Local gambler goes all in
Yuba College's tennis coach finished 96th out of the 186 gamblers who vied Tuesday for a spot in Friday's finals of the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, where nine players will compete for a $7.5 million top prize.
Josh Prager, 31, who also is the tennis pro at the Yuba City Racquet & Health Club, said in a telephone interview he won $77,710. The no-limit Texas Hold 'em tournament began Thursday with 5,619 competitors.
Prager had a chance to reach the final 15, but went all in and was beaten after his competitor showed ace, queen and won with a flop of eight, eight, two, queen, five. Prager was showing ace, king before the flop.
"I went out with a sour taste," he said. "I had all chips in and had the guy dominated. He just caught a card to beat me. There was $1 million in the pot."
Asked what he intends to do with his winnings, Prager replied, "Buy a house, I guess."
His father, Jim Prager, kept in touch with him periodically over the phone.
"I know he's enjoying it," he said. "When I talk to him, he's ecstatic."
Jim Prager said his son won free entry into the games through an online tournament. The Internet is where the card player really honed his skills, he said.
"Josh is just able to analyze the game," he said.
This is Josh Prager's first World Series - but not his first tournament sitting at the tables. He placed "in the 30s" at a similar tournament in South Lake Tahoe, Nev., this year, his father said.
"This obviously is going to elevate his confidence," Jim Prager said. "Two tournaments in a row where he's been clearly competitive."
Several hours into the fourth round Tuesday, the 2004 champion, Greg "Fossilman" Raymer, found himself holding onto first place in the prestigious event with pile of chips totaling about $1.5 million.
Some of the remaining players that Raymer could face on his way to the final table are among the most well-known in the game.
In fourth place was Rodney Pardey Jr., son of a professional poker player, with about $400,000 less than Raymer.
Lagging behind the two is the formidable and expressionless Phil Ivey, whose chip stack was dissipating slowly.
Mike Matusow and John Juanda of the fulltiltpoker.com team had dominant stacks. Ivey also is part of that impressive poker stable.
At one point, Howard "The Professor" Lederer, Ivey and Juanda were at the same table, creating plenty of excitement as the fans crowded the convention hall.
But Juanda was getting the best of them, knocking out the short-stacked Lederer. In a tense scene, both players went all-in, but Juanda had an edge with his ace-king versus Lederer's ace-jack. Juanda caught a king on the flop and the turn and river didn't help Lederer. He was gone.
Russ Hamilton, the 1994 champion, was still in the tournament. He, along with Raymer, are the last of more than a dozen former World Series of Poker champs entered in the event.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.