07/18/2006 11:00PM

Won't be at World Series, but there's lots to root for

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I won't be going to the 2006 World Series of Poker and my excuses are too numerous to list. Suffice to say none has to do with my play, of course. Yeah, right.

Actually, I only had three chances to qualify through satellite play due to the focus it takes to complete a book on horse racing for DRF Press that is intended for December release. In one satellite, I played like a donkey, chasing a flush draw with too many chips trying to get into the final table with a big stack. This was a terrible play because a more passive approach probably would have gotten me to the end game with reasonable ammunition.

In another satellite, the donkey was back, as I violated a personal rule about early tournament play and went all-in with KK pre-flop against what proved to be AK - a seemingly great setup. But, a great setup does not always translate to a chip windfall, as the J-10-Q flop aptly demonstrated. Goodbye, Vegas, as I gained evidence anew to the validity of my rule about early tournament play. Going all-in with a potentially dominating hand can be the strongest play later in a tournament, or even with a moderate hand when others are scared to play close to the cutoff line for a cash payoff. But going all-in is a play from donkeyville when the blinds are small and very little is at stake.

In one final attempt to qualify for the world series on June 17, I played a $160 double shootout with 81 players on pokerstars.com and won my first table, and was head to head for all the marbles on the second and final table. My confidence was high. I have done quite well in single-table tournaments with similar buy-ins and have won or placed in several double shootouts for decent cash awards. But, this was winner-take-all for a world series seat, and I admit to feeling a tinge of pressure as the field whittled down to four, three, and finally just me and a someone who called himself "Dovaleh."

In other words, the apple came up in my throat just high enough for Dovaleh to reverse a $7,700 to $5,800 chip disadvantage with a pair of queens and better kicker to my pair of queens, and then he won one more crucial hand to knock me out of a trip to Vegas that seemed to be heading my way until the final four minutes of a three-hour tourney.

The sudden thud I felt left me shaking my head at least twice an hour for the next two days, including a short dream that woke me up looking at Q-4 and saying "Fold, you dummy."

On day three, while taking a short break from my book, Dovaleh and I found each other playing in a $10-$20 cash game, and the chat led to a few ego-boosting comments that he made and the revelation that he already had won a trip in a prior tournament. "Dov" said this enabled him to sell his first world series package (which included the $10,000 buy-in for the main event, plus nine days in a Vegas hotel) for about $9,000, keeping the $1,000 expense money that came along with the trip prize. Frankly, I had no idea that extra world series seats could be sold. That's something to remember when I qualify two or three times next year.

In the course of our chat, I spontaneously said, as any rational man looking for an edge would, "When you win $1 million or more in the WSOP, you'll cut me in for $50G's, right?"

Dovaleh, whose real name is Dov Markowich, said: "Okay. Sure."

Nice guy, Dov, a successful 25-year-old electronics wholesaler in Toronto who later confirmed his generous agreement and explained that he had been playing poker for about two years, mostly at underground clubs in Canada.

To show how much he has progressed, Dov not only qualified for his world series seat and the one he sold, but also defeated Joe Hachem for the top prize in a special single-table Pokerstars tourney. For those who may have been stuck in traffic for the past year, Joe Hachem merely is the reigning 2005 World Series of Poker Champion!

Dov now has an ardent fan and long-distance supporter. No doubt when the world series main event starts on July 28, you will be able to hear me screaming at the live Internet coverage on my computer rooting for Dov to crack somebody's high pair when he's on the bubble for $1 million-plus. The New Bolton Center for Equine Research also should root for Dov Markowich, because that's where I will send a $25,000 check in his name when he sends my 50 G's.

Beyond his generosity and good will, Dov Markowich also has agreed to share his experiences at the 2006 world series for my next column, due to be published in this space in four weeks. Hopefully it will not be focused on the quality of food at the Rio's buffet, or a string of bad beat stories, or how Dov was the first of about 8,500 who got knocked out in the first hour on the first day. Or, much worse, how he messed up my 50 G's. Then again, after the way I messed up on my own, I have nobody to blame for failing to write about my own good and bad beats from the 2006 WSOP. Oh, well, wait till next year and "C'mon, Dov!"

Steve Davidowitz plays as "StevenLD" on various Internet poker sites and is the author of the handicapping book "Betting Thoroughbreds."