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World Series Of Poker
 Jesse May Reports
April 19th - May 24th, 2002

Other Jesse May Reports : Warm-Up - Thirty Hours To Go - Jeez !! - Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Days 4&5
- The Final Action
Jesse May in
Las Vegas
#7 Day Four & Five

I apologize for the lateness of this article. But when I was told what the Irish instructions were for the final table of the 2002 World Series of Poker, I immediately needed three shots of whiskey and eight beers just to digest the information. It was that scary. And what terrified me more than anything else was that Irishman Scott Gray had already proven that he was more than sick enough to execute the plan. Hell, he actually believed in it.

Now, everybody knows what the plan is. But considering that on Day 4, when they were down to twelve players in the whole WSOP and Scott Gray had a shot to make the final table which he had only been dreaming about forever and his parents were in from Ireland to boot just to watch him and his 72 year old mother was two feet behind him on the rail and would never have understood if her son had had to explain losing his whole dosh with nothing, and considering that Scott had 300,000 in front of him, which wasn’t a lot, but certainly plenty enough to back in to the final table with, considering all that you would have to agree that under those circumstances it would take more than a fairly sick individual to come over the top of a raiser with the jack-deuce unsuited. As Padraig Parkinson said, everybody knows that when you get down to twelve players in the World Series of Poker that the only thing that you’re supposed to do with the plan is to shit on it. And everybody seemed to know that except for Scott, who later said, “Well I couldn’t very well let myself get behind in chips, could I?” So you might understand why I needed to be absolutely blottoed when considering what Scott Gray might do at the final table of the World Series of Poker. Because after his inspiring play on Day 3 and then his playing like God on Day 4, well at that point there was no way I was missing him on Day 5 but I’d be darned if I was going to have to go through it sober.

I mean when they were down to ten guys at the very end of the fourth day, playing hand for hand at two tables because the next guy out makes us nine finalists, and the crowds are thick on the rail and cameras are everywhere, and every time a big hand starts brewing on table two and the media swarms and the throng presses in because it’s an all-in decision to a short stacked player, and even the players on table one are craning their necks around to see what’s happening and barely looking at their cards. And your man Scott is absolutely unnoticed on table one in seat nine with his head down doing the thwunk thwunk thwunk before the flop with the nine-five, and then sticking the rest of his stack in when an ace hits the board. And that’s why Scott Gray started the final table of the 2002 WSOP with nearly 600,000 in chips, when by all rights he should have limped there with no more than 200 grand. Because you don’t need a license to steal. Apparently you just have to be Irish.

We’ve heard plenty of new names this WSOP, but along with the emergence of stars like Robert Varkonyi, Julian Gardner, Harley Hall, and Ralph Perry, the preeminent new star of this World Series is a man who is not a player at all. But Matt Savage is the best poker tournament director I’ve ever seen. It’s a credit to Becky Behnen that she assembled the best tournament staff in history led by a tournament director who I predict an immensely long and successful career for. I was fairly sure Matt was good, but when a weird situation occurred early on Day 4, I became absolutely positive.

Russell Rosenblum had opened the pot for a standard raise, smooth called on the button by young Julian Gardner. The flop came ten, ten, three and Russell led out for eighteen thousand, a bet Julian promptly raised up to fifty thousand straight. With the action back on Russell he had a good long think, and then calmly said, “Let’s play for a hundred,” while breaking down a stack of five thousand chips into the pot. And then all hell broke loose.

It was a moment of bedlam at the World Series of Poker, because Julian Gardner said, “All in!” and came forward with his chips in one fiery motion, sweeping them into the pot with both hands and a sitting bench press. Now, you have to understand that Julian had a lot of small denomination chips, so though he didn’t really have all that much money, his stacks were visually impressive. Meanwhile, Russell looks like he’s taken three sawed off shotgun shells to the belly. Julian’s raise popped him out of his seat, I believe his entire body actually left the ground, and he ended up spread-eagled against the back wall, leaning there for support, and looking like he needed an ambulance. Russell is a full eight feet away from the table, the field has been swarmed like Fred Merkel and the bonehead play, the dealer has had no time to even break down Julian’s chips to find the size of the raise, and the player whose turn it is to act isn’t at the table.

And then Matt Savage was there, and Matt Savage was calm, and Matt Savage was in control. He was behind the dealer in the eye of the storm and in one glance he knew everything that had happened. He said, “Where’s Russell?” And when he turned to look at him against the wall, Russell uttered in a weak but unmistakable voice through half open eyes, “I fold. Fold.” And he waved his arm twice.

Then something occurred to Russell Rosenblum and he asked, “How much is the raise?” How much is the raise. Of course. Russell comes back to the table and grabs his cards. But Matt Savage is faster, and his hand is there too, clamping a vise on Russell’s outstretched wrist. And in a firm and calm voice Savage says, “I’m sorry Russell. You’ve folded. Verbal action in turn is compulsory.” Not only did Matt Savage know the rule, he quoted it. And he knows that sometimes a floorman should wait until he’s summoned, and sometimes a floorman just has to take charge. It was awesome, and everybody knew it was awesome, and everybody knew it was the right decision.

The raise by the way, was for thirty-four thousand. Julian raked the pot and showed two sixes. And now Russell turned an even whiter shade of green, and later on he said that he had had two jacks. Russell Rosenblum, by the way, came back from that blow to make the final table and take sixth place, a credit to his ability to regroup and a hell of a lot of heart. Julian, we know, when on to take second. But the real star of the hand was Matt Savage.

Congratulations to Robert Varkonyi, the new poker champion of the world. Congratulations to the Binion-Behnens, who run the most important tournament in the world with the professionalism it deserves. As long as the World Series of Poker is held at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, I’ll be there to support it.

Other Jesse May Reports : Warm-Up - Thirty Hours To Go - Jeez !! - Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Days 4&5
- The Final Action
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