Brits stun Vegas aces with pounds 2.5m poker haul

Las Vegas is used to the wild and weird, but this was really out of the ordinary: Brits and other Europeans whacking the locals at their very own game. They won more than $4m (pounds 2.5m) in the World Poker Championships, which ended last week at Binion's Horseshoe casino.

"European success this year has been more than all the previous 27 years of the World Series put together," said the tournament director, Jack McClellan, in congratulations. "You guys have been studying the books or something."

Sharp-eyed hustlers and Western dudes thronging the tables were stunned by the Brits' high action. David Ulliott of Hull (dubbed "Devil Fish" by Asian gamblers) won $180,310 and Chris Truby of Oxford $93,860 in the same event. Chris Bijorin, a Swede resident in London, picked up $217,960, but the best of the bunch was Mel Judah, a Londoner who took the $176,000 first prize in a tournament event before finishing third in the championship final, which was worth another $370,000. Altogether Britain boasted 20 finalists who finished "in the money".

The final was staged outdoors in "Glitter Gulch", the casino complex on Fremont Street, in a setting akin to a boxing match, with tiers of seats for the spectators. Water sprays around the edge did little to reduce the 100F temperature.

The game was Texas Hold 'em, a faster version of seven-card stud. The original 312 starters, who had put up $10,000 each to enter the championship, had been reduced after three days of play to a final of six players, first prize $1m.

Mr Judah, 49, whose success as a poker pro had long since eased him out of his day job as a hairdresser, carried British hopes. He started badly, losing aces-up to a flush, but fought back in a succession of all-or-nothing hands to take third place. "I was pleased with my performance to get so far, and always felt relaxed," he said.

Fortunately for American honour, Stu "The Kid" Ungar, now 43, recovered the form of his younger days. After winning the title in 1980 and 1981, he had so much fun he dropped out for 15 years and lost his poker skills.

"I decided to wake up," he explained. "No one has ever beaten me playing cards. I have only beaten myself." He is the first man to win three world championships.

A diminutive figure who wears tinted blue spectacles to hide his expression, The Kid bet, bluffed and bludgeoned his opponents out one after the other. His reward could not have been more tangible: armed security guards carried in a large cardboard box containing 100 bundles of notes each worth $10,000, making up the $1m first prize.

Not only did the pile of money on the table represent every poker player's ambition, the gambling industry was also hoping it might lure smaller players back to the tables and one-armed bandits.

For Las Vegas is not feeling too well at the moment. Gaming profits are down 9 per cent on the year, which is only partly attributable to a lucky run of wins at baccarat by Oriental high rollers, who like to wager $100,000 a coup. So many gigantic new hotel-casinos have opened, led by New York New York and Monte Carlo, that the older establishments - that is, places built five years ago - are feeling the squeeze.

Added to that, many residents feel that the influx of new casino workers has increased traffic, air pollution and pressure on schools and medical facilities, threatening to turn this desert city into the kind of urban hell-hole they came to escape. When Las Vegans are having an anxious time, it does not help that the Brits have come to win their money at poker.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory