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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 Zero
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.

Welcome to the World Poker Tour Championship.
Do you remember the Superbowl? Do you remember the stories about Superbowl week - the parties, the women, the players out drinking, how it was everything and anything except for football? Whether New Orleans or Miami, the angle on the game was who had what curfew and who were the ones breaking it. And there’d always be some hung over lineman with bleary eyes and a bellyful of ale getting shot up with a needle as he slouched into the locker room fifteen minutes before kickoff. Remember the good old days of football and move over Houston, hello Las Vegas, because poker is the prime sport right now and while today may begin the biggest poker tournament the world has yet seen, last night was the day before the Superbowl, and poker was out to play.

I’m not sure when I’ve realized that poker has arrived. But it’s probably at midnight on Sunday evening from my vantage point at the Bellagio’s Race Book Bar, when a man standing next to me with an earring in his eyebrow drags hard on his cigarette, tilts his head and offers, “He sure his much taller than I thought!” We were staring across at Ben Affleck locked in conversation with Howard Lederer, and I had no idea which one he was talking about.

If I was playing in a $25,000 buy-in tournament on a Monday at noon, a tournament in that I hoped to last for five grueling days and make me a million dollars richer, then the last place I would want to be on a Sunday is anywhere in the vicinity of a casino or poker room. I’d hope to spend the day by the pool, I’d do my laundry, I would have dinner and a jog and a large glass of whiskey and hope to get some sleep. And no matter what, the last thing I’d do is play any poker. But the way players attacked the supersatellites on Sunday, you would have thought that the object was just to get into the tournament, forget being fresh for the duration. 3pm and Jack McLelland comes on the mike and says, “If you’re planning to play tomorrow, don’t get shut out. We only have room for five hundred fifty.” I believe he was serious.

The party was ferocious. I’m fronting the tournament area with Light (The Bellagio nightspot) on my left hand side, and as a pretty regular said, “Sundays in Vegas are for God and Light.” The parade of stars was fast and furious. Affleck was hopping back and forth between chatting and a poker game, encircled by Howard, by Annie, by the Devilfish and friends, with a hundred more watching their every move. Mimi Rogers showed up in a long blue gown, chatting with the likes of Sexton and Mel Judah. Layne Flack was in jubilant form, laying three thousand dollar chips on his arm and trying to catch them in one motion, like a juggler from Barnum he was saying, “No one ever believes I can do this!” The thousand chips are scattering all over the bar area and he’s laughing his head off.

Layne’s my hero, and the man actually seemed in fantastic form, ready to play. At least he wasn’t stuck in eight supersatellites all day Sunday, and whoever priced him at 500-1 to win the WSOP should have their head examined. But you have to be hard nosed if you’re thinking about backing players, and Sunday is usually my day for crossing. I’m a Sunday crosser outer, and I was clutching my sheet of Pinnacle Sports head up matches, and going on the theory that I’ll take the one who’s home sleeping over the one who’s here talking. Juanda vs. Scotty Nguyen, for one. It’s one am and Scotty has gotten head up with Men the Master in a one table satellite. I’ve been in Vegas a week and never seen Juanda. That’s a bet. Baxter vs. Tomko. Dewey was in the room since 11 am, Billy Baxter was nowhere. Check. Leonardo DiCaprio strode by, with a buddy, a bodyguard, and a gaggle of girls. TJ was everywhere, in his gray T-shirt and constant action. Amir Vahedi was gulping water and heavy on his unlit cigar, drinking in the scene with a bemused smile. And I’m thinking to myself, has it all got so big now that $25,000 doesn’t even raise their blood?

So who am I backing? I like the little round man, Kaseem Freddy Deeb. 7pm and he strides up to the bar and orders a coffee. “Forget that,” he says, “Give me a brandy and I’m straight up to bed. I need a good night sleep because I plan to win.” I’m lumping on Seidel. The man took 41st place in a Saturday Super handing out 41 seats, a good indicator of survivalist form, and he was nowhere to be seen on the day of rest. I’ll take Negreanu. He’s on the vegetarianism, he’s on the exercise, and he must be resting. Paul Darden, 145-1. Enough said. And please, oh please, give me some of that Dan Harrington at 125-1. Some say he was the only sane man to win the WSOP, but I just say he’s scary good, and a specialist in big-buy in tournaments.

What are the facts about this tournament? The structure is similar to the World Series of Poker, but with two and a half times the chips. Deep stacks to start. Deep. Anybody going out on Day 1 can either blame the dealer or themselves, and I’ll take the latter. Day 1 is not the day for the before the flop specialists. If you don’t know where you are come turn time, I pity your chances. On the Internet the betting is all over on the flop at the latest. On Day 1 at the WPT Championship, there’s a whole different set of skills in play, and aces are dangerous. I imagine it’ll be some good TV. I imagine it’ll make for a great game of poker.

Players entered
Mickey Appleman, Billy Baxter, Joe Beevers, David Benyamine, Lloyd Berkowitz, Lyle Berman, Andrew Bloch, Barney Boatman, Ross Boatman, Humberto Brenes, Richard Brodie, Doyle Brunson, Todd Brunson, Joe Cassidy, Johnny Chan, David Chiu, T.J. Cloutier, Hoyt Corkins, Anthony Cousineau, Allen Cunningham, Paul Darden, Kassem Deeb, Charidimos Demetriou, Mark Dickstein, Antonio Esfandiari, John Esposito, Ray Faltinsky, Jon Favreau, Bob Feduniak, Maureen Feduniak, Bruno Fitoussi, Steve Ford, Noli Francisco, Avi Freedman, Prahlad Freidman, Bill Gazes, Chau Giang, Alan Goehring, Sharon Goldman, Stan Goldstein, Phil Gordon, Clonie Gowan, Barry Greenstein, David Grey, Aurelien Guiglini, Russ Hamilton, Gus Hansen, Thor Hansen, Jennifer Harman, Dan Harrington, Brian Haveson, Phil Hellmuth, John Hennigan, Mohamed Ibrahim, Phil Ivey, Randy Jensen, Jesse Jones, John Juanda, Mel Judah, Gabe Kaplan, Marvin Karlins, Richard Karn, Michael Kelly, Ronald Kirk, Curt Kohlberg, Meng La, Phil Laak, Toto Leonides, David Levi, Kathy Liebert, Rory Liffey, Erick Lindgren, George Marlowe, Mike Matusow, Jim McManus, Carlos Mortensen, Abraham Mosseri, Dean Murray, Shane Muscarello, John Myung, Ming Na, Daniel Negreanu, Men Nguyen, Scotty Nguyen, John Olson, Paul Phillips, Jason Pumo, Annan Ramdin, Chip Reese, Mimi Rogers, Ron Rose, Ali Sarkeshik, Alan Schein, Huck Seed, Erik Seidel, Mark Seif, John Short, Barry Shulman, Jeff Shulman, Fred Sigur, David Singer, David Sklansky, Dean Smith, Bob Stupak, Dewey Tomko, Mimi Tran, Vadim Trincher, Amir Vahedi, Ram Vaswani, Haralabos Voulgaris, Lee Watkinson, Herman Zango, Steve Zolotow.