Where They Were Before


The largest poker tournament in the world is the annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) hosted by the Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas.  The idea of the WSOP began in 1970 with Benny Binion, who sponsored the famous 5-month match between Nick “the Greek” Dandolos and Johnny Moss.  Watched by thousands, the media took over, as winning the WSOP became the ultimate goal for poker players around the world.


The 2005 WSOP champion, Joe Hachem, was born in Lebanon on March 11, 1966.  After moving to Melbourne, Australia, as a child, Joe went on to a successful career as a chiropractor.  For 13 years, Joe pursued his career until a fateful diagnosis was made of a rare blood disorder affecting his hands.  No longer able to continue as a chiropractor, he found a job as a mortgage broker and played poker in his spare time.  Joe realized the potential of making big money with poker after playing in various casino and online tournaments.  He entered the WSOP with the required $10,000 buy-in and emerged champion in the biggest challenge of his life.  Joe, a true Aussie, was the first from his country to win the main event, taking home $7,500,000.


Greg Raymer, also known as “The Fossilman”, so named due to his using fossils for card protectors, was born in Minot, North Dakota.  A virtual unknown in the world of poker, Greg lived a modest life as a practicing attorney for a pharmaceutical company in Southeastern Connecticut.  Greg’s game was blackjack for a time, but he moved on in the early 1990’s to playing nickel and dime poker with his fraternity brothers.  He tried blackjack and card counting for a while, but decided that playing poker was less risky.  Playing in local charity games near Chicago, Greg soon discovered satellite tournaments and went on to win the WSOP tournament and $5,000,000 in 2004.


Chris Moneymaker played bridge with his grandmother at an early age in Tennessee, and later, blackjack with his Dad.  Chris managed to get his Master’s Degree in Accounting at the University of Tennessee, but always found time to devote to his one passion in life, playing poker.  From the movie “Rounders”, Chris, like many others, discovered the magic of professional poker.  After winning a satellite tournament and the WSOP buy-in, Chris walked into Binion’s and in a stunning finish captured the $2,500,000 prize as the 2003 WSOP champion.  Chris Moneymaker had found poker to be the real moneymaker in his life.



Robert Varkonyi, born in New York, New York on October 7, 1961, began playing penny ante poker in the game of Mexican Sweat or Texas 7s.  Robert earned his Master’s Degree in Computer Science and Management at MIT and embarked on a career on Wall Street building trading systems and a position as Vice President of Goldman Sachs.  Robert entered various WSOP satellite tournaments in 1995 and was finally convinced to enter a single table tournament, hoping for a chance at the WSOP championship.  Emerging as the winner of the WSOP in 2002, with $2,000,000, Robert still considers himself an amateur, a semi-professional who thoroughly enjoys the fun of poker.  


Carlos Mortensen, full name Juan Carlos, also known as El Matador, is a handsome, young poker player.  Carlos was born in Ambato, Ecuador on April 13, 1972 to a Spanish mother and Danish father.  After the family moved to Madrid when Carlos was 15, he became interested in playing chess and poker.  Since playing poker for money was illegal in Spain and poker games were rare, Carlos took advantage of playing at a private club in Madrid where he worked as a bartender.  After dabbling in various part-time jobs, Carlos decided to go to America on a 3-month visa.  While making several trips back and forth from Spain to America, he perfected his poker skills and eventually moved to Las Vegas.  Here, at the age of 29, Carlos eliminated 612 other contestants to win $1,500,000 as WSOP champion in 2001.


Since its inception over thirty years ago, the WSOP continues to attract more poker players and media attention.  The fascination and excitement of the WSOP grows with even greater moments as the unexpected occurs.  Who will be the next winner is anyone’s guess, but it is certain that someone will realize his or her dream of winning the WSOP.


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