WHE Photo Stories

Jen and “Unabomber” Hold Court

(Fort Lauderdale, FL) After racking up our chips, we called it a day on the set of Poker Night in America, the poker reality show that airs on the CBS Sports Network. The high-stakes competitions showcase poker skills, lucky streaks, gambling styles, grit and gab. To my left, at the poker table was the handsome sharp-as -a-tack, poker genius, Doug Polk. He bought into the game with an intimidating $100,000. To my right was semi-pro Avi Freedman; he's been killing the game of late. He brought out a bankroll of $30,000. Across the table were poker millionaires Frank Kassela and Shaun Deeb. Kassela is part of the rarified club of poker players that have scored a hat trick at the Annual World Series of Poker Tournament. Shaun Deeb has needles at the ready to insert under the skin of players that takes him on. My 5K buy-in was the minimum stack permitted; I had another 5K in my pocket, if needed--compliments of my silent corporate sponsor. I like having a chance to decimate the competition with fewer bullets, but between the talent and the mega buy-ins all around me, I had no intention of coming up with more money against this crowd! I was committed to one strategy in this spot--disciplined aggression. It was my best hope with a pittance. At the end of play, I was down a few pennies, but I was up for a night on the town! Led by high stakes player and poker talent scout Matt Glantz, a group of us hit the cocktail lounge to down shots or sip sodas before moving onward for more post-combat camaraderie. Poker Night regulars Jennifer Tilly and her long-time boy-friend Phil Laak (better known in poker circles as the Unabomber), had been occupied in the commentator booth all afternoon; they joined us. Prancing in stilettos and sneakers, respectively, Jen the only Academy award nominee who has won a World Series of Poker championship (Ladies Event) and Phil, also a WSOP champ (in an open event and Oscar worthy poker celebrity, hoofed it with us to the parking lot. We took off in two cars for the best stone crabs in town. A rehash of the day's events was quick and pointed at the dinner table. Big stacks dominated. Jen (the glamorous chatterbox) and Phil (the unpredictable eccentric) held court with style; they were witty, smart, gregarious, and completely engaged with each other--and with the rest of us during our nearly three-hour dinner. They provided plenty of laughable moments, but it was I who enjoyed the last laugh, thanks to this generous couple. At the end of dinner, we played "credit card roulette for the check. By a process of elimination in this numbers game, the wheel of fortune was about to point the check either on Jennifer or me. Suddenly the game came to a halt. Jen looked coquettishly at Phil as he announced, "Jen, Wendeen, this check belongs to me! Thank you Jen and Phil.

President Obama With “Wendy”

Last week, Wendeen reconnected with President Barack Obama, outside Washington (where they first met in 2008),  at a stirring event held at the Streiker Center/Temple Emanu-el. After sampling chef Daniel Boulud's famous short ribs,  the President took pictures at a VIP reception before the Event. He would soon settle in for a "conversation" with Rabbi Joshua Davidson in the main sanctuary of the temple. In earshot of Wendeen's friends, nearby, as she approached to greet the President, he called out to her , "Hi Wendy."  She joined him--responding  with this smile, caught by the camera! The only people who call her "Wendy" are family (Wendy was her nickname until she turned 6!), singer Wayne Newton, a client and longtime friend who resides in a world of his own, and  the good president.  Wendeen couldn't bring herself to correct the president! There was good reason that President Obama resonated deeply with his audience. He offered simple and sage advice to attendees on how to thrive in our complicated world. He said, "I tell my girls, "Be kind and be useful." Wendeen is grateul for his perspective.  

President Obama Resolve

On the occasion of President Obama's third State of the Union address, I was privileged to be in attendance and witness his ongoing metamorphosis from community organizer and novice power broker, to compelling orator and worldly statesman. President Obama insured that all of the optics were aligned--for his fellow Americans and his global viewers. Uncharacteristically, he put the brake on his penchant for off-putting frequent references to "MY administration," using the phrase  very sparingly--maybe only once. Instead he chose more unifying and inclusive words, generously, and for emphasis invoked "my fellow Americans" twice. "No Drama Obama "was at his best, in a low steady voice filled with controlled passion. He just left to the side contrived political fanfare. The uniqueness of the occasion was duly noted by media, beforehand--noting both his august office and the imposing lectern at which the president gave his no nonsense and no big news speech.  Mr. Obama  opened with a matter of fact, "Good evening," and moved into his subject briskly. His voice conveyed  his position of authority  while reflecting a strong undercurrent of multi-layered emotion, maybe not so different from a vast cross section of the American public Terrorist threats produce a powder keg of emotion as dangerous as the threat of an attack. The president seemed  mindful of his listeners, apparently aware of eroding approval and growing skepticism about his bona fides to deal effectively in complicated foreign affairs issues.  He addressed his listeners across the country as participants to be persuaded rather than as subjects expected to tolerate a blind  "father knows best"  policy. Indeed, he connected more and pontificated less, than usual and there was a noticeable absence of his oft spoken colloquial  pronunciation  of  words  that end with ing. He took responsibility for charting the course. But, on this occasion he presented to the world, faith in his team  the American people as much as the members of his Administration.. In calling the extremists "thugs, killers and a death cult,"  the president summarized succinctly the sentiments of most of the world--across political parties and social classes.  These were his most powerful and penetrating words of the evening. In contrast at his recent post-president appearance, Mr Obama makes clear he remains resolute, but he is more rested. Note: An earlier version of this article appeared timely to his 3rd State of the Union Address.

