GGPoker posted a poker giveaway promo on Twitter for Valentine’s Day: submit a heart flush in Short Deck and have a chance to win a custom GGPoker Nike Air Force 1 for you and your Valentine’s Day date! 

My friend and poker player, Devon Graves, took part in this giveaway and became 1 of the 5 lucky winners. Only ten pairs of these shoes were made and to have won a pair was simply amazing. 

I looked at the schedule for the upcoming WSOP in Las Vegas, and there was one poker event – other than the Main Event – which drew my attention. I became intrigued by the Tag Team poker event, as it allowed two players to navigate the field sharing one stack from one seat and, according to the rules, being able to switch which player was in the poker game anytime they were not involved in a poker hand. 

I decided to find a poker partner for the Tag Team on Twitter. I contacted several top pros asking if they knew anyone looking for a teammate. After several weeks of searching, I was beginning to believe that I would not be able to play this event.

Fortunately, Amanda Botfeld (3rd place finisher in the Tag Team event in 2021) reached out and suggested I message the Poker League of Nations (PLON) on Facebook. PLON aims to increase women’s participation in poker and provides opportunities for women to play in higher buy-in poker games for live and online events. 

I contacted Lena Evans, founder of PLON, and asked her if I would be able to post on their Facebook group, seeking a partner for the Tag Team. I informed her that I would be paying the entire $1k entry, and I would donate my portion of any poker profits won in the event to PLON. Lisa Pickell was the first person to answer me. I felt she would be the right person to play the event (and I was correct!). I sent her my travel details and was looking forward to meeting her in person at Bally’s/Paris and playing the Tag Team poker tournament in Las Vegas.


As I waited for a taxi, something that usually doesn’t take too long in Las Vegas, outside the Days Inn to go to Bally’s/Paris, someone behind said “Hey! Are you going to Bally’s?.” I turned around to see a man with tattered clothes, disheveled hair, and missing teeth, I thought he was homeless. I told him I was heading to Bally’s on the Las Vegas strip, and he pointed to his car and replied, “Get in, I will take you.” 

I looked at his car and thought, “this looks in worse condition than him.” I was desperate to get to Bally’s as Lisa was waiting to register for the event. I decided to get in his car. He began to ask if I was playing any big events. I responded that I was only registering for a “small event.” 

Instead of taking the turn onto the Strip, he continued straight and turned left on the adjacent street. I was feeling apprehensive. It felt like I was being driven to an abandoned alley to be robbed or worse. I noticed the passenger door was unlocked and as being beaten and robbed in Las Vegas was not on my bucket list, I told myself if at any point I felt threatened I would ‘tuck and roll’ out of the vehicle. Fortunately my apprehension was misguided. He drove me to Bally’s food court area. I thanked him for the drive and gave him $25. 


I walked through Bally’s looking for Lisa and the poker rooms. I did discover that I needed to get to the Paris section to receive my player’s card. I met Lisa in the waiting line and we registered for the poker tournament. Shortly after we completed our registration it was announced the starting time would be delayed for 30 minutes. The delay was caused by the Colossus poker tournament which was still occupying a large section of the ballroom intended for the Tag Team poker event. 

Lisa and I wandered around the casino and Las Vegas waiting for the official start. When we eventually found our table we noticed there were two empty seats. The table was a bit on the quiet side, so I decided to become the life of the party added some friendly banter with the other players. I texted Lisa some of the hands I won and grew our starting stack of 20k to a little under 25k before tagging her in. Lisa was able to win a few smaller poker hands before getting entangled in a couple of large spots. When I tagged back in we were under 5K in poker chips, approximately 25 big blinds, but I knew exactly what to do. The table was mostly passive so I started to shove hands on the preflop betting round, putting maximum pressure on the tightest teams. I was able to get a double up with AQ versus AJ on a king high flop. 

