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I was intent on getting in on the action at the celebrity-chef poker tournament last Saturday night at the now-infamous Two Twelve House at this year's Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. The $25,000 pot, which was put up by Foxwoods, would go to F&W's designated farm-to-table charity, Grow for Good, but I thought it would be fun, and lucrative, to take side bets on who would win the tournament. Especially because I knew Tom Colicchio would come out on top: His brother Mike had told me so ("Bet on Tom to win," Mike had e-mailed me. "We've been playing our whole lives—don't all Jersey boys grow up playing cards?"). At least one other chef was betting on himself. Ming Tsai said he was going to clean up because "all Chinese are good at poker." So it was a big surprise for me to watch dark horse David Burke come out on top. Why did he win? Card dealer David Rabin, owner of New York City's trendy Double Seven, summarized it quite nicely: "David Burke went on a great tear...I thought either Bobby or Tom was going to win and I think Ming might have known more about the game than any of them, but there's a lot of luck to tournaments that are designed to end that quickly and people make plays they wouldn't normally."
Since I didn't get to bet on that game, I'm going to have to crash one of Rabin's power poker gatherings back in New York. Here's more on them from Rabin: "We have a Monday night game we play in an office that I've been running since the early '90s. It died for a while but we started up again about three years ago when Hank Azaria (we went to college together) moved back to New York City to star in Spamalot. As many as 25 guys show up some weeks. Hank is back in LA now and joins us when he's in NY. Other actors like Danny Masterson and David Schwimmer play when they're in town. From the food world, Bobby Flay and Tom Colicchio have played as has [Flay's business partner] Laurence Kretchmer; music industry folks like DJ AM and Irv and Chris Gotti of The Inc; screenwriter Brian Koppelman (Ocean's 13); sports guys like Jonathan Vilma of the Jets and Bob Whitfield (who just retired from the Giants); and poker pros Phil Ivey and Annie Duke have rolled through. We're careful about who we let play...the only rule is 'no jerks.'"