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World Series Of Poker
 Jesse May Reports
April 23rd - May 28th, 2004

Jesse May Reports : Champ D6 - Champ D5 - Champ D3 - Champ D2 - Champ D1 - T - 1 - T - 2 - T - 3 (II) - T - 3 (I) - T - 4 - T - 7 - Day 13 - D 12 - D 11 - D 10 - Return (9) - D 4 - D 3 - D 2 - Carborundum
Championship : The First 6 Days - The Final - Places & Prizes
Picture Series : Winners - Ted Forest - $5000 Holdem - John Hennigan - 2 to 7 Draw - A-Z Player List - The Final
Jesse May in
Las Vegas
Championship Day 1

When the clock finally beeped zero, zero, zero, signifying the end of the sixth level on the first day of play at the 2004 World Series of Poker, there wasn’t a one of the 582 players remaining that wasn’t ready to weep for joy. “Here,” you could hear the collective gasp of withered souls say to the more than 1200 players that had to arise in ten hours and play themselves, “get that down your neck, why don’t you. Good luck!”

Dave the Devilfish Ulliot, I’ve rarely seen the man so buoyant. “It’s over boys, this one’s all over. Wrap up the five million and post it to the Devilfish!” It’s the first time ever that the Devil has ended the first day of the WSOP with good chips, and he’s too right. The Devil’s one of the best chalks in the business, and with 55,000, he’ll be ready to pound and pound. Ulliot cut a different figure early in the day, short stacked in the UB shirt and tinted sunglasses, with double fingered rings saying Devil and Fish. “What time did you get in last night?” He asks with a sorry glance. “Five a.m. for me.” And now a good sleep and a day off relaxing at the pool while laughing at the poor slobs who have to slog their way through six levels and nearly one thousand people just to get to the Devil himself. Life sure is sweet if you’ve survived Day 1.

The bloodletting started at one o’clock sharp. The tournament kicked off with a full field and a line of panting alternates ready to sit in late with shortened stacks. They just wanted a chance. The one hundred and twenty tables that started continued full for a good two hours, two hours in which the only sounds were the crush of the crowds, the shuffling of chips, and the constant call of seat open, seat open, as another freshened stack sat down to take the busted one’s place. Somewhere around 4pm the tables actually started breaking, and then the floodgates opened. A tidal wave of people were being thrown overboard by the minute, and the look on tournament director Matt Savage’s face was of the grim exterminator sent to slaughter a roomful of chickens. “I wish they’d play another level,” he said, bloody and battered with a swinging hacksaw late into the night, “They’ll be making ten million dollar bets at the final table.”

The sickies were the Day 2 players who showed up on the rail to watch the proceedings. Faces grew ashen white as they watched what was in store for themselves, and game plans were torn and revised while lines tightened around eyes. Some professed amazement at the amateur levels of play that dominated Day 1, but who could really be surprised? Just because the buy-in was ten thousand dollars, that meant nothing. The size of the field speaks to the popularity of poker and the sheer money in the game, and not to the fact that there are suddenly 2500 world class tournament players.

The day was a minefield. Bad beats are no more worth talking about than the players knocked out, suffice it to say goodbye, so long, and that defense and body armor are of little comfort when a bunker buster hits you in the small of the back. Julian Gardner put it into a little perspective when his table got broken late in the day and he found himself on a downstairs table, over near the rail, that was sagging from the weight of too many chips. When Julian was second in 2002, he remembered, he finished Day 2 with 67,000 and was at or near the top of the board. “Here it is Day 1,” he chuckled, “and there are two at my table with twice that many!” Two Pokerstars shirts, one Empire, a UB, and a Paradise. There wouldn’t be one of them that has ever played the WSOP before, but between the five they have forty players’ chips. And maybe that’s the new definition of Day 1 at the World Series of Poker. No one’s seen the chip leaders before, just the shirts that they wear.

Who’s done good? Mike Laing, for one. He tottered round the room about one am, and giggled when someone asked if he was out. “Yeah, I’m out,” says Laing. “I lose a hundred and twenty thousand more, and I’m out!” Johnny Worlds’ got chips, and so does Kenna James. Both “Choirboy” Gary Jones and Freddy Deeb were back from the brink. They’d both teetered down to under four thousand towards the middle of the day before hitting good strides. They’ll sleep the sleep of the just all day Sunday. The just been given a great chance to win.

I’ll admit it. I laid Doyle Brunson. I’ve seen him go out early the past two years, and I figured he was done. But they broke the mold when they made this guy. It’s just turned one am, the game’s been in progress for twelve hours, and Brunson’s watching everything. You’ve never seen a man this age this alert after this long at the table. His eyes are slow lidded and low slitted, and they dart around in piercing glances. Hell, he is focused, he’s in form, and he looks ready to go eight days like the maiden voyage of the Lusitania. A bright smile, red jacket, and open necked shirt. He doesn’t have that many chips, but what he has is quite comfortable. Twenty minutes to go in the day and his concentration isn’t wavering. I’m staring at the man who won two WSOP’s and nearly a couple more. I think he wants it. It’s not the body, the clothes, nor the face or the words, but those eyes those eyes, all over the table. Those eyes those eyes. Guys one fourth his age have their minds in the sky, heads bent and gazes fixed while seeing cloudy, and Texas Dolly Brunson sits there and watches, with those eyes those eyes.

It’s nearly time to play Day 2. Second verse, same as the first. See you on the other side.

Further Championship details on the Championship page
Jesse May Reports : Champ D6 - Champ D5 - Champ D3 - Champ D2 - Champ D1 - T - 1 - T - 2 - T - 3 (II) - T - 3 (I) - T - 4 - T - 7 - Day 13 - D 12 - D 11 - D 10 - Return (9) - D 4 - D 3 - D 2 - Carborundum
Championship : The First 6 Days - The Final - Places & Prizes
Picture Series : Winners - Ted Forest - $5000 Holdem - John Hennigan - 2 to 7 Draw - A-Z Player List - The Final
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