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FOR THESE LITIGATORS, POKER IS ALL ACES They were part of the poker scene long before cable TV and the Internet made it a national craze. Local litigators Lawrence Kern, John Worden and James Brosnahan each started playing in high school and are now regulars at Texas Hold’em tables. They say the game is like going to trial — it’s exciting, risky, and it requires the ability to read an opponent’s moves. “It has some of the same aspects as trying a case,” said Kern, of Kern, Noda, Devine & Segal. “There’s the uncertainty of whether you’re going to win or lose and an element of analyzing people.” Kern can hold his own against some of the best players. For the past 15 years, he has competed in the World Series of Poker and this year came in at No. 14 (of 273 players) in the $2,500 buy-in limit Texas Hold’em event, one of 33 events at the tournament. While Worden and Brosnahan haven’t competed in the major leagues, they, too, are avid players at clubs like the California Grand Casino in Pacheco. Worden, a partner at Morgenstein & Jubelirer, has become a regular player in Las Vegas, as well. Brosnahan, a partner at Morrison & Foerster, is more likely to be spotted in Lake Tahoe casinos, where players long ago nicknamed him “the cowboy” after the hats he used to wear. Back then, though, poker wasn’t hip. “Ten years ago, you couldn’t say you played poker” because of the stigma attached to it, Kern said. “It’s all of a sudden become fashionable.” Kern said that’s in part due to the success of poker novice Chris Moneymaker at last year’s World Series. Moneymaker qualified to enter the tournament through the Internet and ended up winning the $2.5 million first prize. Poker is now on TV almost every night — from Bravo’s Celebrity Poker Showdown to ESPN, which televises the World Series — and at any hour, hundreds of thousands of people are playing online. The mix of skill and luck is part of the excitement, of course. Worden said people remember their big losses more than their wins. He took a big hit last month, losing $400 in two minutes. “I lost two no-limit hands in a row,” he said. “I had pocket kings both times. That’s almost impossible to lose.” Worden and his fellow lawyers said part of the game’s appeal is the diversity of the players. Kern has played with actor James Woods, who regularly shows up at high-stakes limit games. “It’s kind of a metaphor for life,” Brosnahan said of poker. “People are acting like they have things, and sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.” Brosnahan said players are unique in how they react to losing. While some acknowledge they played poorly, others blame the dealer or lecture the winner as to how he or she played the hand wrong. “It’s the same thing in lawsuits,” Brosnahan said. “There’s probably 20 ways to try a case, but some think there is only one way to do it.” Kern would like to someday follow the path of James McManus, author of “Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs and Binion’s World Series of Poker.” Assigned to write an article for Harper’s magazine about the 2000 World Series of Poker and the murder of Ted Binion — whose family started the tournament — McManus got into the event and ended up becoming a professional poker player. “I think I’m as good a poker player as [I am] a lawyer,” Kern said. — Brenda Sandburg SHHHH� Cristina Arguedas prefers to keep her clients’ names out of the newspaper. If the famed partner from Emeryville’s Arguedas, Cassman & Headley is involved, chances are the client has been accused of something bad. Or is famous. Or both. Over the years, Arguedas has developed a niche practice defending athletes. Probably most famously, she worked on O.J. Simpson’s defense team, conducting a mock cross-examination of the Juice in preparation for his double-murder trial. More recently, she was called in by Kobe Bryant’s lawyers to perform a similar task, according to an article earlier this month in the Los Angeles Times. Arguedas won’t comment on that report, but she did discuss, generally, a little of what she’s learned representing sports figures. “They are all smart,” she said. “You expect them to be athletically amazing, but you can tell it’s also a mental thing.” She said she usually doesn’t know much about the clients (or their sports) when she’s first retained. But inevitably, she said, she becomes a fan. Over the years, Arguedas has represented several members of the Oakland Raiders, including kicker Sebastian Janikowski and former defensive tackle Darrell Russell. She has also represented former Golden State Warrior Gilbert Arenas and sprinter Tim Montgomery. Whom else? True to form, she’d only say, “other nameless people.” — Jeff Chorney THINKING AHEAD San Francisco’s hotel strike may be on pause, but the local bar association wasn’t taking any chances. The hotels and their employees recently agreed to a cooling-off period. But back when locked-out workers were clanging their noisy instruments of protest on the city’s sidewalks, the Bar Association of San Francisco switched its annual luncheon from the Palace Hotel to the San Francisco Marriott to avoid crossing picket lines. At the Dec. 13 event, BASF is set to install new officers with its typical lack of controversy. “It was a bloodless coup,” joked incoming President James Finberg, a partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein who spent the past year as president-elect. He’ll move in to fill the shoes of outgoing President Jon Streeter, a Keker & Van Nest partner. Community service, from the bar’s homeless advocacy project, to its food drive and high school-to-college mentoring programs, are at the top of Finberg’s priorities. “I just want to be able to sustain it,” he said. “As I see it, the bar’s mission is to serve the community, to help those in need.” Following the usual ascension pattern of officers, Shook, Hardy & Bacon partner Joan Mei Haratani will become president-elect, and Clarence & Dyer’s Nanci Clarence will become treasurer. Cooley Godward partner James Donato, the only new officer, will take Clarence’s place as secretary. — Pam Smith “Jennifer Watch” will return next week.

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