His friends call him Champ. And he was the night of the $1,000 buy-in No Limit Hold Em event at the 2002 World Poker Open. David took first place and $78,824 in prize money.
I first noticed David when I was wandering around the World Poker Open during the Omaha Pot-Limit Tournament on Friday, January 18th. I was looking for name players. When I found one I would stand by their table and watch them play a few hands. Somehow I ended up watching David’s play and I had to ask myself why was I there and not watching TJ or someone else. Then it hit. David looked more confident than most of the names I saw. He looked like a winner. If it was a ring game, I know I wouldn’t have sat down to play at David’s table.
David didn’t win the Omaha event (one of three games he likes – the other two are Pot Limit Hold Em, and of course No Limit) – he placed 22nd. Good thing, because if he had gotten to the final table in Omaha (held at 4 p.m. January 19th), he wouldn’t have entered the $1,000 buy-in NLHE tournament that started at noon the 19th.
I was lucky enough to talk to David the morning after his big win and here is his story:
David started playing poker over 25 years ago in Belton Texas, where he was a regular at Pro Davis’ and Lee Johnsons’ games. In the late 1970s, David would also head to Las Vegas to play in the monthly tournaments held in the Golden Nugget’s card room (it closed down some years ago). Among others, T.J. Cloutier was a frequent player there. It wasn’t long before David picked up the nickname of “Champ.”
In the late 1980s David played in Charles Bissell’s big Dallas NLHE game, made famous in T.J. Cloutier’s books. It was in these games that T.J. coined Big Slick the “Walking Back to Houston Hand,” because so many players went flat broke on the hand and even wagered their cars. Playing against the likes of T.J., Buck Buchanan and Ken Smith, David acquired the hard-edged experience that he uses in tournaments today.
When asked about some of the other players who influenced him, David wanted to make sure I mentioned Doyle Brunson, who has been a loyal friend as well as mentor. As with a lot of poker players, David was down to the felt one time, and was re-staked by Speedy Meyers, from Killeen, Texas.
David first started playing in the main ป๊อกเด้ง ไฮโล event at the WSOP in 1980 when he won a satellite to get there. He has played in the $10,000 buy-in at the WSOP a total of eight times. In 1997 David made it to number eight in the Big One before being knocked out by Stu Ungar. Stu was on a roll that year. Free of his personal demons for a time, he was playing some of the best poker of his life.
David is also an avid golfer, often playing with Dewey Tomko (runner up in the 2001 WSOP championship). Stu Ungar, however, was a notoriously bad golfer – losing hundreds of thousands on the course. David remembers when Jack Binion used to run a golf tournament for all the WSOP participants, where the betting overshadowed the tee shots and putts. They’d let Stu tee it up from wherever he wanted: from the ladies’ tees, from 100 yards down the fairway if he wanted, from the sandtraps too.
I asked David about his play in this year’s $1,000 buy-in NLHE event at the WPO, and here are his highlights: David caught big the first hand of the event. Sitting with an 8,8 pocket pair, he watches as the flop delivers a third 8 for a set. The other player went broke on the hand, doubling David up. David plays a strong tournament and finds himself in a $20,000 pot with A,K and only 15 players left. An A,J beats him when a jack spikes the board and instead of $35,000 (which would have got him to the final table with the 2nd largest stack), David is left with just $15,000 (and the 7th stack size). The final table includes Phil Hellmuth, Skip Wilson, Hung Le and Peter Vilandos.
As with any tournament, you gotta catch some cards at the end, and David does. His biggest hand is K,K on the button against an all-in from one of England’s top players, Ian Dobson, who held an A,10. A $50,000 pot. Later David has A,A on the button against an all in Q,10s from Gerry Craft and picks up a decent pot. Gerry finishes 4th and we are three-handed.
David took total control of the table with just he and Hung Le and Peter Vilandos left, as his long experience came into play. David switches gears from aggressive to tight to aggressive again, and always seems to make the correct move. When David comes over the top, Le or Peter reluctantly fold. David admitted that he had a read on both opponents. At this point David has close to $60,000 in chips, with Le in the lead with around $100,000.
He did get clipped once, when Peter went all in with A,J and David called with J,10s (David had made the initial raise and was pot committed). David is now third with only $30,000 in chips. Again, he plays a perfect game, stealing at will and backing down when either of the two has a strong hand.
David knocks out Peter Vilandos when Peter goes all in with Q,10s and David has J,J. David is now chip leader and it is Le who must play catch up.
The final hand finds a board of Q,9,5,7 and Le going all in on the turn card. David watches Le intensely before calling. They both flip over their cards: David has 4,4; Le an A,10. Another correct read by David. The river is a blank and David takes first place prize money of $78,834 and the coveted bracelet.
Tournament coordinator Jack McClelland said, “I’ve been trying to give David a bracelet for over 20 years now.”
I don’t think we’ll have to wait another 20 years for David to win his next bracelet.