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World Series Of Poker
 Jesse May Reports
April 16th - May 23rd, 2003

Other Reports : T-4 - T-3 - T-2 - Sunday - Day One/I - Day One/II - Day Two - Day Three - Day Four - Final - Pictures - Championship - Jesse May Montage
Jesse May in
Las Vegas
End of Day 4

I guess I got there at precisely the right time. It was 4:30 am and the floor was weaving as I waded into Binion’s tournament room just after the tenth place player busted out. Precisely the right time, I say, because I managed to see the thing which for me is the most definitive image of this entire tournament, and the fact that anything could have burned indelibly into my brain from a night most of which I can’t even remember, should speak volumes either for the magnitude of the event or towards the potency of White Russians.

I watched Phil Ivey walk slowly out of the tournament area and I followed him all the way to his car. I followed him as he went down the Binion’s escalator at 4:30 am, trudged across the casino floor, across Fremont street and through the glass doors of the Golden Nugget on his way to the valet. Paul Darden walked beside him not saying a word. No words of consolation, no crying spilt milk, and if I didn’t know what had happened up in that tournament room then I never would have guessed. Because both their faces were business as usual, rocks of Gibraltar that give nothing up. They could have both been athletes on their way to the big game, and not the two best poker players in the game who had recently been denied the glory that’s their due.

By now you’ve probably heard what happened to Phil Ivey, that he was robbed of the bracelet on his last hand of the night, all in for 600,000 on the turn with a house, called by your man who had only three queens, and spiked on the river for two million bucks. But you wouldn’t have seen that on his walk to the car, not like some wayward loonies who have to cry foul, those guys who will talk for the next umpteen years about how the lord is against them and life is too cruel. Phil wore a basketball jersey, some guy named Francis, and his high topped sneakers were steady in their steps, Darden in a light blue track suit with same easy paces, not two manic guys who were looking for a drink, but the two greatest athletes who had just played their best and could hold their heads high. Sure, this year is done, for them it’s all over, but tomorrow will be the same old again, play perfect poker and let the chips fall.

It was just like the Golden Nugget valet guy said to me a few days earlier, when I told him that Ivey was leading the tourney. He said, yeah, Phil parks here every day and you would never guess who he is, he’s so down to earth and never gets hot, always has polite words and a tip for the boys.

It’ll take some time to piece together everything that happened on Day 4 of the World Series of Poker, when they whittled down forty-five players to just the final nine, in a marathon session that went past 4am. Whether or not Phil Hellmuth cracked up or was unlucky will be one for the pundits, hand analyzers who followed the flops, and how Jeff Shulman bled off his chips when he looked to be stronger than a fast bull in heat. I can tell you, however, that both of these of these fellows had support staffs galore, half of the gallery with comments and advice. Shulman had three guys in the rails wearing press passes from Card Player magazine. And his father with the computer twenty feet from Jeff’s table, eating bagel sandwiches and talking on his cell phone. Somehow, I think to win the World Series of Poker, you need to be alone with your thoughts. If anybody knew better than you than they’d be there instead.

Picking the winner of the final has got me baffled. But I’m ignoring all chip counts and thinking that the winner is going to be the guy who’s still got enough stamina to play out of their skin at this late stage of the experience. Jason Lester. Dan Harrington. These men are gods.

Other Reports : T-4 - T-3 - T-2 - Sunday - Day One/I - Day One/II - Day Two - Day Three - Day Four - Final - Pictures - Championship - Jesse May Montage
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