Former Graffiti King ‘Saved’ By Poker Wins $1,000 Event; Now Can Pay Fines

Jeffrey Vanchiro, 23, is Now Addicted To Playing Multi-Table Tournaments

Atlantic City, NJ - Poker often produces unbelievable stories, but Jeffrey Vanchiro’s is hard to top. From age 11 until he was 23, his whole life was devoted to painting cartoon-character graffiti all over New York City. “I put my heart and channeled all my energy into it,” he says passionately. His “hobby” earned him jail time and fines — he still owes the city over $10,000. Then his dad got him interested in poker, and his new hobby diverted his energy and rescued him.
Tonight he reached a zenith in his new endeavor when he took first place in the sixth event of the WSOP Circuit tour at Harrah’s Atlantic City, $1,000 no-limit hold’em. It paid $68,160. “The city’s a winner too,” he said. “Now I can pay them.” His past is not fully behind him, though. Still fearing violence from competitive graffiti artists of his youth, he insisted on shielding his face when his victory photo was taken.
Vanchiro is 23 and lives in Brooklyn. He credited Lou Krieger’s poker primer, “Poker for Dummies,” for giving him a good grounding. “Most players might be embarrassed to read a basic book, but I wasn’t,” He said. Muti-table tournaments are now like a drug to him, But he nearly quit the game in frustration after playing in a WSOP shoot-out, cashing 11th after getting crippled in a bad beat by Dewey Tomko, and just missing a chance to play a final table against the likes of Daniel Negreanu and Erik Lindgren. Tonight he said he played nearly perfectly, only misplaying one hand.
The final table started after Vanchiro flopped a set of 10s to beat Theodore Ely’s pocket queens. Play started with blinds of 2,000-4,000 and 500 antes, 31 minutes left. Holding the lead with 400.000 chips was Michael Kelly.

Here were the starting chip counts:

1. Michael Kelly  400,000
2. Sal Giambrone 150,000
3. Charles Minter 45,000
4. Mike Somma 304,000
5. Bobby Wisiak 45,000
6. Larry Nelson 85,000
7. Terry Quinn  37,500
8. Hung Truong 80,000
9. Jeffrey Vanchiro 130,000

Action started very fast, with three players knocked out in eight hands. First to go was Terry “Venom” Quinn. On hand 3 he moved in for 34,000 with pocket 7s. Charles Minter called with A-K and caught a king on the turn. Quinn took home $4,260 for ninth.
Quinn, 57, is from Zanesville, Ohio and works in real estate and business development. He learned poker four years ago by playing and a “wall of books.” This is his 10th Circuit and his poker highlight is a $52,000 cash at Tunica. Quinn is married with two children, and also plays golf.
Next to go was Bobby “Wiz” Wisiak. He pushed in for about 60,000 with pocket 9s. Michael Somma called, turned up two kings, and Wisiak ended eighth for $6,390 when all small cards came. Somma, starting in second position, now had the chip lead and would keep moving up from there  
Wisiak, 40, is from Queens, New York, and is a trader. He’s played 20 years, has entered numerous Circuits, and made four main event final tables. His best cash was $50,000 for eighth in a championship Circuit event at Harrah’s New Orleans He listed his hobbies as “alligator wrestling and running with bulls,” certainly much safer pastimes than poker.
Next victim was Hung Truong. His last 70,000 went in with pocket 5s. Somma again pulled the trigger, calling with A-J, flopping a jack and hitting an ace on the river for good measure. Seventh paid $8,750.
Truong is 33 and from Brooklyn, married with two children. He’s been playing poker just one year and last week entered three Trump Classic no-limit events, finishing third, second and first. “Not bad for one week of play,” he wrote on his bio  No, not bad at all.
Blinds rose to 3,000-6,000 with 500 antes. On hand 25, Larry “Shady” Nelson, on the button, put in his last 51,000 with A-J. Vanchiro flopped a set of kings to knock him out in sixth place, which paid $10,650.
Nelson is from Lansdale, Pennsylvania and has the unusual occupation of spinal implant sales. He learned poker from his brothers and has played since high school. This second Circuit for him is his poker highlight.
Hand 44 produced lots of drama.  Somma opened for 20,000 from the button.  Sal Giambrone called, and Charles Minter came over the top for 60,000 more. Somma took a good five minutes studying Winter and counting chips before finally calling. Giambrone folded.
The flop came 10-10-3. Now Minter pondered, then bet 150,000. This time Somma didn’t have to think. He had quad 10s! Minter’s A-K was useless, and he took $12,780 for fifth.
Minter, 66, is a mutual fund manager from Yardley, Pennsylvania. He’s married with four children, enjoys golf and tennis, and has entered 15 Circuits in three years of poker. His highlight was second in a CEO event at the Taj.
With four left, Somma was way in front with close to 850,000 of the 1.3 million chips in play. Right after blinds went to 4,000-8,000 with 1,000 antes, Vanchiro began moving into contention when he doubled through with pocket jacks against Somma’s pocket 9s.
Ten hands into the new level, the board showed 4-7-2-10. Vanchiro bet 8,000, Michael “Riddler” Kelly made it 8,000 to go, and Vanchiro moved in. Both had a 10, but Vanchiro had an ace kicker to Kelly’s 6, and Kelly ended fourth for $14,910.
Kelly, 41, is a union official from Verona, New Jersey. He’s only been playing two months and this is his first Circuit. His other hobby is golf.  
On hand 58 we got heads-up. Down to 60,000, Giambrone was all in, a big favorite with A-J to Somma’s J-8 — until two 8s flopped. Giambrone’s payday for third place was $19,170.
Giambrone is in sales, is 34, and comes from Staten Island, New York. He’s beeen playing three years and this is his fifth Circuit. Two years ago he came in fourth in a Borgata/WPT event and seventh in a $1,000 Circuit tournament here.
Somma started the match-up with about 780,000 chips to a bit over 500,000 for Vanchiro. It would last 41 hands. They played very carefully, and when the level ended 18 hands later, the count was very nearly the same. It was time for dinner, but the boys decided to keep playing.
The big turnaround came on hand 80, when blinds were $6,000-$12,000, with $1,000 antes. The flop came Js-8s-2d. Somma bet 15,000, Vanchiro raised 55,000, and Somma moved in. Vanchiro stood up, talking out loud, trying to figure what Somma might have. “A-J? Flush draw?" he pondered. He said he was afraid to make a bad call with so many spectators watching.
Finally he did, with Ac-As, and was surprised when Somma turned up 10c-9c. “Only a straight draw?” he asked. Two spades came, giving Vanchiro a flush, and suddenly Somma was down to about 300,000.
Somma hung on for another 11 hands. It ended when the board showed K-4-2-8. Somma bet 30,000 holding K-3, and Vanchiro moved him in. He turned up two fours for a set, and Somma was drawing dead. .
Somma, 26, is a full-time player from Middle Village New York. He learned “by playing way too much when I was a kid.” He’s played numerous Circuits, and has a $48,980 win in a $500 Circuit event here, and a second this year at a Borgata Open/WPT event.   —Max Shapiro