker players knew at least one person who came down with COVID during their trip. Quite a few dealers and players wore masks but many didn’t. Not sure if it made a difference. Even famous player Phil Helmuth caught COVID during the series and we just read that Kara Scott has it.

There were Tweeted pictures/videos of a Golden Nugget table where a Joker was dealt in a hand and the Floor took one look, shook his head, and walked away. Another picture showed two 3 of spades on the same board at the WSOP. Allegedly the WSOP threatened to ban anyone who shared the picture. There was a new dealer at the WSOP who, when told to color up the chips (when the smaller chips start coming off of the table in exchange for bigger denominations), instead of swapping out all the small denomination chips, they scooped up everyone’s stacks combined them all into racks. It took an hour just to rectify the situation while the other tables continued playing.

There was an attempt to blackmail Daniel Negreanu during the series. The Canadian pro received an anonymous phone call from a man who wanted an undisclosed sum of money. The caller claimed to know about Negreanu’s secret past. The claim was that Negreanu used to live in Havasu Lake, AZ, where he abandoned a secret family to live in Vegas. 

Pro Alex Livingston Tweeted, after winning his WSOP Bracelet “Lost my bracelet within 20 minutes of receiving it. Do I wish this was a joke? Yes. Is this a joke? No. Have o8 day 2 restart now, lmk if anyone finds it. Possibly at the coffee place at Paris entrance.”

During the WSOP Ladies Event a woman tried to bring chips from a previous tournament into play. At first she was just given one round penalty when they thought she just had tournament chips in her pocket (thinking it was a mistake). Then when they realized she was actually trying to cheat she was disqualified. I think it was at least a day later before someone actually banned her from WSOP events (and I’m guessing Caesars Properties). Not sure why the delay. Toward the tail end of the series well known poker pro Scotty Nguyen late registered the Main Event on Day two and received his 60,000 tournament chips. He put them in his pocket and when he got to the table he claimed he didn’t get his chips. When the floor went to get him chips he finally brought out the chips from his pocket. He was given a penalty but that’s all. They blamed it on him being drunk.

Earlier in the series occasional poker spokesperson/Mike Postle taker downer Veronica Brill teamed up in the Tag Team Event with K.L. Cleeton who, despite being paralyzed from the neck down, plays professionally and coaches poker players. They made a grand entrance with an entourage of people all wearing matching money outfits, gold hats, blasting music, and throwing around $100 bills which looked incredibly real. We were the fortunate people to have the seat immediately on their right so the focus became more on a good time than winning. There may have been Tequila shots. It was interesting watching how K.L. plays – he has an assistant – a friend or his Dad took turns – make the moves with his chips but he controls all of the action. He’s a pretty aggressive player. Veronica spent most of her time socializing. They are filming a documentary about K.L. so all of this was being filmed.

Another story from this year’s series was about player Frank “The Tank” getting one of the WSOP Massage therapists fired when he posted a photo of her massaging his nipples. Apparently that’s not allowed.

this year I played the new WSOP $1 Million Bounty Tournament and Eli Elezra sat down two seats to my right. Everyone at the table glanced at each other with an “oh shit” look on their faces (except the guy on my right who didn’t know who he was). I check raised him in a hand getting a snap fold so that made me feel like a semi-pro. It’s a great move for someone like me who looks like everyone’s Mom who is playing their first tournament. Christoph Vogelsang, a German pro, was then seated to my right. For those that have never heard of him here’s his Wikipedia:

In October 2013, Vogelsang cashed in his first major tournament, the EPT London £50,000 Super High Roller where he finished 3rd for £383,200 ($621,321). He participated in the 2014 $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop finishing 3rd for $4,480,001. In June 2017, he won the 2017 Super High Roller Bowl and earned $6,000,000. As of March 2020, Vogelsang’s live tournament earnings exceed $25,000,000. He’s kind of a good player.

