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Join PocketFives throughout the month of December as we bring you the PocketFives 12 Days of Christmas to help keep you in the spirit of giving. As family and friends gather during the holiday season, what are some of the favorite foods poker players are filling up their plates with? We caught up with Jeremy Ausmus, Shannon Shorr, 'Boston' Rob Mariano, Felipe 'mojave14' Ramos, Vince Van Patten, and Mike Sexton about their favorite holiday eats. "I grew up on this family recipe of homemade rolls that are phenomenal," Ausmus, a WSOP gold bracelet winner with more than $6 million in live tournament earnings, said. "I think it's about all I ate as a kid at holiday dinners. Now, I make them. Fresh out of the oven, with butter - nothing is better." Shorr recently relocated to Las Vegas from Alabama, and we're hoping he packed the recipe for his aunt's holiday dish that was his all-time favorite because it sounds like a great one. "Growing up in Alabama, my all-time favorite holiday food had to be sweet potato casserole that my Aunt Pat made," Shorr said, "It was loaded with all the things a 14-year-old boy loves: pecans, chocolate, marshmallows. Unfortunately, I can't get away with eating like that anymore." Mariano, winner of Survivor: Redemption Island for $1 million who now frequents poker events around the world, does not disappoint when it comes to his family’s holiday meals. It's a two-day affair across Christmas Eve and Christmas Day featuring some delicious-sounding menu items. "I'm Italian, so there's no shortage of food around my house during the holidays," Mariano said. "Christmas Eve is usually reserved for seafood - everything from lobster to crab and the traditional Italian-style salted cod dish called Baccala. Then on Christmas Day, we always have some type of macaroni with a special homemade red sauce (gravy) and usually eggplant Parmesan, which is my wife’s favorite." Ramos, a Brazilian, is also accustomed to large holiday meals with family, but a recent lifestyle change has caused him to switch up from one holiday favorite to another. "Talking about tradition, my favorite food was always whatever my Grandma was cooking," Ramos said. "In Brazil, we are very attached to the family tradition, especially because we are Christians, so this date means a lot to us. As the world's second-largest meat producer (behind the USA), we are meat lovers and tradition always told us to have a turkey at the table and many more meat options. Recently, like two-and-a-half years from now, I have been trying to go vegan, knowing of the problems that meat production are causing to the world, and much more. I have made my transition to veganism now and I still love my family and friends, but my favorite meal is not meat anymore. My favorite foods are nuts and dried fruits, truly. I love all kinds, especially cashews and walnuts, figs and apricots. Roasted cauliflowers are part of my favorite meal, with a lot of spices. I think that will be my favorite holiday food from now on." For Van Patten, the energy behind bringing the World Poker Tour TV show into homes every single week, he said his family mixes it up but that he enjoys a little traditional simplicity. "We mix it up, but for tradition, it's turkey, dressing, popovers, and gravy," Van Patten said. Van Patten's former longtime partner in the WPT commentary booth for 15 years, Sexton, said he and his family enjoy doubling down on their Thanksgiving feast but with a little bit of a twist. "My favorite holiday food is Christmas dinner, which is the same at our house as Thanksgiving but we usually substitute ham for turkey," Sexton said. "Mmmmm!" Do you have a favorite holiday food? Let us know by commenting on this article or tweet to us at @PocketFives. Don’t forget to share the recipe so we can cook it up ourselves! Happy Holidays! *Photos courtesy of Run It Up and the World Poker Tour.
