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01 June 2008

Buddhists and businessmen: the class of 2005

 It’s hard to believe that three years have passed since that memorable July morning when, exhausted and euphoric, I won the 2005 World Series of Poker main event.

I have mixed feelings returning to Las Vegas each year – another year has passed by, but it’s great to catch up with so many friends and fans. As I prepare for the 2008 WSOP main event, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look at what’s happened to two of the other players that I shared the final table experience with at Binion’s Horseshoe back in 2005.

STEVE DANNEMANN: The runner-up in the 2005 WSOP main event, Steve remains the same down-to-earth guy with an interesting take on his place in poker history.

“It was just a poker tournament. I didn’t save a life, save a town from burning down, or give life to a child. I came in second in a poker tournament. Someone had to win, place and come in third regardless of how many people there were,” he said in a Bluff interview.

“My top achievements in life probably are starting my business, getting a college degree, staying out of trouble, getting my CPA certificate, treating people with respect, making my parents proud of me, being a good friend to friends and being a great CPA and financial advisor to my clients. Those are achievements in life ... don’t get me wrong what I did was an incredible feat but there are things more important to me.”

“My business has always been successful, so pretty much whatever I want, I just go out and buy anyway. I’ve got a very nice home and I vacation as much as I want.”

Steve is still a regular in East Coast events near his Maryland home, and we’re sure to see him at the 2008 WSOP with his mates.

“I get the same fix of excitement playing in a $10,000 tournament as I do in a $100 tournament at my house. We have a lot of really great players in my home game. I’m about the fifth best player in my home game.”

ANDY BLACK: It’s hard to think of two people more diverse than Andy Black and Steve Dannenmann. The Irishman was perhaps the most reluctant hero of the 2005 WSOP main event, in which he finished fifth.

Andy Black is a unique poker player, and an intriguing character. A former hard-living gambler, Andy’s run at the 1997 WSOP (he was14th in the main event) and downfall at the hands of the great Stu Ungar left him crippled with angst.

He disappeared from the poker circuit for five years, seeking sanctuary in a Buddhist monastery, from which he emerged a new player and a dominant force on the international tournament scene. Since the 2005 WSOP, he’s final-tabled at the Aussie Millions and EPT Grand Final and recently took out the Party Poker Premier League.

In a recent Bluff interview, he spoke about the relationship between Buddism and poker: Buddha said we are all mad. Everybody’s mad. I associate myself emotionally and psychologically with the idea of the court jester. In literature, the court jester was traditionally the wisest person, but he was also a bit mad.

“The truth is that, if you play poker, that’s your life. You’re sitting there for hours on end. For me to actually restrain myself all of that time would drive me even madder. So really, behaviour that others might perceive as mad is really just a ruse to retain my own sanity.”

Andy Black – one of the most fascinating millionaire poker-playing Irish Buddhists you’re ever likely to meet. You meet all sorts at the World Series of Poker – even the final table of the main event.

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