Anyway he was nice enough, he even let me know that the way I peek at my cards was making them slightly visible to him and said he wasn’t looking but probably someone else would. I did my check raise move on him a few times successfully. The odd thing he did was, about 30 minutes AFTER our 75 minute dinner break he reaches in this little lunch pail thing he had and pulls out a bowl with what looked like big hunks of shredded wheat, poured milk on it and started eating it at the table. Maybe that’s his secret? The good think about Christoph being at the table was he is known for “tanking”, that is playing really slow. Our tabled played half as many hands as other tables as we were approaching the money bubble. I was getting short on chips so that helped me get in the money. Then he knocked me out (AQ<77). OMG I cashed a WSOP Event!

Our poker league sent 5 members to play in the WSOP Main Event even though we played only one season due to the late year WSOP last year. After some deep runs Victor Iemolo was the last man standing from the League cashing for $21K!!! A bunch of players in the league were in Vegas, many league alumni also played in the Main Event along with some league members who played besides the season winners. It’s pretty cool having a group of friends around when you are on vacation. Whenever we are in Vegas for the WSOP we see so many people from the Tampa Bay Area that we know. The League has really made our lives much fuller – we have made so many friends.

Steve “The Godfather” Trizis made his way out to Vegas after deciding he wasn’t going to go and changing his mind. He tried to convince us that this was his Tag Team Event partner. Steve ran the ETBPL for many years and is on the Executive Committee. He can also answer any questions about the League. Steve was quoted as saying that “everyone else is playing for second” this season of the League. He’s cashed the Main at least twice so we kind of don’t mind when he wins a seat.

Early this trip I played a LIPS Ladies event at MGM and locals Terri-Anne Crawford was at my table in the beginning and later Susan McPherson was at the final table with me (who knocked me out 8th)! Tara Schwartz was there too. Tampa Bay was well represented.

I played in a ladies meet up game sponsored by the WPT (World Poker Tour) with many well known female poker pros/media personalities and am proud of my check raise when Xuan Liu tried to steal a pot for a pretty decent amount considering we were playing $1/$3 cash. I won a WPT tournament seat that was added as a “splash” to the pot too.

When we weren’t playing WSOP events we were playing the daily Aria Classic events and sometimes cash. Our 5th anniversary was July 6th and we were married in the “Ivey Room” at the Aria Poker room so we celebrated by playing an Aria tournament. Friends were playing events all over the place – every big poker room – Venetian, Wynn, Golden Nugget, Etc. has a series going on so it’s like the “Mecca” for poker players during the WSOP. MGM had a new HUGE series going on with overlays and huge guarantees – it helped offset the loss of the series that Planet Hollywood used to have.

We generally just eat quick meals when we go but did get to Todd Brunson’s Roma Deli off strip and our favorite Lux Cafe at the Palazzo (there’s two – one at Venetian one at Palazzo – exactly the same but Palazzo not so busy) It’s actually owned by Cheesecake Factory. We also tried the Guy Fieri place at the Linq. Worth going to.

The new location of the WSOP on the strip was fantastic! Lots of room, easy to get to. We used the Monorail quite a bit – the stop is super close to the convention centers. We stayed on that side of the strip at MGM/MGM Signature and Planet Hollywood. All great locations. Pro tip: They sell weekly Monorail passes and if you play that “My Vegas Slots” MGM app on facebook they have a bogo offer on the pass as a reward.

In the end we had a great two weeks and fortunately went home before the end of the series when there was that “shooter” scare. We both cashed some events – Mark did better than I did but I did better than I have in the past in events and had my first WSOP Cash! Wheel of Fortune was better to me than poker…. We played the WSOP Tag team, Mini Main, Ladies Event (me), Monster Stack (Mark who cashed), Bounty (I cashed) Main Satellite, Aria Dailies (Mark Cashed 2X), MGM Satellite and MGM Event (Mark Cashed), MGM Ladies (I cashed), Wheel of Fortune (I cashed).

I’m really looking forward to the new season of the Elite Tampa Bay Poker league and seeing many of the players from the past rejoin. We’ve had 40++members in the past pre-COVID and I’d like to see that again! I thought I’d share some pictures from the past few years of the league. If you’d like to join us it starts August 4th, 6:30 at Derby Lane. Go to the “About the League” page on Tampabaypoker.com for the full details.

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