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This Years World Series of Poker
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
Poker is big business.

What happened in Vegas last week was the explosion of poker. The 2003 World Series of Poker will go down in the annals of this sport as the first one that was won by a poker room, and the Pokerstars marketing strategy will be known as the beginning of the real strategy. They got a player to win the World Series of Poker.

While other Internet poker rooms gave away their World Series seats in promotions that created massive rake and opportunities for poor players, Pokerstars WSOP strategy stood out. Funnel the money up to the best tournament poker players on the site, and then put them into the World Series of Poker. And they did. Pokerstars took $440,000 out of their room and stuck forty of the best tournament poker players on the Internet into the World Series of Poker, and one of them won $2.5 million dollars with a combination of aggressive play and good decisions. Chris Moneymaker won it because he was good.

I’d been to the World Series when the agents ran around like little maggots, begging for money and promising the world. But this year they were world owners, men who threw steak and seafood dinners, who paid scantily clad women, who dressed players at a thousand a pop, who had stands and cell phones and gear to beat the band. This year the agents were paying. Paying big.

Because the media coverage this year was not just huge, it was intense. The World Poker Tour’s impact cannot be overestimated. Poker is in, and against the banal laws that seek to restrain it, poker holds up as a game. ESPN was more than there, in TV fashion they sought to take it over, the players seemed willing when offered a seven show series. The TV table of the day, ringed by rolling cameras on every side and a boom swinging wildly and zooming on in. The horizontal cameras embedded into every table that would have caught all the hole cards when they were bent up in secret and had a direct feed to a tape that was called always off-line. Every player wired for sound, on Day 1 featured conversations between Robert Varkonyi, Doyle Brunson, Padraig Parkinson, and Scotty Nguyen. Day 2 was Phil Hellmuth and TJ Cloutier, Bruce Van Horn and Kevin Song. Day 3 featured Lederer, Darden, Moneymaker, and Chan. Day 4 is Phil Ivey, on a day that saw every player started at the TV table go out, Phil Ivey the last to fall in tenth position. Day 5 will doubtless belong to the champion.

The Pokerstars agents were relentless, and tireless, they were both dragging until the sheets came out, 4:30 am on Day 1, persistent on the Internet and their mobiles, and in support of their players. And after Letterman and the AP, Pokerstars will have gotten the marketing boost of the decade.

Who else was there? Golden Palace that licenses software and hosts Victor Chandler poker rooms in black t-shirts and caps, an army of players whittled to Scotty Nguyen by Day 3’s end. The green knitted polos of 888 poker room that Dan Harrington wore faithfully in an Irish baize. Ladbrokes was there with just two players that disappeared with their blue shirts quite quickly. Former Pokerspot CEO Dutch Boyd wore a visor, leaving many to chuckle about why he can afford to charge no rake. Phil Ivey, who was reportedly offered fifty thousand to wear a shirt, wore a relaxed fitting light blue button shirt with patterned swirls on Day 3 and a basketball jersey on Day 4, in short, nothing. Ultimate Bet riding virtually on Phil himself, Phil Gordon and his road sports web trip had the video camera out and about. Paradise Poker was near non-existent.

Pro Deck card packs sold out of Binion’s gift shop before Day 1, and the Australian documentary makers are proclaiming their year in poker package sold and nearly done. The Washington Times sportswriter, a New York Times writer with a photographer, a California local news station, press badges from Montreal and Los Angeles and London and more. The audience for the final table was not trapped behind curtains this time, but seated in the tournament room and watching two big television screens, one on the flop and one on the action, which gave a fair idea when aided by the microphone. Something was being made about how quickly the players were going out on Days 1,2, and 3, but Matt Savage felt this was completely normal, and sure enough, the action slowed way down on Days 4 and 5. Day 4 lasted until after 4am and the result wasn’t official until after two bells last Saturday, well after the party in the steakhouse last year.

Maybe one day we’ll all long for the past, when poker was played for money alone, but for now the future is here. Poker is big business.

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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