Sunday, July 16, 2006

'cue with Hoyt and Raymer

One advantage to being a poker player from Alabama is that Hoyt Corkins by default takes a liking to you and invites you to his summer barbecue.

The “Alabama Cowboy” and his longtime girlfriend, Natalie, hosted the ‘cue at their Spanish Trail home for a number of friends and fellow players on Saturday afternoon.

Among the guests were Greg Raymer and his wife, Cheryl, David Plastik, Richard Brodie (a.k.a. Quiet Lion) and Ted Lawson, who won a WSOP Omaha tournament on ESPN last year. There were also a number of friends and associates, including former Playmate and Top Pair magazine proprietor Jill Ann Spaulding and her little poodle named Hold’em, complete with pink painted nails.

Clad in a straw Doyle’s Room hat and shorts and chomping on a cigar, Hoyt welcomed us into his lovely home situated on a golf course, with a basketball goal in the backyard and a player piano in the living room.

The ‘cue was flown in from Natalie’s hometown of Memphis and sides included baked beans and meatballs. It almost felt like being back home for us ‘Bama boys.

It was nice to meet Plastik because unbeknownst to me at the time, he was the player sitting to my left when I played my first WSOP event in 2004. (The photo you see under my moniker is from that event.) Of course Plastik didn’t remember me, but when I mentioned all of the players who were at one time or another at our table – Phil Hellmuth, Amir Vahedi, Blair Rodman, Dewey Tomko, Charlie Shoten and O’Neil Longson – he did recall the event. It’s also the one in which Daniel Negreanu famously rebought 27 times.

Brodie, as you may have heard, wrote the first lines of code for Microsoft Word, but he’s spent the last several years traveling the tournament circuit. He’s a solid player who has often flown under the radar because he hasn’t been on television much.

Raymer, Brodie and I spent several minutes discussing game shows after I inquired whether Raymer had ever tried out for Jeopardy! The man is a wealth of knowledge. As someone was trying to pet Hold’em, he mentioned that poodles were the number one biting breed of dogs. Raymer has not auditioned for Jeopardy!, but Brodie told me he flunked the test. (I’ve always heard the quiz was very hard, but to hear that someone of the Quiet Lion’s intellect couldn’t make it is proof enough for me.) An interesting tidbit about Brodie is that he appeared on the old game show Sale of the Century and won the grand prize (a trip to Hong Kong or something.) Raymer always wanted to be on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Me too…

As the evening drug on, Raymer and Corkins talked a lot of poker. Some interesting bits:

n They discussed the high blind structures at WPT final tables and Corkins’ all-in strategy versus Hellmuth. Both agreed you can get Phil to lay down a hand with a big bet. “Phil’s the best player to go all-in against,” Raymer said.
n Ever since Raymer won the main event with the 8d8s, he has not lost with that hand. He says he now plays those two cards every time, no matter the situation. “I’m not superstitious about anything else,” he said, “but I’m superstitious about that.”
n Cheryl Raymer joined in on the conversation concerning crowds at the WSOP. All said the railbirds are making it hard to get to the tables during the tournament and to get to the bathrooms and back, especially with so many people asking for autographs. Both players are very accommodating when it comes to autograph seekers also. “Last year during a 30-minute break I headed to the bathroom and got back to the table and was still three minutes late,” Corkins said.
n Raymer recalled an incident at last year’s WSOP in which he laid down a hand to a re-raise right before a break and signed an autograph for a guy in the hall a few minutes later. “Good fold,” the guy told him. The autograph seeker was one of the railbirds and was able to see that Raymer’s opponent was holding pocket kings because the man was not protecting his hand very well. Raymer said he holds his cards in front of his chips so that he has to look down over the chips to see his cards. “Unless Yao Ming is standing behind me, nobody is going to be able to see my hand,” he said.

As early Sunday morning approached, we all said our adieus. I’ll be playing my first main event this year. The “Alabama Cowboy” and “Tuscaloosa” Johnny agreed to meet again at the final table.

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