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Las Vegas Stories

A Secret Golf Course, The World Series of Poker and a Lesson 007 Should Learn
Michael Konik
From the Print Edition:
Bill Cosby, Autumn 94

(continued from page 1)

In fact, Shadow Creek has a couple of peculiar guidelines known as the Steve Wynn Rules that help preserve the experience of playing virgin sod: nobody may hit off the first tee until the green, more than 400 yards in the distance, has been vacated. If your ball is anywhere near flowers, foliage, trees or other natural wonders--you may move it and take a generous drop. And for goodness' sake, no matter what the fawning employees do for you, there is absolutely no tipping allowed.

The emerald scorecard, which credits Shadow Creek's architecture to Tom Fazio and Steve Wynn, has neither photographs nor drawings of the 7,158-yard layout. (The Mirage will provide a stock picture to most news organizations upon request.) According to those who have enjoyed Vegas' ultimate comp, the fairways are wide and forgiving, the greens large and immaculate. Tee markers are constructed of blue, yellow and white violets. Water hazards, which run through nearly half of the holes, are dyed a brilliant blue. And sparkling white sand, clearly not indigenous to Nevada, fills the bunkers. A special telephone awaits golfers at the eighth green, from which they may order customized lunches to be picked up at the turn.

"You've never seen a place like this," one gambler says. "It's like being on a course that's never been played."

"They can't do enough for you," he recalls. If by chance you've left your $1,000-minimum blackjack table in a hurry and have forgotten something--sweater, shoes, golf clubs--by all means, please, have a complimentary set, no problem. You want a snack? Say, chilled lobster and a glass of Dom Perignon? No problem. You want to play the fourteenth hole twice, just for the hell of it? No problem. On the other hand, if you're a scratch golfer, a respected member of your country club and an occasional $25 bettor at the craps table, playing Shadow Creek could be a problem.

"You don't have to be good to get on the greatest golf course in America," says one gambling golfer, "only rich."

The 1994 World Champion of Poker is Russ Hamilton, 44, a professional player from Las Vegas, who defeated 267 other competitors at the twenty-fifth annual World Series of Poker at Binion's Horseshoe. Hamilton won $1 million and, to commemorate the tournament's silver anniversary, his weight (330 pounds) in silver ingots. His victory was a thoroughly professional effort, a demonstration of how intimidating power and surgical precision can obviate the variances of good and bad "luck."

The most compelling card playing of the tournament, however, came in the $5,000-buy-in Limit Hold 'Em Championship.

After 12 hours of play, the battle for the title--and $210,000 for first place--was down to two contestants, Erik Seidel, an options trader from New York, and Mike Davis, a professional poker player from Vegas who looks like Curly from the "Three Stooges" with a beard and goes by the sobriquet "Mad Dog." Though Seidel has won numerous poker tournaments, including two World Series Championships, and is generally considered one of the game's best players, Mad Dog loudly and persistently informed the standing-room-only crowd that Seidel was "pitiful," had "no shot whatsoever to win" and was "a joke." Some of the other things Mad Dog said cannot be printed here, although the comments were vitriolic enough that tournament officials asked Mad Dog to curb his outbursts and behave like a world-class gambler, not a drunken slob.

"They don't call me Mad Dog for nothin'," he announced.

Though most of the audience was horrified by Mad Dog's behavior, several well-known poker players applauded his every utterance, urging him on to bigger put-downs, bigger pots. Most of these people had a financial interest in Mad Dog's finish, a percentage of his winnings. This, in fact, was the cause of all the ugliness.

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