Saturday’s $1,500 buy-in Millionaire Maker kickoff at the 2018 World Series of Poker saw familiar poker pros and colorful characters from the entrepreneurial world mingling to vie for the guaranteed $1 million top prize.
How to Stand Out in a Crowd
Enter Randy Kaas, inventor of the kitchen utensil brand POURfect. He’s an entrepreneur who is sometimes recognized by the WSOP camera crews for his tall white chef’s hat with his brand name emblazoned on the front. The 62-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona has been wearing the hat at the tables since 2006. He says it helps friends spot him in enormous fields of hoodies, headphones, and (less unusual) hats.
“I just made it my WSOP hat,” he said, seated to the left of recognizable long-time pro Maria Ho, who was just inducted last month into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame.
Just after dinner break, Ho said she hadn’t been disturbed by the chef’s hat — yet.
Not long after, Kaas knocked out another player at their table. So the hat’s luck could be turning for Kaas, whose largest live tournament cash came in 2015 at a $1,500 Seven Card Razz WSOP event for a little more than $24,000.
What would he do with the $1 million should he conquer the field? Enter more tournaments, of course.
“I’ve made a lot of money,” Kaas said of his business (we tried in vain to find his net worth online, but his kitchen utensils are carried on many sites). “But I’m trying to retire and play poker.”
In case you’re not familiar with Kaas and his product line, it has a rather interesting history. He started making kitchen products forty years ago, but in 2001, began having extreme vision problems and decided to create a utensil that could be more easily used by others who also had limited ability to see what they were doing in the kitchen.
His product line even comes with Braille markings and is billed as the “most accurate” line on the market. For all of you non-cooks, it even includes measuring spoons that take away the guesswork in determining what constitutes a “drop, smidgen, pinch, and dash.”
Although Kaas wears glasses, he didn’t seem to need anyone to read his cards for him on Saturday, so we’re not sure what the story is there.
Playing with a Fury
Enter Shaun Deeb, who has had a decidedly more lucrative poker career than Kaas, sans hat.
Deeb has already cashed in five WSOP events this year, and has collected more than $3 million in lifetime live tournament winnings, along with untold fortunes in cash games.
“I’m just trying to play everything,” he told us. “If I bust two bullets, I go hop in the $1,500 eight-game. That’s just the World Series. You play every event you can and gamble to hopefully get in the next one or have the chip lead.”
He stopped short of admitting to “bracelet hunting,” as those who play many events sometimes call the summer grind.
“I just want to maximize my time and efficiency,” Deeb said. “I’ve had a bunch of cashes, and I always want more.”
Other notables among the more than 3,000 players in the field for the first day of the four-day event included 2015 Main Event winner Joe McKeehen, 2012 and 2013 WSOP Main Event second place finishers Jesse Sylvia and Jay Farber, Kathy Leibert, Lacey Jones, Tony Dunst, Bart Hanson, and Jared Bleznick.
The event awarded its largest payout in 2014, when Jonathan Dimmig vanquished a field of 7,977 for a top prize of $1,319,587 and his first (and to date, only WSOP) gold bracelet.
The day also featured self-described “homeless millionaire” Faraz Jaka — who cashed in the event five years ago — and Tom Marchese, who has more than $17 million in tournament earnings.
After six years, would tournament officials have to change the name of the event if someone like him took it down?
“It’s just a good, soft tournament and there’s not much else to do,” he said, waiting in line to collect his chips and a seat assignment card. “Now’s a good time to enter.”
Millionaire Maker Flight B play kicks off at 10 am PT on Sunday at the Rio in Las Vegas for those who haven’t yet made their fortunes, or who — like Kaas, Deeb, and Marchese — just like to keep their already banging bankrolls bodacious.