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WSOP 2004
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 World Poker Tour
The World Poker Tour, now in its second season, is a weekly televised ( USA only ) series of thirteen poker tournaments that are united under one banner for television. What makes the WPT different is that it will film the most prestigious tournaments in an arena specifically designed for television and air them during a regularly scheduled season.
Day Four
WPT Championship, APRIL 19-23 2004 Bellagio Las Vegas, NV
Jesse May, our venerable raconteur and columnist, writes from Vegas on this years championship event, the $25,000 buy-in No-Limit Holdem event.

Twenty left:
Twenty left in the WPT Championship and the players are on break. The Owl is in the tournament area, Bellagio president Bobby Baldwin with hands folded over the podium and surveying the scene in his pressed suit and corporate tie. He cut a far different figure at Sam’s Town last week at 1am, wearing sweats and headphones and hunkered down in a five handed four and eight thousand game with Chip Reese. No smoking in the tournament area apparently doesn’t apply to one of the most powerful men in Vegas, who separates a Marlboro Light from a pack while chatting with the Magician, Antonio Esfandiari. TJ Cloutier paces between tables on his cellphone, making 9pm dinner reservations. .

3:30 pm - One minute to the new level and the players are milling. Three tables left and on the right side is Poker Star’s hope, Richard Grijalva, sitting in the seven seat. But I move over to the other side, where Hasan Habib and his thin head of hair peer out from the two hole. Hendon Mobster Ross Boatman is in the one seat with a big heart, and across the table wearing a maroon Nike shirt, mirrored shades, and stacks he can’t even get his arms around is Mike Matusow. Three thousand dollar antes, blinds of twelve and twenty-four thousand.

Kinney wins a big pot from Hasan Habib who folds the river to a 200,000 bet and the Reno champion from Idaho is way to the chip lead – he’s got nearly 2.5 million. But it’s Habib who got really hurt, he’s shaking his head and then comes to the rail and says, “Man! Open ended straight flush draw…” Many players would have gone bust there. Many many.

Kinney wears a grey shirt and there’s lots of, “Who’s that guy in the grey?” from the rail. They break to two tables and when Kinney racks his chips and moves over, his eyes are wide scared and bright. But his hands are steady and he’s been playing fast.

Second hand of the new table sees Matusow limping under the gun. Kinney calls behind the button and it’s four way action for the king high flop. Matusow bets 100 grand and takes it, then shows pocket aces. “Goddamn!” – He says – “Didn’t know what to do with them!” He’s not going to waste the opportunity to advertise and talks about them all through the next hand.

Kinney goes a step too far. Russell Rosenblum has raised to seventy-five thousand under the gun and Mike Kinney reraises about 200 thousand more, and now Russell says raise and comes forward with three more stacks. A stack of red ten thousand, a stack of blue five thousand, and a small stack of black. The dealer counts it down, reraise of 475,000. Kinney sits his butt back in the chair but keeps his hands clamped to the table, peering at Russell. Russell meanwhile has put his chin all the way down on the table rim, his hat is tilted down, and you can’t see any of him, not even his cheek. It looks like half his stack is in the pot and just over half is still behind.

Kinney’s got plenty. Kinney’s got plenty of chips and only 200,000 invested, and he waits, looks, and then says something that you say when you won your first tourney ever for $600,000 three weeks ago and are now chip leader in the biggest poker tourney in history. He did the easy thing, the thing that hasn’t failed him once yet this month. He said all-in.

Russell looks up and says, “I call.” Absolutely instantly he calls and then, “You got the aces?” Kinney shakes his head and starts to look like he wants to crawl in a hole. Russell lifts the cards and throws down the two kings, a lot of force for the two little arms, and Kinney just sits there shuffling his cards and waits so long to show them that the dealer has to ask him to turn them over after thirty-five seconds, which has been an interminable time with the action all done, but the man ain’t slowrolling, he’s just in shock. The man from Idaho made the play with two jacks. He was starting to think about 2.7 million and now he realizes the real number is closer to 75,000 and he’s on his way from chip leader to short stack. You think it’s easy to win this poker tournament? It’s never too late to crack.

