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benjamin eckstein poker play

LAS VEGAS — POKER MAGIC!!!

Back in the day, Binion’s Casino downtown was the host of the World Series of Poker. And as part of the festivities, they had a side tournament for media and I accepted the invite.

Truth in advertising, I am NOT a serious poker player or card counter. However, I did have many hours at my college fraternity house beating the snot out of some VERY HIGH/STONED brothers. Remember, we’re talking late ’60s/early ’70s, when EVERYBODY was HIGH!

So, naturally, I was ready to waste some TV/radio/print people. And all for a good cause, the charity of choice. Mine was St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. There were a handful of celebrities, including the taller half of Penn & Teller, Mr. Penn Jillette.

We both made it to the final table after a few hours. Not saying he cheated, but he is a FREAKING MAGICIAN! And if you’re reading between the lines, I would take the E and A out of freaking and replace with two other letters. Probably a U and a C.

Why? Well, magically, he had two kings in the hole, and MIRACULOUSLY, the river, which is the last card turned in Texas hold’em, was another king! What a shock, huh. So, he pulled a full house with kings over eights, which beat my queens over sevens. Walked away muttering and kinda upset that the St. Jude’s kids would not enjoy the $10,000 prize.

My question after all these years is, did Penn do a little something somethin’? Some sleight of hand? Still don’t know. Maybe it was MAGIC. Or, maybe he had something up his sleeve. Or in his jacket pocket. Actually know people who know people who know people that know Jillette. All reports have him as a standup guy, and also LOVE his TV show, “Penn & Teller: Fool Us.” So, you see that I have gotten over my pain. Of course, if I see Penn around Vegas, it might be a CONVERSATION!

COMING UP ACES!!!

Gotta shout out the new WNBA champs. The LAS VEGAS Aces! This is the first championship for Vegas, at least on the pro level, and kudos to coach Becky Hammon. Mark Davis, who also owns the Raiders, brought Hammon to town from the San Antonio Spurs and gave her a MILLION bucks. Now the only question is, when will she drop the W, break the glass ceiling and get a head coaching job in the NBA? Will have odds on that in a few weeks from one of my favorite sportsbooks.

WINNERS ONLY!!!

Rolling out west tonight, looking at the MLB slate, and gonna rock the Mariners with Luis Castillo over the A’s. Seattle is locked in a vicious three-way fight for the first wild-card spot in the American League. That’s one of the reasons they brought Castillo to town. Since coming over from Cincinnati, Luis has won three of four, and allowed just four earned runs over the last 24 innings for a gorgeous 1.50 ERA.

He will face Oakland’s JP Sears, who came over in a trade with the Yankees, and looked pretty good for a few weeks. However, the last two outings have been HORRIBLE. JP, that’s John Patrick in case you’re wondering, has been BOMBED for 15 hits and 11 earned runs in ONLY six innings. BIG OUCH! Gimme the Mariners for the money!

Benjamin Eckstein is a nationally syndicated sportswriter/oddsmaker. His column, America’s Line, with the Ecks & Bacon appetizer, has run in the New York Daily News and over 100 other papers since 1988. You can follow him online at www.americasline.com. He is beloved by most, when he picks winners, and detested by others, when he picks the occasional loser. If you wanna piece of Eck, hit his email... ben@americasline.com.