A protege flush: tips from the top and bankroll for four buy-in events

ON GAMBLING

Destination Mind Games

May 02, 2006|By BILL ORDINE

Donald Trump has his apprentices, and now poker pro Daniel Negreanu has his protege.

A 27-year-old Connecticut accountant won an unusual poker tournament prize yesterday when he outlasted nine other players in Toronto and earned the opportunity to be tutored by Negreanu in the art and science of holdin' 'em and foldin' 'em, plus a bankroll to enter four $10,000 buy-in tournaments.

Brian Fidler, the winner, plans to attend the World Poker Tour event at the Mirage in Las Vegas this month and the World Series of Poker main event at the Rio in Vegas this summer, as well as two yet-to-be-decided big-time tournaments. But he understands the more important benefit is the time he spends with and the advice he gets from Negreanu, who is considered one of the best all-around players in the world.

"Daniel made it quite clear he has a lot riding on me," Fidler said yesterday. "He doesn't want me to go and bust out of those tournaments quickly. He wants to help me be the best I can be."

The protege tournament was sponsored by a poker Web site, fullcontactpoker.com, where Negreanu has an affiliation. The 10 contestants at the final table got there in various ways; some in freeroll qualifiers and others in cash tournaments.

Fidler, who is moving to Stamford, Conn., in a few days, said he does most of his playing in the mammoth poker room at Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Conn., and until now, his best tournament showing was a second place that paid $1,500. He follows in a tradition of accountants who have had surprising big-time poker wins, such as 2003 WSOP main event winner Chris Moneymaker and 2005 main event runner-up, Severn's Steve Dannenmann.

When the protege final table came down to heads-up between Fidler and Sol Bergren of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the American had a big chip. In an all-in, Fidler's pocket jack-9 of diamonds turned into a flush for the win.

In two weeks, Fidler heads to Vegas for the Mirage tournament, where he expects to get some coaching from Negreanu. In Toronto, the 10 contestants spent time with the poker star partying into the wee hours, and the experience apparently gave the accountant a yen for the poker lifestyle.

"We got a quick taste of what it was like," said Fidler, who hopes to parlay this opportunity into making poker a serious pursuit.

"Definitely, that's the goal," he said. "Daniel told me his goal is to make me compete with all the best out there. ... [the protege tournament] was a tough competition, and he said that there's no reason why, with a little bit of teaching, I couldn't compete with those guys."

20-20 hindsight bet

Certainly the big winners at the NFL draft were the players chosen who stand to make millions with big contracts and, in some cases, astronomical signing bonuses. But out on the fringes of cyberspace's sports wagering universe, some nimble bettors also made a quick score.

Some offshore gambling Web sites take bets on the outcomes of non-game events, such as the Academy Awards, the Grammys and even TV reality shows, such as Survivor. And falling in that same general category is the NFL draft.

At least one offshore Web site, BetCRIS.com, contends it was caught off-guard Friday night when the Houston Texans signed North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams, making him the No. 1 pick. The Web site had Southern California running back Reggie Bush the big favorite and a wager that Bush would be drafted in any spot other than first paid 6-to-1.

The Web site's CEO, Mickey Richardson, said yesterday that some bettors were able to get wagers down on Bush as the non-No. 1 pick before the napping Web site could react. Richardson said the person who normally keeps track of such things for the Costa Rica-based Web site was "on vacation," and while he declined to say exactly how much it cost BetCRIS, he estimated close to "six figures."

Internet sports wagering is illegal in the United States, and at least one operator has been imprisoned.

In Nevada, where sports gambling is legal, state regulations limit wagering to sports game events.

"We tried to book the World Series of Poker, but [regulators] wouldn't let us do it," said Robert Walker, director of MGM Mirage race and sports book operations. "Things like the Academy Awards and the Grammys are obviously not sports events, and beyond that, you don't want to book something where someone could know the outcome, and that includes the first round of the NFL draft."

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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