08/08/2006 11:00PM

Top money in world series way too much of a good thing

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Twelve million dollars is simply too much money. Whether it's buying a Lear Jet, signing a ballplayer to a two-year contract to play left field, or using it to make a $6-million-dollar exacta box, that kind of money is too much to have and way too much to spend - and absolutely too much to be giving away in a poker game.

Common sense aside, that's what they are giving away as first prize in the Main Event of the World Series of Poker, not to mention the $6 million for running second or the $4 million for third. It's just crazy.

The first problem is sheer volume. $12 million in cash is a whole bunch of money and it breaks down into 120,000 $100 dollar bills. Traditionally, at the world series, the hundreds are counted out in bricks ($5,000 to a brick) and then wrapped in bundles of 10 bricks at $50,000 a bundle. With 240 bundles containing 2,400 bricks, with each brick weighing about four ounces, then you carry the 9 . . . add 7 . . . you're looking at lots of pounds of money. You could, of course, take a check. But what's the point of winning $12 million in cash if you take a check? Besides, they don't take checks at the mutuel window.

So, you win the thing. Now what do you do? Do you recruit three of your idiot buddies, go to the gift shop and buy a couple of World Series of Poker duffel bags, and then walk out into the desert with your $12 million in cash? You could ask for it in singles and walk into the strip bar over on Industrial Blvd. Or you could take your cash and blow some on your buddies, bet too much at the blackjack table, have an overpriced meal or two, and then try to leave town with more money than you started with and tell your wife you broke even.

You know, the kind of thing you would normally do after making a score.

But of course you're not going to take it in cash, and that's really the problem.

Not in the current poker culture, where nearly 9,000 people have $10,000 to drop playing cards and a final table with a combined payout of nearly $40 million. Now you win some money in a poker game and the first thing you have to do is consult with a tax attorney. Something is seriously wrong. No matter who you are and how much money you do or do not have, nobody needs to win that kind of money playing poker, as no good can possibly come from it.

It's like those stories you hear about every other toothless redneck who ever won the lottery. They immediately go out and buy new trailers for everybody in their family - double-wides of course - and then six months later somehow end up owing the IRS more than they won to begin with and end up back at the mill begging for their job back, mumbling about how nobody in their family will talk to them anymore. It's a sad, familiar tale told far too often.

And don't think for a second that your average poker player has any more sense than your average toothless redneck. They don't. The story goes that one of those big-name pros won a $1 million in last year's main event and was broke by the end of the week - and that's just $1 million. For most people, just the concept of going through that kind of money is tragic, but the thought of blowing through $12 million and even your deepest, darkest degenerate will cringe.

Personally, having just returned from a tough three days at Saratoga - where one of my only two winning tickets over the weekend was a show bet - going through a million bucks in a week is not entirely out of the realm of reason. With another $993,000 in my checking account I could have made a pretty good run at it.

But a starting stake of $12 million is just too much. Too much to have, too much to blow, even too much to spend. Nobody really needs a Lear Jet; left-fielders are a dime a dozen; and a $6 million exacta box is really a waste of money when you could bet an all-all-all-all $100,000 superfecta instead and get the same action. But no matter what this year's winner does with the $12 million, all he really needs to do is save $10,000 so he can tell his wife he broke even.

Kurt Paseka, a former turf writer, is a regular at New York City tracks and has cashed in the main event at the World Series of Poker.