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World Series Of Poker
 Jesse May Reports
April 19th - May 24th, 2002

Other Jesse May Reports : Warm-Up - Thirty Hours To Go - Jeez !! - Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Days 4&5
- The Final Action
Jesse May in
Las Vegas
#4 Day One

As Padraig Parkinson pointed out, it’s quite simple. Either you win the World Series before you die, or you die before you win the World Series. If you die before you win the World Series, then you’ve got other things to worry about. So instead you might as well try and win the World Series before you die. At least that’s how Padraig was figuring it.

“Gentleman start your engines,” is nothing. At 1:15 p.m. yesterday Poker Hall of Fame inductee Lyle Berman yelled out over the din, “Shuffle up and deal!” to 630 players, 70 dealers, and as many well wishers and hangers on that could be packed into Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, upstairs and down, and the excitement was thick as a royal flush draw. Because the 2002 World Series Of Poker kicked off yesterday, and that’s what everybody has been waiting for for at least one year and more likely an entire lifetime. It’s the dream, baby.

Simon Trumper says that on the first day of the World Series, you must have two goals. Goal number one is to make it to the second day. And goal number two is to double your chips. Well, over one hundred people achieved those modest goals on the first day of the World Series of Poker, but as 630 of them were in there trying their guts out it was a little bit harder than you might think. In the end 357 players survived four levels of Day 1 no limit Hold’em agony, and about half of that number are in what you would call a reasonable shape.

But have a look who’s gone, and you’ll see that trying to increase your stack over eight hours of no limit poker against the toughest competition in the world is no piece of cake. TJ Cloutier, gone. Daniel Negreanu, out. Doyle Brunson, finished. Huck Seed, flattened. Losing is no fun, and the important thing is to take it like a man. Because it happens. It’s not so incredible. Mike Matusow got all his chips in before the flop with pocket aces against an opponent’s pocket kings, and when a king spiked the flop, Matusow found himself riding the rail. Fair enough. Things happen. But did every single one of the 700 people inside of the tournament area need to know about it? Matusow started bellowing at the top of his lungs like a wounded buffalo. Thirty people were dragged aside to be told of the details on Matusow’s stagger out of the tournament area. The horror! The injustice of it all! C’mon man, it’s poker! Things happen. It’s unfortunate, but not all that incredible. Now compare that to the exit of Kathy Liebert, one of the top women players on the planet and someone I had been keeping my eye on all day . She was playing well, she was focused. And she got all her chips in on the flop when she had pocket fours and the board read eight, four, deuce, with two clubs. The pot was nearly 30,000 as the cards were flipped up and her opponent, a completely spun out gambler in seat one trying to bust himself to no avail showed the ace-eight, with the ace of clubs. The turn and the river came club, club, and Kathy Liebert found herself chipless, the victim of an unlikely back door flush. Now had I not been there watching the hand, it’s likely no one would ever know about it. Because Kathy didn’t say one word, she didn’t let out one peep of emotion. She merely looked at the hand, picked up her bag, and walked her way out of the tournament area. Some people can lose and still show the trappings of a champion.

Look, it’s poker. The best hand doesn’t always win. And sometimes, when you start crumbling, you don’t care what you get it in there with. Padraig Parkinson says he’s been knocked out of this tournament ten times, and he’s the only guy in history who’s been knocked out every time with the worst hand. “I’d hate to be in front,” he said, “then I’d be shocked if I got sucked out on. It’s a much better thing to go in with the worst of it.” Some people are trying to go out and just can’t. One long-haired Hawaiian, friendly enough but lacking a whole lot of no limit talent, got all his chips in on the flop with an ace-nine against an ace-jack with the board reading ace-jack-five. When the turn and river came ace-jack, the dealer had to look six times before realizing that it was a split pot. The very next hand the Hawaiian gets himself all in on the flop again. This time he had the ace-jack on a board that read king-jack-five. His opponent held an ace-king, but the Hawaiian thrived on his deathbed again, because when a jack came spitting off on the turn, the Hawaiian had pulled off a double through. It’s poker. Some guys can’t go out in spite of themselves, and some people can’t stay out of their own way. And someone’s gonna win two million dollars.

You gotta love the prospects of Julian Gardner. The Europeans have been talking about him for years, and I think the world is about to see that there’s a whole load of substance behind the hype. In his first WSOP two years ago at the age of 21, Julian built his stack up to over 50,000 in the first three hours and didn’t even survive day one. Last year he came to Vegas for too long, and found he had no energy when the Big One started. But his third time could be a charm. Julian jetted into Las Vegas on Friday night, got a good drunk, a good night’s sleep, and showed up yesterday five minutes before tournament time with wet hair, sunglasses, and steady hands. And he showed those boys a bit of what no limit poker is all about, building his stack up to 64,000 while staying out of trouble. A shot? Julian Gardner is in there with a loaded gun and deadly aim.

Ram Vaswani. It was six p.m. yesterday and Vaswani was shorter than a stack of pancakes. His head was down, his shades were on, and I thought I was witnessing the demise of a Hendon Mobster. Ye of little faith. Ram found another gear. They moved him to a new table, he cranked into overdrive, and within two hours had built his stack from 8,000 to the commanding 50,000 he now holds. Don’t look for Ram to be sitting back on Day 2. You can feel his focus. That other Hendon Mobster doesn’t refer to Barny Boatman this time, but rather his brother Ross, who ended the day with 29,000 in chips and plenty of time for a wave and a wink.

Surindar Sunar was looking great early in the day. He had built his chips up to thirty thousand and was in total control of the table. Chris the Greek, who had the unfortunate position of being down river from Surindar the entire day, said to me, “No wonder there’s no games left in Europe. Surindar’s busted them all!” Unfortunately, Surindar took three steps back after the dinner break, and crawled into bed with only about 13,000. He’s got his work cut out for him now, but there’s 273 guys who would give anything just to still be in. Even John Juanda, nearly dead last with only 3000 in chips, ain’t going nowhere without a fight.

Who are the big time Americans still in? Layne Flack easily has to be considered the tournament favorite right now. Already the winner of both no limit Hold’em preliminary tournaments, Layne looked nothing except for comfortable yesterday, as he moved and grooved his stack up to an impressive 47,000. Can anyone beat Flack? Well he’s not gonna trip over his own feet. The aura of the zone is all around him, calm, cool, and a blue eyed steely stare. Phil Hellmuth is right up there with 46,000, and he’s too good to count anywhere but up front.

Four more levels today, and 200 more players to likely fall by the wayside. I’ll be there with bells on.

Other Jesse May Reports : Warm-Up - Thirty Hours To Go - Jeez !! - Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Days 4&5
- The Final Action
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