‘The’ game returns
to Wynn LV

Feb 14, 2006 4:48 AM

Steve Wynn was fascinated.

"This was a pristine, flawless" example of gambling, he said. "Every hand was like the last hand at the World Series of Poker. There was usually a hundred or a hundred-and-fifty thousand on the table before you ever saw a flop."

That was the Wynn Las Vegas chairman offering his view of the big on-going Texas hold ”˜em game in his casino, where Dallas billionaire Andy Beal is squared-off against a coalition of world class poker pros, folks like Todd and Doyle Brunson, Jennifer Harman, Ted Forrest, Howard Lederer and Barry Greenstein, to name a few.

Each side put up at least $10 million, but they are willing to reach deeper into their respective pockets, as Beal takes on the pros one at a time.

Ah, the things rich people do to see who’s got the right stuff. It’s what makes the rest of us slow down to take a look as we go by.

Forrest enjoyed some of the best success against Beal as of early this week, playing him about 18 hours since action began during the week before Super Bowl Sunday. They broke for the game. Beal went home down a little over three million, later telling people he was through with poker.

Maybe he meant it, or maybe he was trying a little misdirection, shaking off some of the people intent on following this game.

Beal is confident of an eventual win. Texas Hold ’em, for Beal, is a challenge in need of a solution. He wants to have that eventual win accurately reported. So he has kept certain writers close to him.

The rest of the news media can, is his words, go fly a kite.

But this kind of poker action is not going to slip under the radar, not when it’s played in a high profile Las Vegas casino, not when high-stakes poker has become something of a spectator sport coveted by major networks.

What Beal and the pros ought to do is sell the rights to a major a TV network. Then there are the subsidiary merchandising possibilities, and let’s not forget the popcorn sales.

That’s what poker has become — big business and entertainment. And while we’re at it, let Daniel Negreanu handle the marketing because some of these poker pros have the PR instincts of secret agents.

Negreanu shakes his head, at that attitude, saying some of the guys and gals angling for poker table jackpots — people who are his friends — fail to grasp the importance of publicity.

In any case, Beal flew back to Las Vegas on Saturday and the players were back in action this past Sunday. If they stay true to form, the limits are fifty and a hundred thousand.

Sunday was a big day for Beal. He beat Harman for $5 million, according to Forrest, who was driving back from Los Angeles to be available in the event Beal got Todd Brunson, Monday’s expected opponent, into trouble.

Forrest said today (Monday) that Beal’s game has improved considerably. He describes the Dallas banker as a "good hold’em player," whose skills have advanced to the point he can take on the best.

Wynn agrees, and praised the skills demonstrated by both Beal and Forrest, describing Forrest as "maybe the best limit hold ”˜em player in the world."

Wynn was recovering from knee surgery and didn’t know what was shaping up in the casino until his head of operations, Marc Schorr, called with the juicy details.

"Hey, Steve, you’ll never believe what we’ve got going on," Schorr said.

Wynn, who has played a hand or two of poker in his time, was fascinated and followed the ups and downs of the competition. He said he had previously met Beal but had nothing to do with the arrangements that brought the game to Wynn Las Vegas.

Beal and the pros have previously spent most of their playing time at Bellagio, where a top executive said the first time Beal showed up there was several years ago. He wandered into the card room and sat down in something like a $75-$150 Hold’em game.

Beal played for several days before cornering an executive, wanting to know if it was possible to find a much bigger game, something with more "kick" to it.

It turns out there was such a game.

Beal has reportedly invited the pros to Texas, but some of the group’s big thinkers, people such as Lederer, are reluctant to play a game of this size anywhere but in a licensed and regulated casino.

Forrest was asked about the likelihood this game may attract other well-heeled poker players able to play at the level that attracted Beal.

He thought for a moment, finally saying, "There’s Michael Jordan, he’s got an open invitation."