Bach 'still walking on air' days after big H.O.R.S.E. win

3 July 2009

LAS VEGAS – For a guy who hadn't slept more than a few hours over the last couple days, David Bach appeared to be in pretty good spirits Friday afternoon at the World Series of Poker.

We're guessing that being the new owner of the handsome David "Chip" Reese Memorial Trophy – and the $1.2 million that goes with it – can go a long way in helping cure the after-affects of being sleep deprived.

David Bach

After almost 19 hours of final table action, David Bach won the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship to earn the David 'Chip' Reese Memorial Trophy.(Photo by Vin Narayanan/Casino City)

"I'm still exhausted from a physical standpoint, but at the same time I'm still kind of walking on air," said the easy-going 37-year-old poker pro from Athens, Ga. as he prepared to receive his shiny gold bracelet on Day 1A of the WSOP Main Event. "The adrenaline is still running through my body. I'm still having a hard time believing that I actually won this event," said Bach, who won the 2009 $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship by surviving a final table that lasted 18-plus hours earlier this week.

It's easy to understand why Bach was feeling that way as he received his bracelet from WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack. Although he's made a good living as a poker pro since graduating from the University of Georgia in 1996, the epic victory in the H.O.R.S.E. World Championship was Bach's first major win. It immediately places his in a group of elite players (the late Reese, Freddy Deeb and Scotty Nguyen) that has won the tournament that is just as prestigious to the players as the $10,000 Main Event.

"I know I've made history and it feels good," said Bach, who outlasted a final table that included five former WSOP gold bracelet winners (Vitaly Lunkin, Huck Seed, Chau Giang, Ville Wahlbeck and Erik Seidel) before finally defeating John Hanson in a seven-hour, see-saw heads-up match. "Chip meant the world to poker. And I've been around long enough to know what old-school gamblers have meant to the game and Chip was the ultimate example of that."

Bach said that although the final table lasted nearly 19 hours – making it the second-longest in WSOP history – fatigue had nothing to do with the outcome.

"Neither (Hanson) nor I made any tired mistakes," said Bach, who gets to keep the Reese trophy for a year and said he plans to have an exact replica made for himself. "The result was based on our skills in the different games and our styles, which were quite different. He wanted to play big pots with big hands and I was content to give up the big pots and pick up all the little pots. Luckily, my style won out."

While Bach may not be a familiar face to TV poker fans, he's an interesting character with an even more interesting background. When he plays in tournaments he wears the same outfit every day (he washes the clothes each night). For the H.O.R.S.E. event the ensemble was a black L.A. Lakers t-shirt (he's a huge fan of the team), a Led Zeppelin Hawaiian shirt, green shorts and his signature brown leather cowboy hat. Fittingly, the scruffy-bearded Bach wore the same get-up when he on Friday when he appeared back at the Rio to receive his trophy and bracelet.

His nickname, "The Gunslinger," comes from his love for Stephen King novels. In one of King's books a "gunslinger" is referred to as "someone who can see more in a single glance than most normal men.'

"If you think about it, that's what a good poker player has to do," Bach said with a laugh.

In addition to poker, Bach is also a standout bowler. When he got out of college he used his poker winnings to finance a shot on the Professional Bowlers Association tour for a few years but gave it up when he realized poker would be more lucrative.

"I was a good bowler, but I couldn't be one of the best," he said. "In bowling you have to be one of the top 20 or 30 in the world to make good money and I knew that would be difficult."

So he turned to poker full time and over the last 11 years he won just over $1 million, thanks, in part, to nine WSOP cashes. But he doubled that amount with his victory in the H.O.R.S.E. event. Before this week his biggest victory from a money standpoint was a sixth-place finish in the 2007 WPT L.A. Poker Classic when he earned just over $257,000. And proving that his big victory this week was no fluke, Bach finished 11th in last year's H.O.R.S.E. World Championship.

The sudden doubling up of Bach's bankroll will certainly help a couple of good causes. Bach is very active in a few charities such as Habitat for Humanity and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. But a huge chunk of his money will go to his father, who was responsible for teaching him poker as a young boy.

Michael Bach, 67, is a clinical psychologist in Athens who, according to his son, does "wonderful work with children." Mr. Bach is still working even though he is on dialysis for kidney failure and David wants him to continue to do just that as long as he feels up to it.

"Psychologists don't get paid very well, so one of the things I'm going to do with this money is tell my father, 'Go out and do the work you love and don't worry about how much you're making,'" Bach said. "That way he can go see some clients for free if he has to. As long as he's out there helping people, now he doesn't have to worry so much about the money."

Bach said that his father was following the tournament via the Internet from Athens throughout the night and into the wee hours of Wednesday morning. He eventually had to get up and go to work and he was actually in with a client when his secretary came into to the room to tell him David had at long last prevailed.

"He was the first person I called when it was over," Bach said with an ear-to-ear smile. "It was a great moment. We're really, really close and he taught me how to play poker. He was to-the-moon proud of me.

"The entire experience was incredible. This is obviously something I'll never forget."


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