Baldwin is Still Winning

At a time when Las Vegas is all abuzz about the implications of Steve Wynn's fall from grace, I am reminded of his rise as a visionary who took a glitzy casino into the Wild West downtown Las Vegas recruited World Series of Poker Champion Bobby Baldwin as an executive and took him up the corporate ladder to there, making him president of the Golden Nugget. For Baldwin, the rest has been an unending storied history. Well schooled in accounting matters, and people reading skills, Baldwin went on to become president of Wynn's first  property on the famous Las Vegas Strip-- Mirage Resorts, and then at Wynn's crown jewel Bellagio, before joining the C-Suite of the behemoth MGM Company where Wynn's arch rival Terry Lani was the CEO. When MGM took aim at the Wynn properties and acquired them-- lock, stock, and barrel, Baldwin remained a winner, moving up a higher corporate ladder in the MGM infrastructure. Wynn was forced into a sale, taking a pretty penny and a non compete that also put him off the casino building grid for years. But once freed from his non compete agreement, Wynn was back in the saddle, and recognized, once again as one of Las Vegas' most imaginative and effective casino visionaries--with plenty of political clout. Last week, Steve Wynn resigned his position of Chair of the National Republican Committee and then as Chairman of the Wynn Hotel and Casino. He announced his resignations amid allegations of  sexual misconduct in the workplace, acknowledging , only, that the accusations had caused a public relations disaster for him and the properties that bear his name. Baldwin has long since departed from Wynn's business operations, but he was a winner for Wynn and a bigger winner in the world of MGM. Baldwin's winning ways are no accident of fate. His decision strategies have been artfully refined over the years, undoubtedly  perfected by paying careful attention at poker tables--where he is still a threat to younger poker wizards. As a woman who has worked and played in male dominated worlds, including casinos from Las Vegas to Macau, and routinely in the company of casino moguls and poker players, I have learned there are plenty of good and bad male role models around--in both categories. I have known Steve Wynn casually for more than 30 years-well enough to watch him take his poker lessons in the 80's and to share a few group meals at charity dinners in Las Vegas; not well enough to have any personal clue or opinion about him as to alleged sexual improprieties with the Company's massage therapists--some of whom worked on my ever -aching feet. I have had a bit more personal experience with Bobby Baldwin--enough to know that I was very fortunate to make his acquaintance. By the looks of the first poker table I visited (in downtown Las Vegas), I suspected that it would be "slim pickins'" to find a few good men! But Baldwin turned out to be one of many men associated with poker that have taught me crucial negotiating skills and the power of keen observation. But I made a few interesting connections; one was Jay, a businessman and elite poker player who introduced me to Bobby. I instantly took the measure of the man as smart, well-mannered, focused, skeptical, determined, and-- a skilled "people reader. He exuded inner confidence. I don't know Bobby Baldwin well, but I certainly have experienced his winning ways. At the Grand Prix of Poker, way back --in 1985, where we were both invited to play in a Charity Invitational, Bobby crippled me --unceremoniously. He played a pair of sevens as if they were Aces--because he knew I would fold to his big raise! And then he toughened me up by  warning me to hunker down and study how best to play each  hand. Bobby Baldwin's sage words have proven applicable, everywhere! Baldwin has the world on a string! 
Bobby Baldwin
My hours were numbered at the final table of the Grand Prix. Bobby eventually knocked me out in fifth place, taking advantage of another moment of inexcusable distraction on my part. I tracked Bobby down to thank him for the thrashing and promised to take his words to heart.  And you better believe, I have done so! The high profile C-Suite executive of MGM and former winner of the World Series of Poker Championship had already begun his rapid trajectory to the top of the corporate ladder, noting, “The only difference between the poker room and the boardroom is the shape of the table.” Weeks later, we met up at a formal charity event in Las Vegas. He complimented my gown and then kidded me, about being distracted at the final table of the Grand Prix, whispering, "It pays to watch hands when you are not in them." Following Bobby's suggestion, I began to approach card tables and conference tables with more focus, taking pains to avoid a more blunt accusation of the attention span of a gnat! I  created exercises to develop my power of observation, more acute acute hearing and awareness of people's speech and silence--both at the poker table and in business meetings. As I developed these skills, I made more confident analyses of risk reward ratios,  and I found myself in fewer jams--everywhere. Master deal makers are distinguishable from the rest by their people-reading expertise and negotiating savvy.  Bobby's advice resonated  deeply for me. I learned, slowly and methodically how to become a far keener observer and a more informed listener by paying attention when others don't. Accurate "people reading and negotiating savvy are crucial calling cards in any power poker game. And, women come to the table with the innate advantage of more highly honed natural intuition. If I had to guess how Bobby Baldwin came to hold the world on a string, I would make a ladylike wager that his secret "sauce" is his power of concentration and attention to facts and behavior that others miss regularly. Decades after the Grand Prix Poker Tournament and the gala charity affair,  that brought me into the casino world of Steve Wynn and the poker world of Bobby Baldwin I was visiting  the late Terri Lanni, Chairman of MGM. By this time, Bobby had become president of MGM. He popped into the chairman's office and joined us for a casual chat.  I reminded him that he crushed me with a par of sevens, while attempting to convince him I am no easy target anymore. But I will still run in the opposite direction if I see him at a poker table. Did I mention, he is still winning?    

