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Heads-Up with Bernard Lee

You remember him.

The guy with the cool wife that let him play in the WSOP ME last year even though she was about to undergo some serious surgery.

The guy with the pictures of the kids.

Bl200150Bernard Lee.

You might've also seen Lee on ESPNews today in a 10 minute WSOP feature. Last year's WSOP ME 13th place finisher has parlayed his exposure from said finish into into a regular writing gig at ESPN and a sponsorship from Poker Syndicate, among other endeavors.

All because his wife let him play.

Not to stray off on a tangent, but gentlemen, remember this next time your wife/fiance/girlfriend complains about you taking off for the evening/week/year as you walk out the door to play a little cards.

Wicked Chops Poker caught up with Bernard Lee to see how life's been treating him since becoming one of last year's WSOP's big stories.

WCP: After getting so much air time on ESPN last year, are you pretty much recognized throughout the casino now?

BL: I would not say throughout the entire casino, but definitely in the poker room. Many people have stopped me to congratulate me on last year run. Overall, everyone has been extremely friendly and nice enough to ask about my family (which, by the way, my wife and kids are all doing great). Especially, when I sit down at the table and pull out the pictures of my wife and kids, that’s when the light bulb goes off for many people.

WCP: How many events you playing this year?

BL: I’m going to play in a total of five events: four preliminary events (three no limit hold’em and one seven stud event) and, of course, the main event.

WCP: Looks like the pros are cleaning up this year. Does it seem like there's more "dead money" playing this year?

BL: There actually does. As the field grows, there are obviously more players. However, although there are many good players out there, many of the new players have not even played in a live tournament before and it shows. Some of the calls I have seen have been unbelievable (and not in a good way). Nevertheless, these are the players that scare me the most during the Main Event because they could be holding anything and knock you out of the tournament.

WCP: You've just signed on as spokesperson for Poker Syndicate. Tell us about 'em...

BL: Yeah, that’s correct. I recently signed an endorsement deal with www.pokersyndicate.com and now primarily play on this site. Pokersyndicate.com has developed a revolutionary concept that I believe will change the online poker industry. Actually, the concept is pretty simple. Every time you play on www.pokersyndicate.com, you receive shares of stock in the company based on your rake and tournament fees. The more you play, the more stock you own. From here, players can benefit in two ways. First, the players will receive quarterly dividends on their equity. The dividends returned to players will equal at least 50% of the net profits. Secondly, the company’s plan is to go public, entitling each player a piece of the IPO pie.

Blee1_1The online site was formed by group of professional poker players: Created “By players - for Players”. I am honored to be affiliated with a site that is truly giving online poker back to the players. Overall, I think is a concept that will generate a lot of interest and I have already received a lot of positive feedback from people who have played on the site. Many people asked me about the site at the WSOP and have already signed up.

WCP: Any big changes you've noticed from the WSOP this year compared to last year?

Many of the changes are definitely for the better. Harrah’s definitely listened to the players issues and I give them a lot of credit. For example: No smoking in the halls is a huge plus, especially for a non-smoker like me. Food at reasonable prices and for the large field events, separate breaks so the bathroom wait isn’t longer than the break itself. And of course, the continuing growth of each tournament with more and more players!

WCP: Got a good "bad beat" story from this year?

BL: That’s an easy one. I was playing in the $5K no limit event. I had lost a pretty big hand in level 1 and was down to only 975 chips. However, I battled back and made it through Level 6 (which was the dinner break) to about 8500 chips. As we returned from dinner, players at my table started to move all in, trying to accumulate chips before the blinds increased. On the fifth hand, I was sitting in the small blind. Humberto Brenes was UTG and decided it was his turn to go all-in. After it was folded to me, I looked down to see pocket jacks and immediately called. And when he flipped over his pocket fives, I knew I had him dominated. I survived the flop and the turn. But, of course, BOOM - 5 of diamonds on the river. That was really a bummer! I had fought so hard to come all the way back and this hand would have given me close to 19,000 chips. I would have been right in the thick of things. Instead, I was just another statistic getting knocked out around 170th.

WCP: How do you feel about your game right now? Any leaks that need fixing before the ME?

BL: I hadn’t played since April in the Foxwoods Poker Classic. Therefore, I felt a little rusty during the $2K event, and played okay. But I can recall a couple of times where I could have played slightly differently to gain more chips from my opponent. However, after analyzing some mistakes and re-reading my notes, I feel I played pretty well in the $5K and $2.5K events. For both events, I got fairly deep and was knocked out on a two and six outer on the river, respectively.

Overall, I feel I’m ready for the main event. Nevertheless, just like last year, I’ll keep repeating my mantra: “my goal is to get out of each day”. And then, we’ll see where each day takes me.

WCP: Your wife is obviously pretty cool for letting you play last year. Will she be joining you at the ME this year?

BL: As I have said before, my wife is the best. What happened last year is why I have been married to the best woman in the world for 10 years. Without her support, I could not do what I do. Nevertheless, she will not be joining me during the event; however, if I do get fortunate to get deep in the Main Event, she may hop on a flight to join me. We will cross that bridge when we get to it.

WCP: What's your dream six person table...can be filled w/ living, dead, or fictitious people...

BL:That’s an interesting question. Sticking with poker players, I would start with Doyle Brunson (the grandfather of modern poker), Stu Ungar (possibly the best ever) and Johnny Chan (one of my all-time favorite players). Then, two current young guns I have never played with or against Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu. The final one would be the person who taught me the game – my father.

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Bernard's story at last year's WSOP was one of my favorites...thanks for the interview and best of luck to Lee this year.

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