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Poker Heaven at the 2006 World Series of Poker

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The 2006 World Series of Poker is 50% complete in its 46th day. With twenty seven events done, over $30,000,000 has already been awarded to thousands of players. Everyone who's been there, winner or loser, has stories to tell.

Just being at the 2006 World Series of Poker is something every poker player or fan should experience. It is incredibly exhilarating to be in a huge crowd of people who all share your same fanatical interest. The immense hall itself, with over 200 poker tables, is breathtaking to behold. At any time of day or night, there are World Series of Poker events, live-action games and qualifying satellites all going on simultaneously. However you like your poker, all you've got to do is plunk down the cash and you're in the game. Or, for no money at all, you can simply watch the world's best poker players test their skills.

Sprinkled amongst the thousands of no-names, are those who are already legendary. Doyle Brunson, 73 years young and tooling around in his motorized chair; Howard Lederer's towering presence; Phil "The Unibomber" Laak in his trademark hooded sweatshirt, are all there and accessible. It is truly poker heaven.

Event #20, the $50,000 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. tournament, boasted the most star-studded poker field ever convened. Of course, entry is open to anyone who can put up the cash, but the heftiest entry fee in World Series of Poker history significantly reduced the number of amateur players. The result was each of the 18 tables being jammed with a murderer's row of the games most famous names. Phil Hellmuth, Barry Greenstein, John Juanda, Greg Raymer, Johnny Chan, Annie Duke, Scotty Nyugen, Chris Ferguson, Sammy Farha, Cyndy Violette, and Brunson father and son were all in. The mob of spectators excitedly pointed out their favorite stars. Because H.O.R.S.E. is a continuous loop of five different poker games, Texas Hold 'Em, Omaha, Razz, Stud, and Eight-or-Better, the winner will be considered the most skillful player in the world, the best of the best. On the third day of play, Phil Ivey took third place ($617,760), and Andy Bloch and stud specialist Chip Reese were left to grind it out for the coveted title. And grind they did, for seven hours of one-on-one play. 250 hands later, Poker Hall of Famer Reese emerged victorious. He won his third World Series of Poker bracelet and $1.7 million in prize money. You will definitely be seeing this one on TV. All in all, although I didn't compete nearly as well as I'd hoped, it was a fabulous experience. In the coming weeks, I will be closely following the continuing action, especially the World Championship Main Event which begins July 28, and has an expected prize pool of over $80,000,000.

If you'd like your crack at fame and fortune, it's not too late to get in. For a few bucks you can play in an online satellite against thousands of other hopefuls. Or, if you happen to have an extra $10,000 laying around.

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