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Card Room Million VI Diary

by Warren Lush |  Published: Jul 01, 2008


Friday, May 2 -- 10:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 3 -- 6 p.m.

I got to Venice and checked in on the liner. I met Mike Sexton at the airport; he then headed off for seat 1A while I wandered up the back. I sat down intending to sleep, and couldn't help but notice the man next to me was reading Kill Everyone by Lee Nelson. He was obviously not going for a romantic weekend with his wife in a gondola, and we started talking. He was from Melbourne and was about to play in his first live tournament after qualifying online. His wife had the look of a poker widow about her, but was really looking forward to chilling out on the top deck. Soon after arriving on board, we had a cocktail reception. Mike Sexton and Mark Tenner made introductions on behalf of Card Player Cruises. The really noticeable thing was the number of Germans on board. The likes of Sebastian Ruthenberg and Florian Langmann made up a contingent that was to account for 20 percent of the main-event field.

Sunday, May 4 -- 6 p.m.
The main event was under way after a stop in Bari, Italy, with 171 runners and a prize pool of more than $1.3 million. I took a walk around the tables and looked for people who might be potential runners for the title. I spotted Thomas "Buzzer" Bihl and Mike "Timex" McDonald; I definitely would have to keep an eye on those two. I then caught up with Tournament Director Matt Savage and his lovely wife, Mary Ann. He'll never let me forget briefly wearing a crimpled suit on the Million V. Suffice it to say, I was prepared for the ribbing, and my suit didn't have even the tiniest hint of a crease this time around. That said, how will I ever be as smooth as that man? He was talking about the fact he was going to run the tournament at the Asian Poker Tour event in Manila -- and I was very jealous.

Tuesday, May 6 -- 11:30 p.m.
Johannes Strassmann from Bonn, Germany, was completely running over the field early on. I pondered whether the eventual winner could be Jamie Gold-like in terms of domination. I remember being at the 2006 World Series of Poker, and everyone was saying that someone couldn't dominate the event like that without being bound to run out of steam at some point. He didn't. Strassmann then started to lose chips. The players to look out for now seemed to be two fellow Germans: Dominik Stopka and Alexander Jung. Stockholm's Andreas Jorbeck, an online qualifier who was also the winner of this year's Late Night Poker, was also going strong. I quite fancied his chances.

The disco on the 13th floor was lively; Matt Savage had to step in and adjudicate a few times, but not on any tournament matter; he had to try to keep guys away from his wife. Perhaps the rock on her finger wasn't big enough! I never knew poker players danced so much.

Wednesday, May 7 -- 3 p.m.
Today, I got off the boat in Istanbul and headed straight for the Grand Bazaar. When you think about Istanbul, you tend to conjure up images of a steaming and stifling heat, but today was more like an early spring day in Manchester. I got off the liner and then went straight back on it to put on warmer clothes. I sat and drank coffee while watching a taxi driver back up, very narrowly missing a tram. I also had a kebab, but it seemed to be filled with potato and only a smattering of meat. Istanbul is quite a city, however, and the mosques are quite a spectacle.

I started thinking about my studies at university. I specialized in the diplomatic machinations of Austrian Chancellor Metternich and touched on the sultans of the Ottoman Empire. This knowledge served me well in the odd game of Trivial Pursuit, and now some of it came flooding back. Soon, however, my attentions returned to poker, and it was time to go back to the liner. There was a break in the main event today, but I was playing tonight and was looking forward to it.
10 p.m.

The side action was really heating up. Mike Sexton, Thomas Bihl, Christoph Haller, and Ralph Rudd were playing mixed games at a private table for tens of thousands of dollars. I played in a friendly sit-and-go alongside. The highlight was watching Mr. Savage bust out first with the best hand. It wasn't great news for me, however, as I busted out second and didn't shower myself in glory. Matt dealt the tournament after he busted out, so we couldn't help but call a floor manager as frequently as possible. You have to give a founder of the Tournament Directors Association the respect he deserves, all in good jest!

Thursday, May 8 -- 1 p.m.
It was the day of the final table, and I went to the cardroom to find Mike Sexton, Christoph Haller, and Ralph Rudd still at it at the table; that was one marathon session! They soon broke, with the intention of coming back at 3 p.m. I spoke to Mike, and he was down but certainly on his way back. Thousands had changed hands, and that was not including the weight bet between Ralph Rudd and Mike Sexton that I believe amounted to around $95,000. Both may have some work to do on that one after sitting in a cardroom on a cruise ship all week, methinks. Dominik Stopka and Alexander Jung were the chip leaders going to the final table, and Jung eventually triumphed, winning the $358,280 first prize and joining a list of previous winners that included Kathy Liebert, Erick Lindgren, Howard Lederer, Michael Gracz, and Mike Schneider. Jung was delighted; he's a player with some form and good cashes on the World Poker Tour and WSOP, but this was his biggest win by far. All of the Germans seemed delighted as a big group to have a piece of each other, so it was going to be a lively two days.

11:30 p.m.
I have to leave the boat tomorrow to head for my sister's wedding. I had taken the role of master of ceremonies, and the nerves were kicking in a little bit. Linda Johnson, the "First Lady of Poker," was at a private table, and a bet amongst colleagues was created in which I would play waiter for the night. I walked over, shouting, "Cocktails!" and she ordered. I then went and bought the drink myself and held my hand out for a tip (which I returned later on). I saw Linda later, and she said I was responsible for her being drunk, because I went up and did the same thing again, and the drinks weren't exactly small.

Friday, May 9 -- 11:30 p.m.
I got to the hotel for my sister's wedding. I looked like death warmed over, while everybody else was sparkly and excited. I got off at Dubrovnik this morning, which, I have to say, is one of the most stunningly scenic places I have ever seen. It seems weird that in the '90s, this was a war-ravaged, no-go area. My taxi driver was a big fan of Barry White, which seemed strange, but I eventually got to the airport, only for my flight to be delayed. This left me with 10 minutes to switch flights at Zagreb, and I had visions of missing the wedding and being cast into permanent family isolation. I spoke to a well-known poker player, who said that if worst came to worst, they could get a jet to come and pick me up, which was nice, but it also seemed very unworldly, especially as I was still unsure as to how much they had lost that week! I'm left with the feeling that everybody who went on the Million VI cruise certainly had a great time.