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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
#1 The Warm-Up

Hey, you don’t think I’m excited? I’m going to Las Vegas tomorrow. I’m going to the World Series of Poker at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, and I’m gonna sweat it. It’s been a whole month of World Series action so far, those two day events that divvy up money and provide a form guide for the sweaters and bettors. You can talk about players’ performances in these preliminary events as dominating, you can see that someone’s added to his bankroll, but most importantly, we’re looking for guides to who is in form. Because come Monday morning, the last month has no memory at all, and the only thing on anybody’s mind is who is gonna take the $1.5 million first prize in the five day title event of no limit Texas Hold’em, $10,000 buy in. Who is gonna be the next poker champion of the world.

Although Carlos Mortensen was a bit of a darkhorse when he won the championship last year, he was clearly in form, having won the Shooting Stars tournament in California a month before, which is no slouch title. Now there are some guys who have warmed up to the main event by playing every preliminary tournament every day for the last month. And that is not always the greatest preparation for the $10,000 event, because the championship event is so draining, so mentally and physically consuming, that the best preparation might just be a month on a deserted island in the Pacific. I’m not joking. Because after a month of trudging up and down every day to that tournament room and sitting at a table with those tournament chips and those tournament players, people start looking like zombies. And behaving like them as well. And that won’t do for the World Series of Poker.

Because to win the World Series of Poker you have to be the most creative you’ve ever been, you have to seize every single opportunity, and you cannot make even one mistake. And then you have to get lucky to boot. And that is over more than forty hours of poker, playing the most mind freezing game that’s ever been invented, no limit Texas Hold’em, or as my from the closet pick Brit David Colclough would say, one monster game of two card chicken.

The best preparation for the Big One seems to be to play one or two preliminary events, get your feet wet, get focused, and get in form. Don’t be drained come next Friday. Now here are some players with form.

Ian Dobson. They’re down to four players in the pot limit Hold’em and Dobson raises with pocket jacks and gets called on the button. The flop comes four, five, seven, and ninety-nine out of one hundred people would be thinking bet and win and on to the next hand. Dobson checks. Ian Dobson is thinking trap. He’s thinking he’s gonna get a guy to go for all his chips. He’s always trying to win the tournament. Now it’s easy to try and trap a guy when you got the nuts, but Dobson will stick it in there on a margin, and that takes a cool customer.

Tough? Tough as nails. And the kicker is that everybody thinks Ian Dobson is Irish. He’s not, but everybody thinks so. Jim McManus told me about the hand that put him out of last year’s Poker Million. Ian Dobson had raised seven out of nine hands, and on the tenth McManus called Dobson’s raise with ace-deuce of diamonds. The flop came ace, jack, deuce, and McManus got trapped for all his chips. Dobson had pocket jacks. He plays those pocket jacks pretty strong, commonly known as the toughest hand to play in no limit Hold’em. French champion Teddy Tuil just throws them away. I swear.

Phil Ivey. The only worry is Phil might be a little tired after winning three bracelets and being countless other times in the money during this lead-up month. Phil Ivey is good, he is young, he is focused. And he is from Philadelphia. Ivey was in the second wave of Atlantic City players, He learned in the shadow of stalwarts like John Hennigan, Dave Rosenau, Cyndi Violette, and the esteemed limit Hold’em specialist Joe Moon. But he may be the best poker player out of Atlantic City yet. People say the deck has been hitting Phil Ivey in the face lately, and that bodes well for the final event.

Don’t forget the D-train. Stanford man Diego Cordovez has had a banner year already, going from being the best young player about to burst out to being a poker playing snowball. He won a half million dollars earlier in the year in the biggest limit Hold’em tournament ever and has ripped up more turf since then. Can he play no limit? You better believe it. Cordovez went out on the bubble last year, around forty-sixth out of six hundred, and that experience likely served him well for a real assault on the crown next week.

Barny Boatman. This Hendon Mobster is really on fire, and as the highest placed British finisher the last two years running in the Big One, he is no pretender. His unorthodox game throws a lot of people off. I still can’t figure it out, and I’ve seen it from under the table. Barny brings changing gears to a new place entirely. Only the Hendon Mob could live up to the level of hype they’ve created for themselves. And they have.

Everybody’s talking about Layne Flack, that tow-headed nuclear power plant from Montana, who has picked up two bracelets already in that ramming jamming style of his. Is he the bad boy of poker? What do you care? The guy is playing. He’s like Babe Ruth, he can be out all night and still make a play come game time.

Could this be the year of the first women’s WSOP champion? No reason why not. Jennifer Harmon is in torrid form, and don’t forget about Cathy Liebert. Melissa Hayden or JJ Bortner would be no surprise at the final table, and from there it’s anybody’s ball game.

That’s why poker is great. A final table of the best players in the world could easily see a fast lane wild man, a studious boy from the burbs, a gorgeous blonde, and someone impersonating an Irishman. That’s why we love the World Series of Poker. That, and trying to borrow money off the winner.
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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