Ray's new hobby paying off in spades
SUN PHOTO PROVIDED
Ray Del Cueto, also known as Tampa Bay
Ray, checks his hand during the World Series
of Poker in Las Vegas where he
almost finished in the money.
BRADENTON BEACH – After two bouts with cancer, Ray Del Cueto, a certified financial planner, turned down a transfer, quit his job and moved fulltime into his "fishing shack" on the Island. That was in 2000, and seven years later, his girlfriend, Denise Tuck, of Bradenton, got him interested in poker.
He was obviously a quick learner because he went four days into the four-day World Series of Poker before losing last Friday.
The World Series of Poker Tournament is the largest in the world, attracting about 6,800 people. Approximately 2,000 people played each day and when Del Cueto, whose nickname is "Tampa Bay Ray," finished there were only about 750 to 800 players still in it. The contest pays the top 10 percent of the players, but Ray wasn't in it for the money.
"Actually, I could have not played that fourth day and been in the money, but I did not come for the money," he said. "I was there to win it, so there was no way I was going to cash in on the third day.
Del Cueto said ESPN was covering the tournament live, but there was a 30-minute delay so nobody could watch TV and then text information to the players live. He said he tried hard to get the attention of the sports network's correspondent, but when it was apparent she was not interested, he found the producer.
"I told him that I am a 68-year-old man who had won two battles with cancer (bladder in 1998 and prostrate in 2000) and had only been playing four years," he said. "They sent me to a room and did a full interview."
Del Cueto said ESPN would be running interviews from the tournament on Tuesday nights, at 7p.m. starting July 26.
In the four years since he began playing poker, Del Cueto has played online and in live tournaments and when the World Series of Poker came to West Palm Beach, he won some money. He came back later and came in first, taking home almost $29,000 and the World Series Circuit Ring. He spent $10,000 of his winnings on the entry fee for the Las Vegas event. He also had another chance to get to the big tourney.
"I got online and played Bulldog Poker, which allowed the winner to enter the Las Vegas tournament and paid for travel expenses," he said. "I won it and that got me to the main event."
Does he regret not winning the big one?
"At first, I was disappointed, but then I thought, 'You've gone deep in your first big tournament; be happy,'" he said.
After that, he flew Denise out to be with him and they spent the weekend enjoying the shows, the casinos and everything else Las Vegas has to offer.
He said he feels fortunate in many ways: to be a cancer survivor twice, to be living near the most beautiful beaches in the world and to be retired and enjoying such an exciting hobby.