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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
Sunday morning

Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, Sunday at 4:30 am, and it’s that bewitching hour. With only 20 hours until the big dance begins, anybody who’s in the poker room right now is in serious jeopardy of shooting himself in the foot. Because Monday at 1pm is not the beginning of just another tournament. Monday begins the championship event at the World Series of Poker, and if you don’t plan on getting your full eight hours on Saturday night followed by a rest day on Sunday, then you’ll either have no chance at all to become the next world champion, or you must think you just paid $10,000 for a lottery ticket.

Now a lot of people play poker daily. They play poker five or more days of every week, so they figure that that means their stamina is just about fine when it comes to playing for the five day duration of the World Series of Poker. But almost every single one of those players has not only never made it through the duration of the championships of the world, but they just never will.

Because though they have to think that way, their facts don’t fly. They need to think that Robert Varkonyi was an idiot with no chance on earth, they must say that if he can win than anybody can, when it comes to poker they have done everything else. But about the big one they are without a clue. Because all the poker skill in the world doesn’t mean nearly a thing on day five of the World Series of Poker when compared to two factors far more precious - how fresh you are and how you perform under pressure. And when Robert Varkonyi showed up last May for that Friday final table, two things were sure. He was fresh as a daisy, having slept well every night of the WSOP and done very little but rest for the week before that, and he was cool and calm as the bright blue sea. And some people who can talk circles around the merits of pushing your stack in with top pair in an unraised pot, some of those people might be the best of the best at reading, raising and folding, but they haven’t sussed out what those who’ve been there will know. That at the World Series of Poker a donkey with fire in his eyes is a ten fold favorite over a red ringed pro when it comes to hoisting the crown. I’ll take the Vegas pro on Days 1, 2, and 3, but when the twilight zone kicks in on the morning of Day 4, all bets are off. Then I’m looking for the steady hand and vicious smile of the unknown player. In the words of Benny Binion Behnen, I’ll take the field.

So what was going on at the Horseshoe with 20 hours to go? In the downstairs poker room, four cash games were charging. In the center of one table sat the Devilfish, deep into a pot limit Omaha game played mostly with bills and black chips. Dave looked in fine command of the table, but I’m fearful for his form come Friday and the final nine. There’s another pot limit Omaha game twice as big in the corner, where Eskimo Clark’s hunkered down with a solemn look. Dewey Tomko’s kibitzing at the empty table next over, presumably waiting for a seat with a new showered air and every hair in place. Huck Seed comes sauntering through the card room with a basketball player’s stride and a freshly shaven head, off to bed. Reports are that Seed has been taking his conditioning of late with the utmost sincerity, and his multiple cashes plus his not a care air make me think he’s a well deserved favorite.

Over at the deli, I spent some time kibitzing with the king of the castle, Benny Binion Behnen, bursting with pride. His conservative estimate is 684 runners, but the smile and wink betray what the rest of us already know. This World Series of Poker will smash all the records and be the best one ever, and I believe the 700 player barrier will be passed with more than an hour to go. Which, by the way, will mean six tables paid instead of just five, as making the final 54 will be worth more than just pride. Tournament director Matt Savage strolls by, tired but smiling, and brimming with excitement. Long day, I asked? He says, “They’ve all been long, but they’ve all been worth it,” as nothing gives energy more than a job well done. Matt’s expecting over 700 with good reason, and he’s prepared for this smartly by adding five levels to the tournament structure. “Fifty hours of poker,” he says, “It’ll take fifty hours of poker to see this one through.” I do believe he’s right.

Don’t forget what Lancey Howard asked the Cincinnati Kid before they sat down to play. The last thing Lancey cared about was Erik Stoner’s game, he knew it would come down to way more than that. “How are your nerves, kid?” queried the man to the challenger. And the kid’s reply? “They been worse.”

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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