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  1. [caption width="640"] David Williams is hoping for a long run on FOX's MasterChef.[/caption] Last August, one of David Williams’ close friends told him that MasterChef, the FOX cooking show where Gordon Ramsay and a few other celebrity chefs try and find the best home cook in America, was holding auditions in Las Vegas and encouraged him to give it a shot. There was just one problem. Williams had never seen an episode of the six-year old show. He had no idea what it was about and was hesitant. “’I don't know if I have time for this. I don't even know what this show is. I've heard of it but I've never watched it. Let me take a night to think about it. I'm going to watch an episode’," Williams told his friend. That night he sat down with his daughter Liliana to check out the show and what he saw confirmed that it wasn’t for him. “When it went off I was terrified. I was like, ‘Yeah, I'm not going to do this. This is not for me’,” recalled Williams. “Seeing Gordon (Ramsay) freaking out on people and just how hard it looked, it just didn't look like something I was interested in.” [caption width="320" align="alignright"] David Williams and his daughter Liliana[/caption]But then his daughter spoke up and gave Dad a pep talk that he just couldn’t say no to. “Lili was so adamant. She was like, ‘Daddy, you can do this. You can do it. I want you to do it. I want to see you do it’,” said Williams. “She was pretty pumped on it and really wanted me to do it. I decided, "You know what, I'll give it a thought over the next day or so’.” The more Williams thought about it, the more he realized he couldn’t say no to at least giving it a shot. The audition was just a few days away and required Williams meet producers for an interview and prepare a dish for Ramsay and the judges. Having been in the media spotlight thanks to his poker career, the interview stuff was a breeze but Williams was stressing over what dish would win the judges over. “I did some research I kind of figured, "Okay, so when you show up for the audition, obviously there's going to be some waiting," because I imagined what I saw on TV watching American Idol back in the day, just tons of people sitting around waiting for a number to be called,” said Williams. “I figured the food I make would have to be something that would be tasty even if it's a little room temperature.” Williams finally decided on a shrimp puttanesca dish. He had some time to practice the dish and after a few variations found a taste he was happy with. Then another roadblock hit him – one that can only be described as one of the pitfalls of being a young bachelor in Las Vegas. Williams was hosting some out of town friends for a Friday night bachelor party. The audition was Saturday morning. “I kind of got them started and left early, went to bed, woke up, remade my dish,” said Williams, who went out all with presentation. “I got nice white china, had cutlery, white napkins, plating napkins, wiped the plate, and when I was in the room few people were like me but a lot just had paper plates or Tupperware.” White china and previous media experience aside, Williams had something else going for him. He’s spent the past 15 years living in a competitive environment, first in Magic the Gathering and then in poker. Sitting in a room full of other contestants didn’t bother him at all. “I think the reason I wasn't nervous was because of all the poker. The high stress situations, playing on TV, being critiqued by the viewers, by people in forums, the results of poker, being in those situations for so long I started in 2004 in tournaments for TV. I'd been playing longer than that, and when you do that, you sort of get used to the pressure,” said Williams. “I wasn't nervous at all, and I think it was because it wasn't something I really, truly, at the time, wanted to do. It was more something I was doing for Lili.“ The lack of nerves and the investment in white china paid off and a few weeks later he got the call to head to Los Angeles. Now he just had to prepare Lili for what could be a lot of time apart. “I said, ‘if Daddy does this, he's going to be gone for a little bit while I'm doing the show’. She said, ‘that's okay. You can call me and I want you to win’,” said Williams. “She was cool about it. It hurt me more than her, I think, because I love being around her and she is the most important thing to me and I hate not being with her every day. I think because we're adults and we can plan and think about the future it affects us differently, but when you're four years old, the long term doesn't really exist.” The first show airs Wednesday night and Williams knows the timing is going to present a strange situation for him – the 2016 World Series of Poker also gets underway on Thursday. “My first thought was, ‘I sure hope they're not going to have TVs on.’ Sometimes they'll show NBA playoff games,” said Williams. “If it comes on June first and I'm in tournament, I don't know if I want people to see it or not while I'm playing, so I don't know. It's going to be definitely weird.” Unlike some of his fellow competitors on the show, Williams has no formal culinary training. He taught himself from YouTube videos over the years. One of his “teachers” was none other than Ramsey. “Because I wasn't familiar with the show very much, I was actually very familiar with Gordon in two different ways. The first way I was familiar was because the way I taught myself to cook is YouTube. It wasn't like I liked him and chose to watch his videos, I just naturally ended up watching a lot of Gordon Ramsey videos,” said Williams. “I think I ended up taking a liking to him in those videos because he's just very down to earth and cool. I imagine myself as being kind of cool, so watching this cool guy cook and explain things, I was a fan immediately.” Not long after the cast for this season was announced Williams found himself getting praise online from the person whose critique he originally feared most. Compliments from celebrity chefs aside, Williams has never looked at cooking as anything other than something he could do for friends and most importantly, Liliana. “I'd never thought about taking it to another level. I never really considered doing it as a profession or really competing or anything of the sort. It's something I enjoy doing. I like to eat good food. I like to try to make it myself and I like to show off. No matter how the season turns out for Williams it appears that he’s taken the pep talk his daughter gave him and turned it into an inspiration for her. “They have a Masterchef Junior and that's like my little girl's favorite, even more than Masterchef. Even though daddy is going to be on it, she loves Masterchef Junior. That's her jam and she wants to do it one day,” said Williams. “I'm just excited that I can inspire my daughter, you know?”
