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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
Day 11 - $5000 No-Limit

A man sits at a Harrah’s Horseshoe tournament table just behind the rail, where a pretty blonde dealer readies nine tournament stacks. He’s got an Arkansas Hogs hat, a blue button down shirt, and he’s sitting and reading Phil Hellmuth’s “Play Poker Like the Pros.” Welcome to the start of the $5000 No Limit Hold’em.

The $5000 No Limit Hold’em event at the WSOP is, for many players, the start of the tournament. For those who want to do the World Series in one shot, for those who don’t live in Las Vegas, for those with wives and families and kids at home, many big money poker players looked at the 2004 WSOP schedule and decide, the $5000 NL event is where they’ll make their entrance. And then of course, there are many more who have been in Las Vegas the whole time but just don’t show up until the money gets serious. So I made sure to get there early, and forty minutes before the tourney kicked off I was perched at the tournament desk, watching the parade.

Eleven thirty am and they’re prepping in the upstairs tournament room. A shortish fellow with a beard, a grey cap, and a minder is standing at the desk and pulling a huge roll of wrappered cash from faded jeans. It’s actor Tobey Maguire. Tobey counts the money and then looks up and sees someone he knows. “Daniel!” he yells. “What’s up, bud?” says Daniel Negreanu, sloping over from across the room. “I got your message…”

Out in the hallway, the milling is still mostly restricted to unknowns. Twenty minutes until the start and Chris Moneymaker walks by carrying two Red Bulls. He eyes me suspiciously, sunglasses on his forehead. He looks hungover as hell. Back in the room, Phil Ivey is talking to Dewey Tomko, who’s swinging a steering wheel lock like a golf club. Phil is yawning. Ten minutes until the start and John Hennigan enters the room with Huck Seed. Hennigan looks like a tourist, with Jean shorts, a blue t-shirt, and high white socks. It looks like Huck is doing his own laundry, the clothes are clean but far from ironed. Dan Harrington saunters over in Bermuda Shorts. “I just got in last night,” he says. “This is my first tournament.” Hendon Mobster Ram Vaswani ponies up the dough at 11:59 am. “Just think,” Ram offers, “If luck evens out, tomorrow morning I’m gonna be all caked up!”

12:01 pm, and the cards are in the air. There’s still a double line to buy-in. Kenna James is near the back of it. “Hoo wah!” He says. “Million in the prize pool already!” Kathy Liebert comes in at 12:05. She’s lost thirty pounds and has blonde permed hair, looks great. Scotty Nguyen and Andy Bloch still haven’t bought in. Neither has Jeff Schulman. Andy is black Full Tilt from head to toe, and Jeff is, just Jeff. He must own twenty-seven button down college shirts. Mike Matusow comes strolling by singing something about his baby. “It’s you babe,” he croons on his way to the table.

Mickey Appleman is at a table in the back sitting next to Barry Schulman. They call Mickey “Spats” but he doesn’t just look messy now, I swear to God he looks exactly like Bob Dylan. I’m wondering if it is Bob Dylan. I need to start following Mickey Appleman around. Maybe we all do.

12:11 pm and Barny Boatman is shuffling his chips angrily. He’s already a short stack. Lost 4300 on the very first hand after flopping a flush. 12:14 pm and Barny’s not even the first guy out at his table. Scotty Nguyen must have had a car waiting. Bought in late, knocked out early. I think he may have yelled “Raise all-in” on his way to the table.

A European themed table has James Vogl, Dave Colclough, Roy “The Boy” Brindley, and Harry Demetriou. Plus Cyndi Violette and Billy Baxter. A few hands in, Cyndi decimates Roy with a gutshot straight. How could she call my raise on the flop? Roy moans. Two days ago Cyndi won a bracelet and last night she came in twelfth. I don’t think she’s planning on nursing a short stack today. But then you never know. Form is legendary. 12:31 pm and Annie Duke walks in with a Mandalay Bay shopping bag and sits at a table with Alan Goehring and Tony Bloom. Annie’s missed half of the first level, and last night she was leading a conga line through the cash game section, drinks in tow.

254 runners, when the money is all counted. 100% gain from last year’s event. Poker is up all over. I’m thinking, this is almost like the main event. All that’s missing is three million dollars of dead money. And it’s a lot fewer hands to decide the champion.

