ML - Vegas Magazine

2013 - Issue 7 - November

Vegas Magazine - Niche Media - There is a place beyond the crowds, beyond the ropes, where dreams are realized and success is celebrated. You are invited.

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Page 51 of 131

POWER STRIP Poker legend Doyle Brunson doffed his trademark cowboy hat to pose with Dalla in front of Binion's in 2002, his first year on the job. 50 VIEW FROM THE TOP Nolan Dalla's Vegas. favorite golf course "I despise private country-club elitism. When I play, I tend to take my 25 handicap to Angel Park in Summerlin." top spot for dinner with the wife "We are not Strip people who follow celebrity chefs and pay for overpriced food served by snooty waiters. Instead, we prefer smaller, family-owned businesses. Favorites include King's Fish House [in Henderson], The Flame in the El Cortez, and Khoury's Mediterranean." best venue for live music "Wherever the Lon Bronson All-Star Band is playing. This group is made up of the best show musicians in Vegas. They get together once a month to jam, and it's the best free night out in town." favorite place for a run "I live to eat and drink, so my daily run is mandatory. My favorite track is the side streets that surround The Lakes, where we live. And the hotter it is outside, the better the run." cool projects The now-in-production poker reality TV show Poker Night in America, on which Dalla serves as creative director, and an entertainingly acerbic blog at PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF NOLAN DALLA (BRUNSON, WSOP); BY DENISE TRUSCELLO/WIREIMAGE FOR LG ELECTRONICS MOBILE COMM (MONEYMAKER) continued from page 49 gambler, penning his first poker article in 1993 (he's published more than 500 since) and creating Card Player magazine's still-used Player of the Year system in 1997. Then the struggling casino Binion's Horseshoe, owner of the WSOP, hired him as its public relations man. It was a job that Dalla didn't necessarily want. "But they made me an extraordinary offer," he says. "I was told that I could continue to play poker and bet sports, I'd be paid $50,000 a year—and I could drink on the job." Dalla was now officially a poker insider, but how could he have known that his first full year on the job would be a magical year for the game? That's when Chris Moneymaker, an unassuming accountant from Nashville, lucked his way into a seat at the WSOP Main Event via an $86 online satellite tournament and wound up winning the whole thing. He had the perfect name, the perfect backstory, and the perfect amount of chutzpah. Still, Dalla didn't think much of it until the next morning, as he was trying to sleep in. "My two cell phones were continually vibrating," he says. "I looked down to see 31 messages on one phone, and the other's voice mail was full." David Letterman and Jay Leno both wanted Moneymaker on their shows. The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune wanted interviews. For the first time, the mainstream media cared about poker, and everyone wanted to know about the World Series. In the meantime, Binion's couldn't pay its bills. Gaming Control agents shut down the Horseshoe, and Harrah's (now Caesars Entertainment) bought it at a TOP: Champ Chris bargain-basement price. "The World Series of Poker was an afterMoneymaker shows Paris Hilton the ropes. thought, and Harrah's almost canceled it," says Dalla. "They had just BOTTOM: Dalla emcees bought this dog of a casino that was falling apart, the staff was dysthe WSOP at Binion's. functional, and the PR guy drank on the job." What happened next, he says, shocked everyone. Inspired by Moneymaker, more than 2,500 players showed up the following year, willing to pay the Main Event's $10,000 entry fee for a shot at being the next nobody-turned-somebody. "Attendance tripled, and we had the same amount of floor space," Dalla says. "Tables were brought in from other casinos. Players had to sit in uncomfortable folding chairs. It was chaos, but great chaos. The fire marshal almost shut us down." He hesitates a beat before adding, "Harrah's realized that they had lightning in a bottle, but the bottle was too small." A year later, with the number of entrants doubling, the tournament moved to the Rio, becoming a much more controlled, commercial enterprise. Having peaked at 8,773 players in 2006, this year the field settled at a comfortable 6,352. World Series tournaments take place at Caesars properties around the country, and there's even a European iteration. This month, though, all eyes will be on Vegas, with Dalla focused on the Main Event's final table, managing media and watching the play go down. Asked to predict the eventual winner, Dalla offers up the chip leader and current favorite, J.C. Tran. "But if they all started with the same chips," he says, "I'd like Amir Lehavot. He's not a loose cannon, but he's got just enough recklessness in him to win." Sounds a little like Dalla himself. V VEGASMAGAZINE.COM 049-050_V_SP_PowerStrip_Nov13.indd 50 10/22/13 11:21 AM

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