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World Series Of Poker
2004
 Jesse May Reports
LAS VEGAS
April 23rd - May 28th, 2004

Jesse May Reports : Champ D6 - Champ D5 - Champ D3 - Champ D2 - Champ D1 - T - 1 - T - 2 - T - 3 (II) - T - 3 (I) - T - 4 - T - 7 - Day 13 - D 12 - D 11 - D 10 - Return (9) - D 4 - D 3 - D 2 - Carborundum
Championship : The First 6 Days - The Final - Places & Prizes
Picture Series : Winners - Ted Forest - $5000 Holdem - John Hennigan - 2 to 7 Draw - A-Z Player List - The Final
 
Jesse May in
Las Vegas
Championship Day 5

It wasn’t so many years ago that the fifth day at the World Series of Poker was also the last one. And the guys who jumped in the air and pumped their fists on that day, they got the money. But this year it’s seven, seven long days, and as one who’s been there just watching, I’m spent. I probably peaked too early. Don’t worry about me; I’m not in the hunt for the five million dollars. But when the clock wrapped up after midnight of Day 5, there were 32 players who still were there, and it’s the ones who showed lots of fire and vim that I’ll dismiss out of hand. They’ve peaked too early.

Chris Ferguson’s on the emotion already. He calls all-in with four clubs on board to double up with a flush, but his reaction is way too soon. It’s not like he’s won the tournament but he flies from his chair, does high fives with guys he barely knows and jumps around with adrenalin. When his sunglasses come off we see behind the mask that his face is drawn and haggard. Fair enough, it was a tough call, a great call, he had only a ten, and Chris has been hanging low all day and is now up to one million. But Gary Jones is on the other side of the table and picking his nails. Sitting around and picking his nails.

In a marathon race, you’d never want the guy who’s ahead at the start. And you wouldn’t often want the guy leading the 19 mile mark, either. It’s called peaking too early. You want to pick from the ones who are tracking the leaders, using their draft and using their energy to carry along. Feed off the leaders and make your move at the end. The last move is the best move, time and again. The important thing is to be within yourself still. You must stay within, and keep in control.

But people are starting to forget where they are. The 22 year old Swede, Mattias Anderssen, the one who busted Gus Hansen, he comes tearing over to the rail in a dither an hour into a new level. “My chips are not right!” he yells to his man. “I’m missing one hundred to two hundred thousand!” His hair is matted, his eyes are wilder. The strain is cracking him like a cantaloupe. Not even average chips seem like enough at this stage.

Contrast this all to the Choirboy, Gary Jones. He’s smiling and laughing and showing his teeth. He brushes the hair back from his 70’s do, and do I dare say it? The man’s having fun. Arms easy and relaxed, watching every hand with brown eyes that see, and he’s playing his game like he’s at the Vic Club in London. The sign of a champion? I quote Boris Becker. It’s the ability to play like it’s nothing when everything’s at stake. Gary hasn’t had chips in a big tournament since forever and he’s doing what he should. Nipping. This is the second hand in a row he’s raised to 30,000. He’s now one off the button and a fellow in the big blind senses Gary’s at it but doesn’t have the will. Gary’s sitting there looking at your man with half raised eyebrows, eyebrows half covered by his girlish brown hair and an impish smile that says, let’s play. I’d love to play, I’m having fun. Your man is tightlipped and tense and mostly staring at his chips in grimaces of pain. He counts out for a call then counts out for a reraise, and then he folds. Gary takes the pot. Two blinds in a row are worth 72,000. Now is the time for nipping. Jones is wearing a black Pokerstars shirt, jeans and sneakers. His complexion hasn’t seen the light of sun since I don’t know when. But this is his home. Gary’s a denizen of the dark, and lights, cameras, pressure? They don’t bother him.