LATER THAT EVENING
10 pm and the first thing I see is Moneymaker walking out of the tournament area towards his room. He’s fiddling with a one thousand chip lightly in one hand. The other fist clutches a Red Bull. He’s just been knocked out. Later I find out that Chris had over 100,000 with eighty players left, and didn’t make the money. Some bleach blonde big guy took all his money.

They’ve been playing ten hours now, ten long hours and it’s down to the nitty gritty. It’s the bubble. 29 players left and paying 27 places. Not far off from the chip lead is Eskimo, and as I walk in the big bearded husk of a man is facing a reraise. Ten thousand more on top of his six thousand opener. Eskimo, who once uttered this line while in a four and eight hundred game at Foxwoods casino, “You’ve never lived, son, until you walk three miles naked through the midnight snow,” lays the hand down. The reraiser was Joe Beevers, and it looks like Joe is finally going to make the money after three bubble finishes. He’s on thirty thousand and sitting next to the steady Mel Judah, who’s healthy enough. “Twenty-eight thousand,” Mel says to me when he can see I’m trying to count him down.

A bleach blonde with a goatee and black T who I’ve never ever seen before looks to be chip leader in seat #7. Mel doesn’t know who it is either, and he calls over a floorman to find out your man’s name. Thomas, says the kid. First name or last? Other big names still in the tourney include the always joking and laughing Young Phan, Dewey Tomko, Kenna James, and Dan Harrington sitting near Barry Greenstein. Bracelet winner James Vogl’s still in but desperately short stacked. He’s pacing between hands trying to find who else might be next to fall. Maybe it’ll be Maureen Feduniak who’s down to ten thousand and all in black, with a tight lipped frown. Swede Deknijff’s still in, how good does he play? Trying to extend on his 2.7 million lead this year already. Blinds are six and twelve hundred. Ante 200. Now’s the time to steal like crazy. Now it’s time to see who’s got guts.

A big pot develops on the table near the rail. Five cards are out and a whole lot of money’s in the middle. Action to Brian Haveson, who after a long dwell up says, I call, and stands from his seat. The man on his right flips over his hand and Haveson shakes his head slowly, before pushing over about 23,000. Brian’s left with less than 13,000 in chips and now has to worry about the bubble. Two more to go. Haveson takes a swig of his beer and continues to shake his head slowly. Former World Champion Dan Harrington, out in 29th. He raised with jacks and Barry Greenstein moved on him with a king and a queen before the flop. Harrington calls all in, and when a king hits the flop he goes to the rail. Just grabs his cell phone and walks.

Bunch of players left in that nobody knows, but that’s the mo of the NL Hold’em world today. It’s now hand for hand. A motion is made by a short stack to take something off the top for 28th place. It’s quickly snuffed. Mel Judah is out on the bubble a few hands later. Aces cracked. Eskimo calls with two sixes and hits one on the turn. Mel is pissed. Really pissed.

Redraw time. Chips are pretty evenly distributed, more than a dozen guys with over 60k. One player looks really mean. It’s Martin Deknijff, and while backslapping relief is the order of the day, Deknijff quietly takes his seat, stares straight ahead, waits for the resumption. Superstar alert. $2.7 million usually means you’re drunk for a month. How can Barry Greenstein still be underrated, but there it is. He must be recognized as top of the poker world. He’s not afraid to gamble, and aren’t those smart guys just scary?

There’s a murderer’s row of aggression on table 98. Eskimo, with Kenna James on his left, Barry Greenstein to the left of them, and Dewey Tomko mopping up everything in sight. Tomko’s come out way ahead so far. Dewey’s a steamroller. A fifty-something bulldozer of a player, raise raise raise before the flop. Eskimo opens for 6000 and Kenna James is over the top all-in – Instantly called all-in as well by a grey beard on the button. “How bad is it?” asks James after Eskimo folds. Neither player wants to turn his hand over. Finally, they both flip at the same time and no wonder. Jacks for James and ace-king for the beard. An ace hits the board and Kenna is philosophical with his straw deep in his cocktail. He’s down to 5000.

A man named Jim Sousa is making havoc at the corner table. He acts like he owns the town and knows it. Sousa has a personal photographer and gets kisses and hugs from every dealer in the joint. He’s loud and funny and all-in nearly every other hand, as he downs beers one by one, ironically O’Douls. What job, I’m wondering, is a position of such lofty power in this town? President of a casino? Bigger. Owner? Even bigger. Jim Sousa is the head of the union.

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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