The World Poker Tour, now
in its second season, is a weekly televised ( USA only ) series of thirteen
poker tournaments that are united under one banner for television. What makes
the WPT different is that it will film the most prestigious tournaments in an
arena specifically designed for television and air them during a regularly
|WPT Championship, APRIL
19-23 2004 Bellagio Las Vegas, NV
|Jesse May, our venerable raconteur and columnist, writes from Vegas
on this years championship event, the $25,000 buy-in No-Limit Holdem event.
|It was time to bring the
money out to the table, $2.7 million in cash. Ringside announcer Linda Johnson
says, Show us the money, Bellagio style! and then, when the
audience is silent, I think that was your cue, audience. The
applause placards are held up. The audience goes wild.
I never thought
of myself as a poker purist. But when they reached the final two of the WPT
Championship at the Bellagio and the O circus troupe was brought
in, Id had enough. They are still playing for a first prize of $2.7
million dollars and theres a lady in skintight pants with her ass on the
table picking up bundles of hundred dollar bills with her toes and dangling
them in Martin Deknijffs face.
Martin Deknijff has so far put on a
final table performance of rare dominance in about fifty hands hes
knocked out four players and amassed nearly every one of the chips, hes
played brilliant poker for five days straight with nary a break, hes a
step away from winning a life changing sum of money, and theyve forced
him and Hasan Habib to sit at the table while women in cat suits wave streamers
and do backbends over the table.
froze up; he was calm and cool and played every hand aggressive without a care
for the cameras or his cards. And he was slagged off left and right. Jack
McClelland tells the crowd and players that, All the good guys are on the
rail so were gonna have to give one of these guys two point seven
million. Linda Johnson gets Martins name wrong six times in two
hours. She calls him Paul, she calls him Richard, and after he wins a big pot
she walks over and rubs Martins bald head as if to say, Good going,
Poor Matt Matros has just gotten knocked out third,
hes slaughtered off his last million chips and has to be feeling
absolutely shattered. Linda Johnson accosts him as soon as the river card is
down and wants to know how much he paid to get in the tournament. As in
youre not a famous poker player so be happy with what you got and get off
my stage? So there wasnt much table talk, but is that essential to poker?
Jack McClelland announces, For those of you who like chatty poker
players, most of them are already broke!
Apparently were too boring.
Im not bored, says Hasan Habib.
Are you guys
No, says Matt Matros, Im not
That exchange had in me in peals. The players provided the
examples all evening, each one a gentleman to the extreme. They played with
respect, and lost with good graces. Richard Grijalva shook hands and smiled
after his heart was ripped out by a club on the river. Matt Matros was his
equal. At some point these players had been told that playing poker wasnt
enough, that they had a responsibility to be showmen, too. It was odd. It
looked a bit like the players couldnt wait to have it over and done with,
and I cant say that I blame them. I headed for the Horseshoe. I guess I
am a poker purist.
We get into the Horseshoe after midnight, and just
before the break. Fifty-five players left from 839 runners paying eighty-one
spots deep in the money already. The event is the first of the 2004
World Series of Poker, the $2000 no-limit Holdem, and theres a buzz
in the air for the beginning of the greatest month in the history of poker.
ONeill Longston comes staggering from a tournament table on the way to a
break, wearing a sports coat and hitching his pants. One of the classic
characters in poker, old timer ONeill, many is the time Ive seen
him at a pot limit Omaha table, head bent over and pretending to be asleep, or
actually asleep, he can play forever. Iveys still in. Hes jawing,
I know man, I know, I lost fifteen thousand that hand!
from the break and a guy who looks like Chip Reese is at a table in the one
seat. He looks so much like Chip Reese that it is Chip Reese, and hes got
over fifty grand. Whats he doing here? Arent these stakes too
small? But Doyle Brunson made a million dollar proposition bet last year about
winning a bracelet and I dont think Im too far out of line to
imagine that Chips got a similar deal on tap. I guess everyone wants the
bracelets now, and its only a question of making them pay. Chip has slow
lidded eyelids and thinning blond hair. He should have been a piano player, the
long thin fingers shuffling chips. Hes quiet, focused, deep in the game,
but with eyes for everyone.
Its been a long day here at the
Horseshoe but its absolutely full. Theres a tournament, a super
satellite, one tables, and cash games, and upstairs and down the place is
humming with that WSOP feel. How can you not like it? Matt Savage is still in
the room, heading his capable late night team of Jesse Rodgers and Karl. As
always, the smoothest tournaments in the world.
chewing away on a pack of Twizzlers, dangling one in his mouth and then
stuffing three of them in. He looks ten times better than he did on Day one of
the WPT Championship. Now hes happy, alert, bottled water and watching
the table, shelling pistachio nuts into a cup. Someone here will win $400,000
and it might be David Chiu, whos bumming nuts off Ivey before sitting
back down. Fifteen minutes into the new level and fifteen more players are
gone, falling like flies as the money payouts increase still slowly.
Londoner James Vogel has a whole load of chips. We were at the bar in
the Bellagio two days before and James has walked from a no-limit cash game to
give us a blow by blow of some massive pot where he folded on the river.
Were getting bet sizes, percentages, and every set of mathematical
analyses six ways to Sunday. The man Im drinking with, who has just been
knocked out of the WPT tournament not fifteen minutes before, takes this all in
with mouth hanging open and when James walks away, back to his game, he says,
That boy has just done my head in! James is a backgammon player,
theyre always thinking numbers. James says that all the backgammon
players in the world, they accept, that Gus Hansen is the best. Just the
Downstairs at the Horseshoe theres an argument breaking out
in the 200-400 triple draw, where Paul Phillips has a claim against the pot,
the pot is not right, and there are $100 bills and black chips spread out all
over the table. Mohammed Ibrahim and Robert Williamson havent said one
word, theyre at the other end of the table silent while tempers are
flaring. Paul stacks his chips and racks his bills. Hes got a red
t-shirt, a black hat, and hes pissed off.
I love the Horseshoe,
and I love the World Series of Poker. Congratulations to the new WPT Champion
Martin Deknijff, but its almost May and now poker gets serious. Just like
Our usual coverage of the World Series starts