Butler of Rockville folds way to 5th place



Las Vegas -- Armed with a relatively small stack of chips and getting few playable hands, Rockville insurance agent Rhett Butler mostly folded his way to more than $3.2 million by finishing fifth in the World Series of Poker Texas Hold 'em World Championship that ended yesterday.

The marquee event of poker was won by a former show business agent from Malibu, Calif., Jamie Gold, who pocketed a record $12 million after he personally eliminated seven of his eight competitors at the final table. The marathon tournament, which requires a $10,000 buy-in, had begun on July 28 with 8,773 players at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

Butler started the day with just 4.8 million chips, the seventh-largest stack among the nine survivors. In contrast, Gold began the round with more than 25 million.

Over the course of a long night, Butler struggled to hold onto his meager chip pile with a small rally that brought it above 6 million. Mostly, he folded his cards and when he did bet, his opponents dropped out, leaving him with small pots. "I know it looked like I was the tightest player in the world, so I did get some respect when I raised," said Butler, who spent his early childhood in Dundalk. "But it's tough when you're short-stacked."

The 45-year-old's conservative approach did help him move up the payoff ladder as contenders with more chips were knocked out. Butler was finally sent to the rail himself when, with a just a couple of million chips and the antes growing larger, he found himself all-in with pocket fours against Gold and poker pro Allen Cunningham. Gold flipped over king-jack and drew another jack. Butler will split just under half of his winnings with several investors.

It was the second year in a row that a Maryland player went to the WSOP final table. Last year, Severn accountant Steve Dannenmann finished second. A heavy poker player 20 years ago who has limited his card action to home games and the Internet more recently, Butler said that for now he's not giving up his day job. But he has signed with a poker agent and will entertain playing in more big-time tournaments.

Meanwhile, Gold, 36, is certain to become a familiar figure in the poker world over the next year, as has been the case with other World Series champions.

He had a dominant run at the poker main event as the chip leader for the last several days. His play was characterized by an incredible streak of luck and his tactic of talking with other players in showdown situations trying to convince them either to fold or bet.

"I was just in a zone where I felt I could manipulate people," Gold said. "Who knows if it will ever happen again. I was on a good run and I had people confused."

As Gold's stack grew, he used it to crush his opponents, including Cunningham, a four-time WSOP bracelet winner who finished fourth and made $3.6 million.

Michael Binger, who has a doctorate degree in physics from Stanford, was Gold's next victim and placed third, good for $4.1 million. Finally, Gold's pair of queens beat Paul Wasicka's pocket tens as the former restaurant manager collected $6.1 million.

With eyes bloodshot after his long night, Butler was left sorting out his emotions.

"It's not so much the disappointment of not winning the $12 million but just getting knocked out ... I didn't show emotion for 15 days and now I feel like crying," he said. " ... But the experience of playing here is great."


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