The World Poker Tour tournament at the Commerce Casino came down to the final six players Wednesday vying for the $100,000 top prize, and the chance to go to Las Vegas and win $1.5 million.
Laker owner Jerry Buss was among the final six -- like he needs another million or two. (I'd understand if he had to pay for his daughter's wedding ... )
Buss and I sat across from each other a day earlier after a random draw had put us at the same table. Ninety-seven players were each given $10,000 in chips. My attempt to just pick up and leave, however, was thwarted by Tour officials.
I was told I would have to play and either win it all or lose everything. It took me 90 minutes to throw away $10,000. "Sounds like my wife shopping," said Times' copy editor Houston Mitchell, who will probably be sponsoring his wife's next shopping trip after she reads this.
I was eliminated before Kato Kaelin. I know this because Kaelin flipped me a $25 chip and told me I should get his car for him.
ELIMINATION PLAY concluded at 11:30 p.m. with Mickey Rooney just missing the final six. Tour officials said they were impressed he was able to stay awake that long. He earned $5,000 to donate to his favorite charity -- or ex-wife.
Former Playboy Playmate Brande Roderick lasted longer than pro player Amarillo Slim, who apparently doesn't deal well with distractions. When Roderick left, someone asked Buss if she had caught his attention. "Too old," he said. I nodded, and he thought I was raising.
POKER UPDATE: The tournament is over, and Holy Kato, the rich just get richer. Buss finished second overall to pro Layne Flack and walked off with $40,000 -- which by the way, Jeanie & Phil, would cover the cost of a great wedding.
IT'S BEEN tough for Clipper fans to hang with the disappointing team this season, but a number of them have shown a lot more determination than Michael Olowokandi, who has flat-out deserted his teammates.
Based on the team's uninspiring play against Golden State, it appears the Clippers are following Olowokandi's lead, and have called it quits.
OLOWOKANDI UNDERWENT knee surgery three weeks ago today and has not made an appearance at a practice, team meeting or game. He has talked to the head coach once in the last three weeks. The general manager said he heard Olowokandi had visited a therapist in Culver City on Wednesday, but Wednesday night Olowokandi was a no-show at the Clippers' game in Staples Center.
"I'm not sure why he's not here," Coach Alvin Gentry said. "I'd think a guy would want to be with his teammates. He should be here -- not just for the team, but for himself."
You would think a guy who has the king-size perception problem that the Big Stiff has in this town would be smarter, or advised by someone smarter -- not to certify himself as a selfish athlete.
"I'd like him to be here," said GM Elgin Baylor. "When I talked to him about a week ago, he told me he was walking on crutches."
Do you think he's still walking on crutches?
"No, I don't," Baylor said. "When he's healthy enough to walk, he belongs here."
Is he healthy enough to walk?
"I don't know," Baylor said.
Isn't it your job to know?
"I will find out," he said.
Is he obligated to be here?
"Yes, he's obligated to be here right now," Baylor said.
So why isn't he being fined?
"As of [today] he'll be fined if he's not here," Baylor said, and I guess you can now add Baylor's name to the list of local athletes I've motivated to perform better. "He was told earlier he would be fined if he was not here...."
When Shaquille O'Neal was injured, he didn't sit on the bench, but remained in the training room working on his sore toe and knee. He spent time with his teammates. There were rumors that Olowokandi returned to England to visit his family -- no one seems to know for sure.
"I talked to him by cell phone so I have no idea where he is," Gentry said. "I saw Chris Webber sitting on the bench when he was hurt. I saw Alonzo Mourning doing the same thing. I don't see any difference here."
It's another Clipper disgrace, of course. Olowokandi quit on the Clippers before injuring his knee. He wanted $12.5 million this season, and $12.5 million for each of the six seasons after that -- and he was serious. When he didn't get it, he said he would not come back to the Clippers next season -- upset because of his $6-million salary for this season.
Now, given the chance to turn his back on the Clippers, he has done just that. The only thing worse is what the Clippers have done in response -- which is nothing.
OLOWOKANDI UPDATE: A team spokesman said the latest word is that Olowokandi won't be ready to play again for another four or five weeks. (Just in time for the Clippers' playoff run.)
THIS COMES in e-mail from Tschiffsd: "What do you call a .230 utility infielder with no power who has ridden the bench for several major league clubs?"
Answer: Joe Millionaire.
TODAY'S LAST word comes in e-mail from Ruben:
"You are not afraid to speak your mind, and I admire that. But I do wonder -- how is it when you actually do go home and see your wife?"
I close my eyes and picture Salma ... just kidding, you know, one of those Houston Mitchell-like jokes.
T.J. Simers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.