Join PocketFives throughout the month of December as we bring you the PocketFives 12 Days of Christmas to help keep you in the spirit of giving. It’s that special time of year and what better way to get in the festive spirit than to take a look around the poker world at some of the favorite holidays' traditions players celebrate with. This holiday season, we spoke with Phil Hellmuth, Mike Sexton, Maria Ho, Jonathan Little, and Jeff Gross. For Phil Hellmuth's holiday tradition, poker takes center stage. There's even a gold bracelet involved, according to the 15-time World Series of Poker champion, and it sounds as though the entire Hellmuth family knows how to win on the felt. "In the Hellmuth Family, all five of us (one brother and three sisters) would bring our families to Madison, Wisconsin, for Christmas," Hellmuth said. "We did this for 25 years! Then we would have the family poker championship, usually on the evening of the 24th. We even have a gold bracelet (pictured), with all of the winners’ names engraved. Nowadays, the family is too far flung to meet in Madison, but we still have the tourney whenever we get together. "My sister Kerry won it this year, in August, in Chicago. My son Phillip won it, I won it, my wife Kat won it. And my son Nick has three second-place finishes - ouch!" For Mike Sexton, longtime poker commentator, Poker Hall of Fame member, and now chairman of partypoker, he keeps it simple with the family. "My favorite tradition is the day we get the tree, put on Christmas music, and decorate the house," Sexton said. Sexton won’t be the only poker player celebrating the holidays in Las Vegas. Maria Ho and her family traditionally travel for the holidays to spend it together in a new place, but this year that place is Las Vegas. "My family has never been too into traditional gift giving for the holidays, but in our adult years we always make time to take a family vacation together," Ho said. "The destination changes, but this year the only place that really worked for all of us happens to be Las Vegas!" We’re sure that with all of the poker happening in Vegas during the first couple weeks of December, Ho will be in the mix quite a bit, so look for her to put up some poker results this holiday season in between time with her loved ones. Jonathan Little has a handful of reasons to celebrate this holiday season, and it’s more than just celebrating this wonderful time of the year. Little’s birthday and his son’s birthday both fall close to Christmas, and he and his wife are currently expecting another child. "Our tradition is to celebrate birthdays," Little said. "My birthday is December 22 and my son James' is December 24. I am having my second child any day now, so he will be born in December as well. I should go ahead and forget about celebrating mine from now on!" Lastly, Jeff Gross said his holiday tradition also involves a bit of travel, as he heads down to Brazil every year to visit with his wife’s side of the family. It comes with a special holiday twist, though, and Gross was introduced to a new meaning of "sweating" his first trip. "A holiday tradition has been to go to visit my wife’s family in Brazil," Gross said. "Each year, someone dresses up as Santa Claus for the nephews and nieces. In 2014, it was my first time there, which meant it was me! I was a bit nervous being the first time I met Emilia’s large family and I didn’t speak much Portuguese. I remember being in Brazil during Christmas (their summer) sweating in this Santa suit in front of what is now my Brazilian family and my youngest niece at the time crying when I came out (laughs)! It felt like a Southwest Wanna-Get-Away commercial at the time, but we had a good laugh after!" Do you have a favorite holiday tradition? Let us know by commenting on this article or tweet to us at @PocketFives. Happy Holidays! *Photos courtesy of the WPT.
Join PocketFives throughout the month of December as we bring you the PocketFives 12 Days of Christmas to help keep you in the spirit of giving. We've covered the favorite holiday traditions, favorite holiday eats, most memorable gifts, and even the top holiday movies from those within the poker world. Now, we're going to hear some of the favorite places to spend the holiday season. In the poker world, it’s no secret that the holiday season is one of the best times to be in Las Vegas, and that’s where WPT champion and WSOP bracelet winner David Williams loves to be. "I would say Las Vegas," Williams said. "You get the WPT Five Diamond, which is one of the best tournaments of the year, and it’s truffle season, so all the top Vegas restaurants have white truffles available on their menus. My mother moved here, so I also get to spend it with my mother and daughter, so no other choice." As you can imagine, family was a big theme no matter the location. Williams mentioned it, so did others, including Felipe 'mojave14' Ramos. "My favorite place to be was always with family in Brazil, but not every time is it possible to be with them, even though I have traveled across the world so many times just to be with there, even last minute," Ramos said. "But now, I am starting my own family and also have to think about my fiancés family. This year's Christmas I will be spending in Las Vegas with Natalie, and my favorite place to be is now with her. I wish I could have every one of my family and friends together at the same place, at least for this time of the year. Life is such a rush and we miss a lot these precious time, so I am trying to build my life and family, but also can't forget my roots." Arguably poker's greatest ambassador, Mike Sexton, also makes the case for Las Vegas where he lives, but he knows the value of showing his son a winter wonderland during this time of year, too. "I love being home for Christmas, but a couple years ago we wanted our son to experience a ‘White Christmas’ so we went to Park City, Utah, and it was truly fantastic," Sexton said. The hustle and bustle of the holidays can be known to drive people crazy. You’re trying to decorate, make every party or plan your own, buy gifts for friends and family, and do it all while living your regular day-to-day life. Vince Van Patten, longtime commentator for the World Poker Tour, likes to take it easy this time of year, at home. "I love staying home in L.A., hanging with the family, swimming in cold water, and seeing some of the best movies of the year during this time," Van Patten said. "I like to slow down and be thankful." Whereas Van Patten may be slowing down, Dan O'Brien loves the city that never sleeps. "New York City," O'Brien said. "It has a special buzz around Christmas and my family has a tradition of enjoying dinner and a play every year. Great spot to be." Ronnie Bardah, a World Series of Poker bracelet winner who was once the victim of one of the most incredible bluffs of all time by a former Miss Finland, stays true and says the holidays are best spent back where it all began. "The holidays are best spent in the hood you grew up in, where childhood memories were created," Bardah said. "Growing up Jewish, we celebrated Hanukkah on Christmas Day and mom would try to keep the Jewish tradition in the house. I love Christmas, and if I could choose, I would always spend it in Boston! Walking around malls, singing Christmas music, and throwing snowballs at punk kids. These days, New Year’s is always somewhere new. This year, though, I’ll be in Vegas bringing it in with Papa Smurf!" Lynn Gilmartin, anchor of the World Poker Tour, is also on board for her favorite place being home. For her, that's Down Under in Australia, but it's doesn't mean it's going to be cold. "My favorite place to be is at home in Melbourne with my family and friends," Gilmartin said. "It's summertime in Australia, so the holidays revolve around barbecues and the beach. I love it and couldn't imagine having a cold Christmas!" Do you have a favorite place to spend the holidays? Let us know by commenting on this article or tweet to us at @PocketFives. Happy Holidays! *Photo courtesy of PokerStarsLIVE.
