T minus 2
|Jesse May in
Somewhere between a circus, a
carnival, and Lucky Lenders day at the bank. Thats what it began to feel
like this afternoon at Binions Horseshoe Casino 48 hours before the big
one and counting. The moves being made were incredible. One accomplished player
had spent the last three weeks trying to get in the $10,000 tournament.
Hed played satellites, lined up backers, swapped percentages, and dug
ditches day and night, telling any frenzy who would listen how much he belonged
in the event, and how much it would mean. When he did finally gain his entry
about 6pm, you would have expected tears of joy. But your man was stone-faced
and wide-eyed, solemn as the dawn. I couldnt figure it out until a
rounder put it in perspective. Cant you see? Hes spent a
month selling his soul, and now is faced with the reality that he has to back
his words up. Hes terrified!
And thats how it is. Too
many think the starting line is the objective and that if they pass on the
event people will think less of them. But no one will notice. No one will
notice if you just take the ten thousand dollars and stick it in your pocket.
And if youve got a good bad beat story in your arsenal, youll just
be one of hundreds. Sitting at the bar, drowning vodka and cokes, and talking
about pocket aces, no one will notice whether youve been in or not.
Whether you really meant to win or were just one of those people whos
praying for pocket aces so they can get their money in and lose and get back to
the bar. Because at 1pm on Saturday, the sight of 2500 runners and seven days
of play will either become exciting or terrifying. And if its the latter,
then ten grand in your pocket could be the play.
A $225 Super satellite
kicked off in the afternoon, and a $1025 Super kicked off in the evening. Both
filled the room. Capped out. Mostly those men with chances little or none, but
a little chance is far better than none at all. The fans were out in force,
reveling in the hype, circling Susie Isaacs jewelry stand and the table
of books and photographer Ulvis black and white photos of Stu Ungar in
the eighties. Im standing in line at the gift shop and a mans
asking about Chris Moneymaker. Will he be in there tomorrow, where can we see
him, how is he doing? I said, You can go in the tournament room and
definitely watch Moneymaker in an hour. Hes still in the Omaha
tournament. I swear he said, Hes playing in Nebraska?
Therell be some dead money in this tournament.
The $5000 pot
limit Omaha final table was an attendanced affair, with a star studded lineup
that included two Europeans, Howard Lederer, Daniel Negreanu, and Freddy Deeb.
After Irishman George McKeever was knocked out in seventh he was surrounded by
a load of commiserators. What knocked you out? Was the query of a
newcomer. The Irish reply? Lack of chips.
For the first time
ever the field will be split in half, with half playing on Saturday and the
other half playing on Sunday. The draw is random. The advantage to playing on
Day 1 is considered by some the biggest edge in the history of the World
Series, though Brit Simon Aces Trumper has an explanation about why
Day 2 is better but it is beyond me. Its beyond me, but I think you can
break it down like so. If youre a guy whos able to relax under
pressure, then playing Day 1 is massive. If you make it through, one can then
spend Sunday by the pool, grab twelve hours of sleep and start a new tournament
on the Monday thats just five days. If youre a walking time bomb,
however, then playing Day 1 is disastrous, because youll spend Sunday on
the rail walking back and forth between the poker tournament and your room with
a stomachache, get no sleep at all, and be playing an eight day tournament. It
aint going to be easy.
Layne Flack is surprisingly humble. He was
bouncing around yesterday with a smile on his face, and even though his tongue
is sharp, his body language is surprisingly humble. Layne said yesterday that
he was impressed by the young guys, that theyd made him change his game,
and that even though everybody is talking about the no-names, he still likes a
big name to win it. The most intriguing comment he made, however, was his
reference to defensive poker. Layne may be the most aggressive
player in the history of No Limit Holdem, hes one of the founding
fathers of this type of game, a strategy that calls for play, play, play, and
raise, raise raise, and his success has been record breaking. But here he is
now talking about defense, the poker equivalent of Bob Dylan and the electric
guitar at the Newport Folk Festival. Laynes fans say No!!
Youre Maniac Flack! But dont pigeonhole a champion. Evolution
is everything. And maybe thats what winning this tournament calls
Because so many people have seen the raise and the reraises on
television, and they dont know the context. They havent put it
together yet that theyve mostly been watching final tables, and edited
ones at that, and that the tactics required to close out a tournament are
vastly different to tactics for early on survival. And so during the first
level of the tournament theyll be players committing cardinal sins of No
Limit Holdem. There will be people making $8000 raises to a $300 pot.
There will be other players calling those oversized raises with undersized
hands. There will be madness and bedlam and five way action in big pots. And if
Layne Flack wants to play defensive poker, I think I like it.
times can I mention the Swedes. The moment a market opens on nationality of the
winner, Im lumping on that Scandinavian nation. The team is deep.
Im talking to a player named Per early in the day. His fashion sense is
either just ahead or way behind, hes got that pressed shorts, tucked in
shirt, leather shoes and high black socks look of the German tourist in the
1970s. It should be the next trend. But hes telling me about the
known top Swedish players like Christer Johansson and Johan Storakers.
The fact is, he says, Among Swedes, we dont really rate
them. Theres thirty guys here from Linkoping at that level or
higher. And nobody knows their names. 1995 world champion Dan Harrington
demanded of me directly. What is it with these young Swedes? Theyre
all fantastic! And perhaps the best of them all wont even play.
Erik123 Sagstrom, who will turn twenty-one next month, cant
even enter the Bellagio with his poker millions bankroll. So hes doing
the next best thing. Sagstroms locked up at Martin Deknijffs Las
Vegas home, Deknijff the recent $2.7 million winner at the Bellagio, and the
two are playing high stakes golf. In addition to playing poker, Sagstrom, of
course, like Johnny Moss before him, plays off scratch.