Woods and Wendeen – Politics and Poker

The New Year had gotten off to a good start; an eclectic group of business and public service projects was on the boards. And then came an offer Wendeen could not refuse; an invitation to participate in a live poker game to be televised on CBS Sports. The player roster was as eclectic as any she had ever seen; lawyers, poker pros, a movie reviewer, and James Woods, the MIT educated actor, were on the list. Some 15 Years ago Wendeen and Jimmy struck up an acquaintanceship at a poker tournament in California, each intrigued by the other’s connection to NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Jimmy had played Rudy in the movie of the same name. Wendeen had played a role in Giuliani’s run for Mayor and had served as a special advisor to him on City Hall Affairs. The years flew by with occasional crossing of paths, a dinner here a poker date there. But in the upcoming Poker Night In America show they sit next to each other for most of the day--hemming and hawing about their respective holdings and mugging for the camera as reacquainted friends.

Two Eolis Sisters Celebrate Manhattan

It is a tradition!  Sharon and Wendeen celebrate the holiday season, sharing their love for Manhattan; restaurants, theater, museums, and, the must see Alvin Ailey dance company. The joy of Ailey's longtime signature  piece, Revelations, never runs out of joy. Last weekend Ailey paired Revelations with  the beautiful new Odetta, a tribute to the legendary folk singer, at the Saturday matinee--a  tip Sharon bestowed on Wendeen.  And Wendeen returned the favor,  tipping off  Sharon, an avid civil rights activist  to the impassioned, riveting choreography that explodes before your eyes in the dance company's timely offering of "Uprising." The two sisters continue their  family time celebration over the Chanukah and Christmas  holidays, taking in great food for thought.

Luther Kent / Wendeen Toasting New Orleans

Blues and country singer Luther Kent, a NOLA native, gives Wendeen a big hug during her annual post Katrina visit.. They celebrate the City's resurgence. Wendeen's HCTF team assisted in evacuations and selection of counsel for NOLA residents following chaos at the Super Dome in the aftermath of Katrina. Luther sings to Wendeen and friends in the beautifully refurbished Carousel Lounge at the Monteleone Hotel where superb service and the best massages are routine.

Larrigata Visit

Larry Lindsey hosts Wendeen at his beautiful ocean side home in Virginia Beach, where they splice together their respective activities in business, politics, and poker. Larry, the erudite economist and Wendeen, the experienced legal consultant covered the waterfront of current events before breakfast on the glorious beach.

Wendeen and Rich Ponder Poker Legislation

At the annual World Series of Poker the business of the industry is as much the talk of the town as the daily WSOP events themselves. It is the meeting ground of everyone who is anyone in the poker world. That notably includes Rich Muny, Vice President of Player Relations for The Poker Players Alliance. Here at the Rio in the quiet corridor before the crowds arrive, Wendeen and Rich meet up to chat about the latest rumblings in Washington on online's gaming future in America.

Wendeen Hosts Unexpected Guest

Famous 5th avenue resident hawk flew from his home base to Wendeen's terrace. The hawk politely eyeballed the sunset supper whipped up for friends. iPhone cameras rolled with Andy, Joe, and Sandy bringing the spectacle into focus. Sandy got  perfect pic  during hawk's 20 minute preening gig.
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call (212) 472-4000 or email eolis@eolis.com