Behind the Scenes with Nolan Dalla from the 2006 World Series of Poker

Nolan Dalla
Nolan Dalla the WSOP Media Director as seen at the Rio, Las Vegas, June, 2006.

A serious Hold'em player long before it became mainstream, Nolan Dalla is one of poker's most likeable legends. Raised in Texas, Dalla played an instrumental role in advancing the Hold'em movement with the likes of fellow Texan titans Doyle Brunson and Johnny Moss. An avid card player since the age of 5, Dalla has covered every aspect of the poker world from dealing and playing to writing and teaching. caught up with the larger-than-life Dalla, and as the Media Director for the World Series of Poker, he gave us the goods on what he expects from this year's Main Event, his most memorable hand, and how he thinks sports betting is the next big thing.

How did you get into poker on a serious level?

I used to work for the federal government, and it basically involved sitting behind a desk, and it was very administrative, and I was always looking for something more exciting. And poker is a very exciting thing. As I progressed, I found that there was a lot more to poker than just sitting at the table; there were people that were interesting, a lot of things to write about, friendships were made. Really poker is much more than just a game. It's a lifestyle, and it's a lifestyle I've really enjoyed being a part of.

How do you feel about the World Series leaving Binion's Horseshoe?

Well, I'm one of the biggest believers in tradition. Poker is very rich in tradition obviously, and when I look back at the days of Brunson, Sailor Roberts, Johnny Moss and Stu Ungar, I certainly have some romantic feelings. The good thing about it is that a lot of those names like Doyle Brunson are still playing. Binion's Horseshoe was a wonderful place to hold the tournament, but now there's no way that a tournament of this size can be played in a facility that small. I think the only question is what are we going to do in two or three years?

How has poker changed in the past few years?

As soon as Chris Moneymaker won the World Series, poker changed. I called that the "sonic boom" of poker because right there poker went from the stone age to the modern era. There are a lot of reasons for this: television coming in for the first time with ESPN, the concept that just your average person can come in and play and possibly walk away a world champion and a millionaire. Most of these tournaments in the early days were won by the professionals, but the last four world champions have been amateur players. Someone can just walk in here, and their entire life can change. All kinds of lives are changing and I just think that's incredibly fascinating.

What improvements have you seen so far in this year's WSOP?

What I'm most proud of this year is that when Harrah's Entertainment purchased the rights to the World Series in 2003, a great amount of effort from the tournament officials has gone toward making this a real sport. Jeffrey Pollack, the WSOP commissioner has done a remarkable job of turning this into something as potentially big as the NBA or the NFL. I think we still haven't reached the pinnacle of where we can be. Especially internationally, when you consider poker is still a very American game. Think of what's going to happen when it opens up in Europe or Asia or Latin America, this will be something enormous.

Who do you want to see at the final table going head to head?

Good question! Well, I have to be fair and biased. You can't really be unbiased, but as a writer and somebody who's connected to the World Series of Poker in an official way, frankly I'm always cheering for the greatest story or for the guy who's the biggest underdog, somebody who can really appreciate the glory, the fame and the wealth that come the winner's way. Still, it'd be great to see a legend like Doyle Brunson win it.

Can you recount one of your most memorable hands that you've played?

The most fun pot that I ever won was one where I actually had by far the worst hand. I was playing Pot-Limit Omaha with poker greats Greg Raymer, Barry Tannenbaum and Terrence Chan. First there's a $400 raise then an $800 re-raise then another re-raise at $1,600. So what I figure out is that all the high cards are gone, all the face cards are in these guys' hands. My hand however was absolutely hideous: 2-2-5-7. You would not call four dollars on this hand. Every book says throw this hand away. But all my cards were still live.

Of course we're drinking and having a good time, so I called the $1,600 and I spike a deuce, which is still not a very good hand, but I take the whole pot and everyone's mad and calling me an idiot. And that's the greatest thing in the world when you've got world champions calling you an idiot and everyone's angry with you. It's such a great feeling.

You've written so may insightful books and articles on the world of poker, do you have any other writing projects on the way?

I will certainly write another book, probably on sports betting. I have a great interest in and do a lot of heavy sports betting. That is a market that is greatly untapped. There are a lot of sports betters, but there's very little literature out there on sports gambling, football handicapping, etc. I think that it may be the next big boom that we see in gaming.

Thanks Nolan!

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