I decided to steal the blinds by raising over 50% of my stack on the Button with AK and the action folded around to the small blind who jammed, effectively representing the absolute nuts. Thankfully they had AQs. My heart broke as the villain hit the three outer on the turn with the queen making the board. Something no player wishes to see. It was the most painful loss I have felt in a long time, but I was happy with how I played the tournament.


After busting the Tag Team event, I rushed over to the 50k Poker Players Championship rail in the Paris main ballroom. There were less than 100 registered players, with late registration allowed until the next day. 

As much as I wanted to play, my goal here was to get as many signatures on my shoes as I could. This poker event brought many of the world’s elite players into one room, and I was going to take full advantage. I waited for the players to take their designated break and then I would ask if they would like to sign my shoes. I did get some signatures including: Josh Arieh, Chance Kornuth, Lyle Berman, Paul Volpe, and Daniel “Jungleman” Cates who was dressed in the fashion of Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage. 

Daniel Negreanu saw me with my shoes and came over to the rail and signed them. He had his vlogging camera and briefly filmed me before turning his attention to Ali Eslami and his entourage. One of the funniest moments I experienced on this trip was trying to get Phil Ivey’s signature. I was observing Ivey’s table in the 50k and Dan Shak spotted me on the rail. He came over to me and said “Give me the f***ing shoe, I will get Phil to sign them.” Dan was sitting directly on Phil’s left in the event and approached Phil and said “Phil, sign these shoes!” 

When it was all done, I had over 100 signatures on the shoes and met nine WSOP Main Event Champions, including Phil Hellmuth, Greg Merson, and Joe Cada. Rachel Kay Miller, a photographer with PokerNews, reached out to me on Twitter, requesting to take some photos of the shoes. I felt like a VIP at the Final Table area inside Bally’s while Rachel took a plethora of pictures of my now famous shoes. On another day I met with Antonio Abrego, a photographer for PokerGO, who also took some time taking photos of the shoes.


I met Harold, one of my friends from Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, at the Bellagio for lunch. He asked if I wanted to go on a roller coaster. I fear heights, but not having been on a roller coaster for over 10 years made me want to ride the rails! Harold suggested we sit at the front to enjoy a better experience. As the rollercoaster ascended, I closed my eyes and began reciting “Hail Mary.” Harold yelled at me to open my eyes, and I did. It was the most intense adrenaline rush I can ever remember and I am glad I faced my fear and rode the coaster. 


Before arriving in Vegas, I saw a poster on Twitter for a Meet Up Game: “Thirst and Wheels” hosted by Veronica Brill and K.L. Cleeton. The event which included No Limit Hold’em, Pot-Limit Omaha, and Mixed Card Games was being run at the Aria. 

Having never played mixed games, I wanted to cross that off my poker list. I noticed plenty of blue $1 chips and numerous gold plaques with the individual games listed. The game was a 4/8 Fixed Limit Dealer’s Choice, with each game selected for one full orbit. I did not know 90% of the games listed, but it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had. I was also introduced to a couple of new Limit Hold’em variants, amongst other games. Such games including if there were more than 2 players on the river, the 2nd best hand won and players were not allowed to muck. I did not play a single hand of that orbit. 


I am in a taxi heading to the airport, and I get a text from Lisa saying that Joey “PapiGTO” Ingram is currently at Bally’s for the conclusion of the Tag Team event. I knew that if I did not meet Joey, I would regret it. So, I got my boarding pass and returned to Bally’s as quickly as I could. Fortunately, Joey was still waiting. I was able to meet him, get his signature and photos with him before rushing back to the airport to make my flight home.

It was an absolute whirlwind of excitement, an experience of a lifetime and I cannot wait until I get a chance to do something like this again. And to anyone out there that is trying to decide if they should go on a trip, just do it!

About the Author: ‘Dano’ is a graduate student working on his Master’s degree in fisheries biology and part-time poker dealer. He enjoys playing the “great game of Pot-Limit Omaha” cash games online.