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Against all odds

Tonight, I’m leaving on a jet plane.

The destination: Las Vegas.

Why, you might ask? Because inside the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino there is a seat in the 2005 World Series of Poker that has my name on it.

A few days ago, I decided to put a bulk of my online poker winnings in a World Series of Poker satellite tournament held on The tournament, which set me back $57, pitted me against a field of 117, with only the last man standing taking home the prize. I had only $11 left in my poker bankroll, and this was my last shot at making the WSOP (I had tried twice before finishing 23rd and third in previous attempts).

My final attempt would not be wasted. Three grueling hours later, I took out the last of 117 with an ace-queen, and I was on my way to Vegas with a $10,000 buy-in into the WSOP, all expenses paid.

I might not even have time to bask in the glory that is “all expenses paid.” I’ve just got so much to do. I want to shake hands with Doyle Brunson, make fun of Josh Arieh and spot Gus Hansen’s tell. I want to outsmart MIT alum Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, put Phil Hellmuth on tilt and do an interview with Norman Chad. But most of all, I want to re-raise Johnny Chan, have him lay his hand down and ask me, “Did you have it?” just so I can utter my favorite line from the movie Rounders: “Sorry John. I don’t remember.”

Realistically, I will not get a chance to fulfill any of my poker dreams.

With an estimated 6,600 competitors at the main event this year, I have more of a chance of sitting with a tax attorney from Peoria, Ill., than any of the big names in professional poker. There are currently better odds in the sports book at the Bellagio on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays winning the World Series than there are of me making the final table. And although I hate to admit it, I am more of a favorite of earning the dubious distinction of “First Player Out,” than I am of “2005 WSOP Champion.”

I know.

I’m a long shot.

But that’s not why I wanted to play in the World Series. In no other competition can you test your skills at the highest level. No amount of luck will help me participate in the Masters, the NBA Finals or the Super Bowl. But for one magical week, I can play with the best, and if the poker gods are smiling on me, I can beat the best.

I’ve informed my professors of my possible absences and asked respected classmates for notes, but I don’t know how much I’ll be able to focus on school. The better I do in the tournament, the more class I’ll miss. I could be out the first day or the fifth day, and I’ve got a refundable plane ticket so I can return whatever day it is that I bust out of the tournament. But who knows, the first prize this year is an estimated $8 million.

So, I’m leaving on a jet plane bound for Vegas. Don’t know when I’ll be back again.

The World Series of Poker begins today and runs through July 15th.