1 jun. 2004

Road to poker glory through the Internet

CNN.com:

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (AP) -- Call it the Moneymaker Effect.

For the second straight year, an Internet unknown won the famed World Series of Poker on Friday, ravaging a field of professional players on his way to glory and riches.

Greg "Fossilman" Raymer, a patent lawyer from Stonington, Conn., earned a spot in the 35th annual No-Limit Texas Hold'Em event after winning a $150 satellite tournament on PokerStars.com.

The victory would have been astonishing had it not been for Chris Moneymaker's first-place finish in 2003. The 28-year-old accountant's improbable win rocked the poker world, ushering in an era in which a nobody could topple the feared pros.

Moneymaker landed a seat in last year's finals after coming out on top in a $40 Internet tournament. His tiny investment earned him $2.5 million, while Raymer pocketed a record $5 million this year.

"I played the best poker of my life and I got as lucky as I've ever gotten in my life for such a sustained period of time," Raymer said after winning the final table Friday night. "I was able to advance past a lot of great, great players."

Whatever advantage the pros once held over the amateurs seems to have dissipated, experts say. The Internet has leveled a playing field once ruled by the game's old guard.

"Players can get a huge amount of experience in a short time playing online and can translate that into success in major tournaments," said Dan Goldman, vice president of marketing for PokerStars.com.

Raymer, 39, wasn't the only Internet player to land at Friday's nine-person table, which was the dramatic finale to a grueling seven-day tournament at Binion's Horseshoe Hotel & Casino. PokerStars.com also sent David Anthony Williams, 23, Matt Dean, 25, and Mike McClain, a 39-year-old pro. They finished second, seventh and ninth, respectively.

In No-Limit Texas Hold'Em, players are dealt two cards each and can use five communal cards to make the best poker hand. The betting is nonstop and players can risk everything on a single turn of a card.

In all, about 40 percent of the 2,576 people who made it to the final tournament came from the Internet, Goldman said. Competitors who didn't win an Internet or casino satellite tournament put up a $10,000 buy-in fee.

The success of Internet poker players is no mystery: They take plenty of chances and play very aggressively.

Dan Harrington, the 1995 World Series of Poker champion, found that out on his last hand Friday. Williams had just a pair of deuces with two cards left to show, but kept pressing and knocked Harrington out when the fifth and final community card gave Williams a full house.

This rapid, no-fear play shatters the saying that poker is hours of boredom punctuated by seconds of terror, said Andrew Glazer, an editor for Card Player Magazine, who also writes a gambling column for the Detroit Free Press.

"Internet players move their chips all in more frequently than players who frequent card rooms or casinos," Glazer said. "They understand you can take a lot of skill out of the game by turning it into big-bet poker."

The World Series of Poker lends itself to high-stakes betting because the chips don't represent real money. Although some players paid a lot for their seat at the table, they can't dig further into their life savings, nor can they just take their winnings and go home.

Luck, of course, also is a big part of Internet players' success. Moneymaker's ran out in this tournament, where he was booted out the first day.

But John Vorhaus, who writes for UltimateBet.com and is the author of "Killer Poker," a book on game strategies, said this year's victory proves the Internet winner is no fluke.

"I think 2004 will be a watershed year in the way the Internet player is viewed," Vorhaus said. "The evidence is overwhelming. These guys got game."

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