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June 17, 2019

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Tourney poker’s major league

Patriots spend their Fourth celebrating all-American game


Leila Navidi

Mike and Terry Braun of Woodstock, Ga., take a break Friday in a hallway. The flag shirts, Terry Braun says, are “just representative of the holiday and America in general.”

American flags bobbed in the sea of sunglasses and green felt at the World Series of Poker’s main event Friday. Independence Day brought fans and players sporting their country’s colors, and a few mused on whether poker is a quintessentially American game.

Red, White and Hold 'Em

For these Fourth of July fans, Independence Day had a whole different meaning. Poker players from all over the world tried to continue to achieve the American Dream of getting rich via advancement at the World Series of Pokers main event - the world championship no-limit Texas hold em tournament.

Click to enlarge photo

Noble Simpson of Jena, La., wears a pair of American flags as he mulls a hand. More than 1,000 flags from countries around the world were passed out at the beginning of the day.

“It’s competition,” said observer Bernie Schrader, wearing a polo shirt with one large waving flag across his back. “It’s what caused this country to be what it is today. Courage. Nerve … Because if you get the right cards, poker can give you total freedom, set you free.”

More than a thousand tiny flags were passed out at the beginning of the day. Not just American flags, but flags from countries all over the world.

Jason Loehde, a poker player from Edmonton, Alberta, who lives in Costa Mesa, Calif., had both Canadian and American flags sticking out of his straw hat.

“I have a dual allegiance,” Loehde said.

Josh Robinson, an American citizen living in New Zealand, sat at his table wearing an American flag print tie.

“I do believe poker’s a metaphor for the American experience,” he said. “Because it’s the American dream to have wealth, to own a big house, have a lot of land. And poker makes that possible. Anybody can do it. Anybody can win huge sums of money and just live the American dream.”

So, at the World Series of Poker’s main event — the world championship no-limit Texas hold ’em tournament, maybe patriotism isn’t red, white and blue, but green.

“In the poker room, it’s the most democratic of experiences,” World Series of Poker Media Director Nolan Dalla said. “Because the cards really have no memory. The cards have no prejudice.”

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