Full Tilt added a new “red pro” to its large roster: Hal Lubarsky, a champion Limit Hold’em player and the first blind person to cash in the World Series of Poker.

Lubarsky might have been more of a poker household name if he had not retired from the tables a few years ago. On an MSNBC interview Lubarsky explained he moved from Brooklyn to Las Vegas aged 29 to pursue his poker career, which was very successful playing the $150-$300 H.O.R.S.E. game.“I was extremely well-known in cash games. I’ve played with all the big names except for Doyle (Brunson) and Chip (Reese),” he said.

Lubarsky’s successful poker career was not stopped by a series of bad beats but by something more serious: retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder that causes the retina to slowly deteriorate over time. “You’re born with it,” he explained to MSNBC. “It just gets progressively worse.” Lubarsky’s night and peripheral vision gradually diminished until he could not even read the community cards, and eventually not even his hole cards. He described it saying, “It’s like looking through a straw.”

Full Tilt must have noticed Lubarsky in his much publicized run at the WSOP Main Event this year, where he finished 197th, outlasting pros such as Juan Carlos Mortensen and Sorel Mizzi. But it was not easy for Lubarsky to enter the WSOP: in order to play he needs an aide to whisper his hole cards in his ear and then call off the community cards for him, and WSOP officials were initially against allowing him to play because of this. Lubarsky brought up the case of William Rockwell, a player with no arms who was allowed to play at the 2005 WSOP with the assistance of his mother. Eventually WSOP management relented, and Harrah's Director of Poker Howard Greenbaum phoned Lubarsky to apologize and offer his best wishes.

Lubarsky feels his blindness is not a real handicap at the table – he told msn he prefers to focus on betting patterns and sizes rather than physical tells: “I’ve never been big on tells in No Limit Hold’em. I don’t even believe in them. (…) “I get my tells on how people play.”

The 2008 WSOP was a fantastic experience for Lubarsky, who was a favorite of the TV cameras and of all other WSOP attendants. On an ESPN interview he regretted not saying much when he got knocked out – after Nolan Dalla made a speech and he was given a standing ovation, all Lubarsky could do was bow silently. This is what he wishes he had said:

I'd love to say thanks to the 6,300 that played. Going blind isn't an easy thing to go through. It's not easy to do things as your vision gets worse. It hasn't been an easy life. Playing in this World Series was pretty fantastic. The 6,300 that played were just great. Everyone who played and watched treated me fantastic. (…) It was unbelievable. I'll never forget it as long as I live. What an experience it was.

Lubarsky joins the cream of the crop at Full Tilt – team Full Tilt includes the likes of Phil Ivey, Chris Ferguson, Patrik Antonius, Mike Matusow, Howard Lederer and Jennifer Harman; and Full Tilt also sponsors well over 100 other pros including David Benyamine, Roland de Wolfe, Chip Jett and Max Pescatori.

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