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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 3

Maybe from now on everything will be back to normal. It’s possible that Days 4-7 of the World Series of Poker will begin to resemble what we have known in the past, but on Monday, when they combined the field and played everyone remaining for all of Day 3, you almost wouldn’t have known what was at stake.

The first few hours were predictable. Players on short stacks had been up all night, and somewheres around 5am after tossing and turning for hours they said the hell with it and just watched the dawn. Their last thought before entering the tournament room was likely to have been, I’ll gamble. Double up quick or the worst thing that can happen is I can finally get some sleep. And so after beginning with 1108 players at twelve noon on Monday, the first few hours were an absolute carnage. It was 800 in no time, no time at all. But then you would have thought it would slow down, that the play would get careful. It didn’t. Seasoned veterans were spitting about the lunatics, about players who wouldn’t lay down anything, didn’t know where they were at, or what they were doing. That dreaded word was being spewed out all day, the one word you’d never want to hear at the World Series of Poker, crapshoot.

But if it is a crapshoot then some of the best in the world still have hot hands, and I like to think the final table will be an adequate representation of what went on. We’ll see. 276 players will begin the Day on Tuesday. With 225 paid, so close you can taste the money. So close you can taste it. But let’s look back to Day 3.

405 players left. Its only 9pm but the yawns are coming out. Big names on short stacks. Trying to survive the carnage. Like E-Dog Erik Lindgren on 9500, and The Owl Bobby Baldwin with under 8000. Swedish hope Sargon “The Giant” Ruya has got 40,000 in four low neat stacks and cool rider glasses wrapped round his face. He sits backwards in his chair.

I’ve come upon a table with Julian Gardner. There are cameras all around, and you figure they’re on the 2002 WSOP runner up, who’s trying to be obscure with 100,000 in chips. You figure the cameras are there for Julian but when a portly white man in the 9 seat gets in an all-in coup, king-queen vs. ace-jack, the cameras follow the portly fellow, baseball cap and Hawaiian shirt, all the way out the door and then they return to interview the Welshman who has busted him. “Who was that?” I ask a crew member. I only knew he was no poker player. The crew man looks at me aghast. “That’s Sal’s cousin man!” I was blank. “From the Jimmy Kimmel live show!” Oh. “Never gambled on poker before in his life… Why? Anyone else famous on this table?”

Small blind vs. big and Julian comes with a 2500 raise from the small one. A Pokertropolis visor and expensive silk shirt who has 65,000 comes over the top for a broken down stack of ten yellows, ten thousand more. Julian doesn’t look perturbed in the slightest, he briefly considers and looks at your man with the side of his ear, sits back slightly and waves his left hand. “I’m all in,” he says, bouncing a little in his seat. Your man folds instantly. Good read.

1995 world champion Dan Harrington never looks at his cards before it’s his turn. Never, not once. His baseball cap looks perched rather oddly on his head, but it’s only because the green cap is brand new, just out of the box, brim cardboard flat without a speck of wear. His body slumps out slightly from that point down, however, body a bit lumpy inside an old T-shirt and shorts. White socks, old tennis sneakers. Day at the beach. Tournament director Matt Savage announces on the PA. “We have six former world champions still in the tournament. Doyle Brunson, Hamid Dastmalchi, Russ Hamilton, Bobby Baldwin, Chris Ferguson, and Tom Mcevoy… Oh… and Robert Varkonyi.” Harrington never moves a muscle. Two players at Dan’s table stand up and point, but the moment passes. Dan smiles and chuckles, says, “They always forget.” He doesn’t care, really.

Harrington’s no Amarillo Slim. But he ain’t silent neither. Dan has a very disarming way of talking, self-deprecating pokes, calling himself tired and keeping the ones around him on a friendly basis. When the Pokerstars player on his right doesn’t have anything smaller than a twenty for the waitress, the same player who folded a pair of aces on the flop to a small Harrington raise, Harrington pulls out his own worn wallet quickly. He’s got plenty of ones. “Don’t worry about it,” he says, in his slight Boston accent, “Just maybe give up your small blind every once in a while.” Laughs, then, “A secret I’ve found, when negotiating, is don’t get too greedy…” And then, a few hands later after he’s raised from the button and the small blind reraises all-in, Dan hems and haws before giving a big sigh and folding. “All right,” he laments, “I guess you had me beat. I’m just tired. I think you notched my ace.” The words are friendly and smiling, and Dan keeps everybody chatting, no matter the subject. He wants to know all about them, you think, but it’s a powerful weapon. Like a lawyer, I guess, which Dan actually is. But one that’s so good that he kind of breaks the mold.

The Devilfish. He comes walking out on break in a buoyant mood, been low chipped all day but he’s finally moved comfortable, up to 65,000. Devil says, in an accent thick as Hull, “All these namby pamby poker players on the Internet, I used to play in places that were rough. I walked in one night and they had sawdust on the floor, it was last night’s furniture. They had a pig’s head on the bar for air freshener.”

Thirty minutes left in the night and Julian Gardner has done his Day 2 usual. Run over them with a steamroller. Gardner’s chips are piled like a Great Wall of China in that way that says he’s winning three out of four pots. Julian has two cup holders lined up and a full Heineken in each. Over the past level and a half, Julian has gone from eighty grand to over 200 thousand, and the hangers-in that are left are mostly folding up shop before the action’s come around. A red haired lady in a Prima Poker t-shirt has nearly as many on Julian’s right. She’s chomping gum like it’s cud, and has her chips evenly stacked and is constantly counting. She’s made her big plays for the night, and Julian’s raising her limp-ins at every opportunity. The four players on the other end of the table are all shuffling their chips fast. Tilt, shuffle, tilt.

It’s easy to tell who’s been winning lately by the small chips they have, and Julian owns nearly every hundred chip on the table. He always loves the small chips. Ante 200, blinds of eight and sixteen, folded to Gardner who bends the corner of his cards before raising it up 4300 in an aggressive splash. They fold up like clockwork. One man at the table holding a near empty Budweiser and tilting in his chair says, “I had a half decent hand but I just don’t feel like playing.” Julian wants every uncontested chip. A few hands later the red haired lady doubles the bet. Julian passes but another one calls. 7-5-2 on the flop. “I folded pocket fives,” rues Julian, when the hand is over. Next hand your woman limps, under the gun. Julian immediately makes it 7000 total. Folded to the small blind, who’s trying to stall. He doesn’t care about anything but going to bed, and spends three minutes talking to Gardner about Manchester United while the other players stare. But they’re all too happy to stall, and Gardner just sits there with his nothing at all, calm as can be while waiting for everyone to fold.

Two last players I really do fancy. Marcel Luske, who sings at the table. The Flying Dutchman’s sunglasses are always on upside down, and he’s got a pyramid tower of chips near night’s end and singing, in tune I might add, “You just have to call…” Strong, ever strong and relaxed.

Don’t leave out John Shipley. They dismissed him in 2002 but I see something else. I see a guy who amassed a million dollars in chips in the World Series of Poker, and I saw a guy who lasted all day Monday on a table at which everyone busted out. Everyone else but John. And he never had that many chips. $80,900 going into Day 4 of the World Series of Poker and the nicest most unassuming guy you could ever meet, who’s withstood years of negative comments from people he never met about losing the chip lead at the final table of the World Series of Poker. Let’s hear it for poetic justice. Long live the underdog. I’m rooting for John Shipley.

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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