Poker's Mid-Major circuits are home to some of poker's brightest up-and-coming stars. Each month, PocketFives breaks down the big winners from the WSOP Circuit, WPT DeepStacks, Heartland Poker Tour, and Mid-States Poker. Viet Vo Conquers Rio Las Vegas WSOP Circuit Main Event The Las Vegas WSOP Circuit events are usually the biggest and arguably the toughest fields of the season. Viet Vo beat out 951 other players to win the first Circuit ring of his career. "It feels good. I’ve been wanting this for a long time. I got second in the Main Event in Chicago three years and a half ago. I got 11th last year in the Main Event at the Bicycle Casino. I bubbled the final table. To finally be able to close it out today, it feels good," Vo said after his win. The victory earned him $274,030 and pushed his career earnings to just shy of $1.7 million. The final table included Jared Jaffee, Cylus Watson, Nick Pupillo and eventual runner-up Sohale Khalili. Ali Imsirovic picked up the first WSOP Circuit ring of his career in the $2,200 High Roller event by beating a final table that included Asher Conniff, Upeshka De Silva, Barry Hutter, and Aaron Massey. Zachary Donovan Wins Second Career WSOPC Ring at Coconut Creek Nearly six years after winning a $365 buy-in WSOP Circuit event at Foxwoods, Zachary Donovan won the $1,700 Main Event at Coconut Creek in Florida to win his second ring and $243,916. Donovan started the final table with the chip lead and started heads up play with the lead over runner up Sokchheka Pho. Jason Young finished third for $110,859. Mike Hudson Wins WSOPC Potawatomi Main Event WSOP Circuit stops are usually full of players who grind their way through all 12 events before moving on to the next stop. Mike Hudson is apparently the exception to the rule. Hudson beat out 666 other players to win the Main Event at Potawatomi after not playing any other events at that stop. The final table included Eric Wasylenko, Brett Apter, former #1 PocketFiver Kevin Saul, and second place finisher Joshua Turner. The win was the first time Hudson cashed in a WSOP Circuit Main Event and his first live cash since April 2015. Nick Pupillo Takes Heartland Poker Tour Title in Black Hawk Just a week before finishing fourth at the WSOP Circuit event at the Rio, Nick Pupillo beat out 587 other players to win the Heartland Poker Tour event in Black Hawk, Colorado for $194,478. The win moved Pupillo into a tie with Nick Davidson for HPT Season XV Player of the Year. Brian Wilson Tops Star-Studded MSPT Poker Bowl III Final Table Canadian Brian Wilson arrived in Las Vegas for Super Bowl weekend and left with $143,929 and the title of Mid-States Poker Tour Poker Bowl III champion. Wilson, runner-up Pedro Mendes and third place finisher Eli Ross agreed to a three-way deal to wrap things up. Mendes and Ross each left with just a touch over $119,000. The final table also included Vegas locals Eddy Sabat, Shannon Shorr, and Eric Baldwin. Martin Gaudreault Wins WPT DeepStacks Montreal Martin Gaudreault worked his way through an all-Canadian final table at the WPT DeepStacks Montreal Main Event to pick up the first live win of his career and $ 139,311. Gaudreault's only other live cash came in a $1,500 No Limit Hold'em event at the 2011 World Series of Poker. “It’s awesome obviously, I have no words, it’s just incredible. I don’t play too many tournaments, and just going out and binking one of the biggest ones I play is awesome,” said Gaudreault. The $1,650 CDN ($1,110 US) buy-in event drew out 686 players to push the total prize pool to $760,712. Mike Leah finished 36th for $3,670. Mohamed Abdou Takes Down WPT DeepStacks Brussels The Grand Casino in Brussels played host to the WPT DeepStacks €1,200 Main Event and 584 players. Mohamed Abdou outlasted all of them on his way to the first live win of his career and $ 136,217. All of Abdou's previous eight cashes came in his native France and his biggest score was $17,171. Michael Mizrachi finished 27th for $4,143 while Triple Crown holder Davidi Kitai picked up $2,724 for finishing 56th. Matt Kirby Wins MSPT Canterbury Park for Third MSPT Win Matt Kirby became the third three-time Mid-States Poker Tour champion after beating 478 other players to win the $1,100 buy-in MSPT Canterbury Park Main Event. Kirby, who picked up $99,573 for the win, had previously won MSPT Walker and MSPT Onamia in 2012. The only other players with three MSPT titles are Blake Bohn and Carl Carodenuto.