The TV table. There’s only one guy left in the tournament with a suit and tie and it’s of course Marcel Luske. The top button is open and the tie is loosened but his suit is well pressed and $1,000 if a dime. How Harry D is limping in at this stage of the tournament, I’ll never know. But he does it, second to speak, and Julian Gardner has eyes for Harry alone. Folded around and Marcel calls off the button. The big blind can’t believe it. A free flop. Marcel wins the pot. Harry is sinking. Harry’s stretching, turning in his seat, aware of the camera and without a plan. He’s looking for someone to talk to, anyone, and moves his body in exaggerated motions. He’s gone, near enough, and needs to hold on until tomorrow and get a new plan. It ain’t easy. Once over that cliff and it’s so hard to come back. Folded around to Julian on Harry’s big blind and Gardner makes it 50,000. He sees that Harry’s got his head on his hand and his mind is elsewhere. Good blind to steal. Julian takes the 42,000 in dead money gladly.

Today was gut check day for Julian Gardner. How to hang on. All his skills just spent staying even. And the words of a great tournament player ring in my head. You can only do what the table will allow you. Not a thing more. Julian might have had the worst seat in the tournament. And he had it all day. Sitting to the left of The Flying Dutchman Marcel Luske. How many people have gone broke in that seat since this tournament started one can only guess. Because Marcel doesn’t let a man breathe. Luske is always there in lots of pots, with little raises before the flop. If it’s a good steal position he’s on it, if you reraises him he might just call. And nearly the only way to play from his left is to just take a stand. And then it’s him or you. So how Julian managed to tread water all day, while Marcel was a tide rising, I’ll never know. But I can tell you this. I never saw Julian turn over his cards. Not once. The guys watching the hole card cameras may have been laughing themselves silly, but for the players on the TV table Julian was a mystery. He survived. That’s all. And as the only man who’s made the money three years running you’d be sick to count him out. But Gardner certainly wasn’t the happiest in the world when Matt Savage announced at the end of the night, no redraw, not yet, when you come back tomorrow you can take your same seats. A few more hours of pain on the left of Marcel.

One hour left and Gary Jones takes a banana from a plastic bag. Five thousand miles away some French Open athlete is doing the exact same thing to prevent cramping between sets. It’s 11:30 pm and the Choirboy is a poker athlete. Says he’s gonna retire if he wins the World Series of Poker. At age thirty-something. Double bracelet winner Scott Fischman was in an interview and talking about Tiger Woods. After Tiger came on the scene, Scott said, all the golfers found the weight room. They never lifted weights before Tiger, he said. Scott likes the young guys. The guys that can go seven.

A feel good story ended my day. I’ve seen Al Krux’s name on the list for three days running, but never did see him. I’d only met him once or twice before and that was years ago, but I remember the boys from Syracuse use to speak of him with reverence. The best player from Syracuse by far, they used to say, and in those days it meant lots. Syracuse, New York, was a hotbed of gambling, and days there were when if you had a Syracuse poker player show up in your game, you just cashed in. It was ten years ago when Krux got fifth in the WSOP to Russ Hamilton, and not long after he won some bracelet. But that was years ago and Krux has been gone, gone from the scene, and it wasn’t until I met his lovely wife on the rail that I got the story. She’s been not well, and Al quit traveling and playing so he could take care of her. Some years he’d come and try and win a seat for the big one, and then be so spent that he never had a chance. This year she told him, just go buy-in. You deserve it, you deserve giving yourself a real chance. She knew how bad Al wanted it. And he’s thanked her every day of this World Series for that vote of confidence. Al’s short stacked. “Alleycat” Krux caught a ten on the river to stay in the tournament late in Day 5, but he still ain’t got much. He’s freerolling now, and maybe a little past his prime. But if you go down to Syracuse and mention his name, they’ll tell you to watch out. They’ll say don’t give him an inch or he’ll swallow you whole, “Alleycat” Krux is on the loose with the last of his nine lives at the World Series of Poker.

Further Championship details on the Championship page
 
Jesse May Reports : Champ D6 - Champ D5 - Champ D3 - Champ D2 - Champ D1 - T - 1 - T - 2 - T - 3 (II) - T - 3 (I) - T - 4 - T - 7 - Day 13 - D 12 - D 11 - D 10 - Return (9) - D 4 - D 3 - D 2 - Carborundum
Championship : The First 6 Days - The Final - Places & Prizes
Picture Series : Winners - Ted Forest - $5000 Holdem - John Hennigan - 2 to 7 Draw - A-Z Player List - The Final
 
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