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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
T minus 2

Somewhere between a circus, a carnival, and Lucky Lenders day at the bank. That’s what it began to feel like this afternoon at Binion’s 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. He’d 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 couldn’t figure it out until a rounder put it in perspective. “Can’t you see? He’s spent a month selling his soul, and now is faced with the reality that he has to back his words up. He’s terrified!”

And that’s 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 you’ve got a good bad beat story in your arsenal, you’ll just be one of hundreds. Sitting at the bar, drowning vodka and cokes, and talking about pocket aces, no one will notice whether you’ve been in or not. Whether you really meant to win or were just one of those people who’s 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 it’s 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 Isaac’s jewelry stand and the table of books and photographer Ulvis’ black and white photos of Stu Ungar in the eighties. I’m standing in line at the gift shop and a man’s 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. He’s still in the Omaha tournament.” I swear he said, “He’s playing in Nebraska?” There’ll 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. It’s beyond me, but I think you can break it down like so. If you’re a guy who’s 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 that’s just five days. If you’re a walking time bomb, however, then playing Day 1 is disastrous, because you’ll 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 ain’t 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 they’d 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 Hold’em, he’s 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. Layne’s fans say “No!! You’re Maniac Flack!” But don’t pigeonhole a champion. Evolution is everything. And maybe that’s what winning this tournament calls for.

Because so many people have seen the raise and the reraises on television, and they don’t know the context. They haven’t put it together yet that they’ve 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 they’ll be players committing cardinal sins of No Limit Hold’em. 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.

How many times can I mention the Swedes. The moment a market opens on nationality of the winner, I’m lumping on that Scandinavian nation. The team is deep. I’m talking to a player named Per early in the day. His fashion sense is either just ahead or way behind, he’s got that pressed shorts, tucked in shirt, leather shoes and high black socks look of the German tourist in the 1970’s. It should be the next trend. But he’s telling me about the known top Swedish players like Christer Johansson and Johan Storakers. “The fact is,” he says, “Among Swedes, we don’t really rate them. There’s 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? They’re all fantastic!” And perhaps the best of them all won’t even play. “Erik123” Sagstrom, who will turn twenty-one next month, can’t even enter the Bellagio with his poker millions bankroll. So he’s doing the next best thing. Sagstrom’s locked up at Martin Deknijff’s 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.

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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