  2. 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.
  3. In the eight years since the World Series of Poker Main Event went to a three-starting flight schedule, only once has the Day 1A field reach 1,000 or more players and that was 2012 when they snuck into four-digit territory with 1,066 players. There was no sneaking in on Wednesday. 1,336 players showed up to play Day 1A, giving WSOP officials hope that this year's event might be a record-breaker. Williams wasn't the only notable to suffer an early end to his Main Event. Shane Warne, Frank Kassela, Bryn Kenney, Mohsin Charania, Brandon Shack-Harris, and Kristen Bicknell all ended with a zero as their Day 1A chip count. Former Main Event Champs Advance Just two former Main Event winners managed to work their way through the five levels of play on Day 1A. Chris Moneymaker, fresh off of his ninth-place finish in the partypoker MILLIONS Las Vegas, ended the day 95,000 while 2016 Main Event winner Qui Nguyen had a much better day, finishing with 180,500. Foxen, Strelitz, Bonomo Highlight Notables Moving on to Day 2A There were 960 players who made it through Day 1A. While a number of top players like to wait until Day 1C to play, there were a plethora of poker superstars who played on Wednesday and finished with chips in a bag. Daniel Strelitz, still basking in the flow of winning his first bracelet, finished with 185,300. Poker vlogger Johnnie Moreno (aka Johnnie Vibes) tripled his starting stack and finished with 184,000. Alex Foxen nearly did the same, ending with 173,200. Justin Bonomo accumulated 96,000 through the day to move on to Day 2. Other notables advancing from Day 1A include Patrick Serda (216,700), Jeff Lisandro (180,100), Jack Sinclair (153,800), Isaac Baron (146,600), Kelly Minkin (137,100), Billy Baxter (131,500), Brian Hastings (124,200), Matt Glantz (120,800), Arlie Shaban (113,600), Brian Rast (109,100), Kevin MacPhee (82,500), Garrett Greer (69,300), Ben Yu (63,600), Mike Gorodinsky (57,800), Erik Seidel (57,400), Stephen Chidwick (45,000), Marvin Rettenmaier (30,800), and Poker Hall of Fame finalist Chris Bjorin (18,000). Rapper Hoodie Allen Goes to Work, Bags Big Rapper Hoodie Allen, real name Steven Markowitz, was a Happy Camper at the end of Day 1A. The 31-year-old University of Pennsylvania grad lived up to The Hype and finished with 151,500, good enough for a top 100 stack. Markowitz will hope People Keep Talking when he returns for Day 2AB on Sunday. He has one previous WSOP cash, a 35th place finish in a 2016 $1,000 No Limit Hold'em event. Michael Miller Leads Pennsylvania Contingent into Day 2A With the launch of Pennsylvania Online Poker looming, 17 players from the Keystone State managed to turn Day 1A into a trip to Day 2A. Leading the way is Michael Miller. The Haverford, PA native just missed out on having a top 10 stack after finishing with 235,800. The next biggest Pennsylvania stack belongs to Gregory Fishberg with 168,800. They're joined by Jesse Smith (136,600), Alan Schein (135,000), Brian Hastings (124,200), Matt Glantz (120,800), Alexander Krisak (117,000), John Andress (104,900), Joseph Palma (100,100), Sean Magee (88,500), Dennis Cronin (85,700), David Knudsen (76,600), James Hundt (72,900), Jennifer Shahade (72,400), Ronald Lankin (49,500), Gary Bowker (25,800), and Seth Berger (DNR). The Day 1A Numbers Could Be Hinting at Something Big Historicially, Day 1A is always the least popular Main Event starting flight. It requires being in Las Vegas the longest amount of time, there's a two-day gap between Day 1A and Day 2A, and it means being in Sin City on July 4th. Over the last five years, Day 1A has accounted for an average of 11.44% of the overall field size, staying steady with a high of 11.75% last summer and a low of 11.01% in 2017. If that trend were to hold true this year, WSOP officials are looking at a record-setting year that will eclipse the 8,773 runners that turned out in 2006. Top 10 Chip Counts Bryan Campanello - 417,500 Timothy Su - 297,300 Quentin Roussey - 266,400 Takehiro Kato - 259,200 Charidimos Demetriou - 252,000 Craig Chait - 249,600 Stephen Graner - 247,100 Mark Zullo - 245,600 David Lolis - 245,100 Thomas Roupe - 238,800

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