Four hands and five minutes later, there’s five cards on board and Kinney’s gone all-on. He’s made a verbal bet with about 400,000 in the pot and 500,000 left in his stack, and the Swede Martin Djekniff has got a tough decision. Kinney has left the table. He’s gone to the rail to talk to his wife, he’s back at the table pacing around, he’s up and down and wild-eyed to boot, and there’s 6-8-Q-5-J plus three hearts on board, and the jack of hearts came on the river. Djekniff sits immobile, I’m not confident he’s breathing. He knows Kinney is on blown out tilt, hell, the cocktail waitress knows it, and Martin is sitting there with a shaved head and a purple silk shirt and about 800,000 and the Swede lays the hand down.

Now Mike Matusow opens up loud, trying to find out what Kinney had. “You had a flush? You say you had a flush? You’d of got a half million from me. I’d of called like a shot!” Motormouth is needle man, but there’s a method to his loudness. He knows what he’s after. Sow seeds of doubt in Djekniff’s mind, and to try to slow down Kinney. Playing a madman can be scary, quite scary indeed. Djekniff looks fine, he’s gone deep twice in the WSOP main event, and he looks very fine indeed.

Richard Grijalva has just made a helluva call.

Matt Matros bets about 300,000 on Q-J-9 flop and then goes all in when the four of spades hits the turn for about a half million more. It was a long dwell up for Grijalva, the bet was for most of his chips, but after a while he called. Ace-jack is what he showed and it was winning, but Matros had the ten-jack of spades for a straight and a flush draw and a whole lot of outs. I didn’t see the river, but the young Matros snorted yeah! and shot out of his seat like a cannon, yelling and doing a lap of the table. Richard never said nothing just separated the chips from his stack. Pokerstars marketing man Dan Goldman, however, looked sick as a dog, not even able to make a smile to his ashen face. His bald head disappeared to the rail to pour into his mobile phone the grief that Party Poker had won the hand.

A few hands later and Richard gets up from his chair and peels the wraparound glasses off his face. You figure he’s gonna walk outside the lines to gather his composure and left off some steam, but he’s checking the tournament clock, checking the stack sizes on the other talbe and sitting back down. He’s still got his composure – never lost it. This kid is a major player.

Just because the final six aren’t household names doesn’t mean they won’t be soon. I see six men who haven’t yet cracked, with the possible exception of Matros. Matros had wild hair and a pounding heart and though he should be lauded and applauded for getting this far, I have trouble seeing him pull this off. About Steve Brescher, I know nothing. He was there. I never saw him in a pot. That could be a talent. Maybe he’s waiting for Day 5. And Russell Rosenblum, he seemed to weaken late in the day. My sense is that he wanted to make the final table. And now he’s done it.

Three guys at this final have, to me, displayed a constant will to win. Not a will to win individual pots, not a desire to beat certain players, but a will to win this tournament. Eyes on the prize are Hasan Habib, Richard Grijalva, and Martin Djekniff. I think the winner has to come from them and they are all three champion players. There were times on Day 4 when each of them had no chips and excuses to be out of the tournament. Djekniff made a wonderfully tough call for all his chips with ace-king against Mike Matusow and his raise-reraise-reraise all-in bet. Matusow had Ace-ten. Grijalva never panicked, never not once, which is incredible poise for his age and experience, and he outplayed everyone he faced, every step of the way. And Habib? Hasan hung around for hours, with 400,000 in chips. Hours and days he hung in before making his move. It will be a good final. And the player who wins it will have won one of the toughest poker tournaments ever.

Final Six Players
Hasan Habib Downey CA.............. 2,605,000 chips
Steve Brecher Reno NV.............. 1,460,000
Martin Deknijff Stockholm, Sweden.. 4,375,000
Richard Grijalva Las Vegas NV...... 2,995,000
Russell Rosenblum Bethesda MD...... 1,780,000
Matt Matros Bronxville NY.......... 3,860,000