Be careful what you say and who you say it around.

Take Lev Rofman, for instance.

Early on at the most recent gold bracelet event at the 2013 WSOP, Rofman was playing among hundreds of other players on Day One.  A few Russian players started pointing and talking about Rofman in their native language.  They must have figured that their target – wearing a hat with the logo of the NFL's Houston Texans, who spoke perfect English with absolutely no accent whatsoever – wouldn't have any idea what they were saying.

And so the Russians began discussing “making a move on the guy with the hat,” in Russian.  They had no idea the object of their attention was born – in of all places – Moscow, Russia.  Moreover, he speaks perfect Russian.

Indeed, Rofman isn't exactly what he seems.  He's a proud former Houstonian – a city which has produced extraordinary poker talent over the years, from the late and great John Bonetti to living legend Sammy Farha.  Rofman immigrated to the US as a child and spent most of his youth growing up in Texas.  He didn't just assimilate in the culture, he became a Texan.

Part of the proud legacy of being a real Texan includes playing Texas Hold'em.  He began playing in private games around the city, which were plentiful.  Las Vegas and the WSOP seemed very far away.

Now age 37, Rofman works in the Las Vegas Convention Center, where he works setting up show exhibits.  He moved to Las Vegas about seven years ago, while passing through, he says.  He met a few friends, liked the local scene, and decided to stick around.

In recent years, Rofman has spent a fair amount of spare time playing poker, mostly in cash games.  He had no illusions about ever playing poker professionally, nor entering big time poker tournaments like the WSOP.

Then, about a week ago, something happened.  Rofman's poker playing brother came into town for a visit.  He planned to play in a few WSOP events.  Trouble for Rofman was he wanted to come and play also, but he had to work most days, and Rofman wasn't free until this past Wednesday.  Due entirely to his limited schedule, Rofman decided this was to be his first and only WSOP entry.  

Rofman signed up for the $1,500 buy-in Pot-Limit Hold'em tournament, classified as Event 12.  He didn't have much experience in Pot-Limit Hold'em, but none of that seemed to matter.

Over three successive days and nights, Rofman went on a rush and managed to stage what must be considered the as the biggest surprise story and breakthrough of any event concluded, so far.  He not only won a gold bracelet in his first attempt ever, he also defeated Alan Cunningham, one of the game's most respected players, in heads-up play.

Nost of the viewers in the audience anticipated a Cunningham victory, which would have been the sixth such triumph of what's been an illustrious career.  Rofman had quite a different outcome in mind.

And so, just as with the Russians misjudged their adversary during the first day of play, quite a few in the crowd watching the final table may have drawn conclusions way too quickly.

There has to be some deep satisfaction about shattering preconceptions.  It appears that Lev Rofman has succeeded in doing this many times, most notably at the 2013 WSOP.

The new champion won $166,136 for first place, in addition to his first gold bracelet.  


Name:  Lev Rofman
Current Residence:  Las Vegas, NV (USA)
Birthplace:  Moscow (Russia)
Childhood Residence:  Houston, TX (USA)
Age:  37
Marital Status:  Single
Children:  None
Profession:  Convention Services Worker  
Recreation:  Part-Time Poker Player
WSOP Cashes (including this event):  1
First WSOP Cash (year):  2013
WSOP Final Table Appearances:  1
WSOP Wins (with this victory):  1

WSOP:  How does it feel to win your first WSOP gold bracelet?
Rofman:  I understand it's very important to everyone else I was playing against.  But to me, to be honest with you, the first-place cash was the thing.  I'm not really in the poker community.  I understand it's a big deal to a lot of people.  The more that I played this tournament – at first it was the cash – and then it became wanting bracelet.

WSOP:  What does the prize money mean for you?
Rofman:  It's not everything to me.  I'm not destitute, or anything, but it's nice.  I'll be able to party harder.

WSOP:  What made you play in this particular event?
Rofman:  My brother came into town and I thought I'd give it a shot.  It was the next one on the schedule, and $1,500 was about the limit of what I could afford, so I signed up.  I had to miss a couple of earlier tournaments because I had to work.  I figured I'd take a shot and see what happens.

WSOP:  Tell us about what happened over the course of all three days.
Rofman:  I got lucky.  I can name at least three or four times when I should have been out of the tournament.  There was one hand when I was all in.  I had A-K and he had A-A, and we chopped.  I kept going and am lucky to be here.

WSOP:  What was it like to play heads-up with Alan Cunningham?
Rofman:  Honestly, it was extremely intimidating.

WSOP:  Can you elaborate?
Rofman:  (The gold bracelet) was just sitting right there and I was looking at it.  I was so damn close, but I was also so far – because I was looking over at Cunningham.  I thought I couldn't get it, because it was so intimidating playing against a dude like that.

WSOP:  How did you manage to win?
Rofman:  Get it in bad.

WSOP:  Can you talk about any strategic adjustments you made while playing against Cunningham?
Rofman: I did not want to get involved in flops with Cunningham.  I know he's a better player than me.  I wanted to make the pre-flop betting as big as possible as often as possible when I thought I had the better hand.

WSOP:  What's your normal poker game?
Rofman:  I usually play $2-5 blinds No-Limit Hold'em, sometimes $1-2 blinds at the Red Rock Casino.

WSOP:  Where is home for you?
Rofman:  I grew up in the H-Town (Houston).  I love Texas.  But I moved here to Las Vegas about seven years ago....I like it here because it's 24-hours.  They don't ever kick you out.

This was Alan Cunningham's 47th time to cash at the WSOP, which currently ranks 20th on the all-time player list.