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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
Day Three

He outlasted the crowd. He outlasted his friends. He tired out the cameraman, the tournament director, the dealers and the crew, and when it was finally all over he had also outlasted one of the steadiest big limit 7-stud players in the game. Ted Forrest won a bracelet his way. He did it without giving an inch, without playing big pots, and without ever letting it come down to the luck of the draw.

I had run into the Horseshoe with wet hair, hustling down as soon as I heard that they’d got three handed. I’d expected it to whittle down to the big guys, but not so soon. Five players had been run off the table without even a whimper and now it was Ted Forrest, Men the Master Nguyen, and Chad Brown in a fight for the $1500 seven stud title and the $111,000 first prize. Break time, and Ted is in a black T-shirt pacing with a Pepsi. No deal discussions yet, or that’s the report, and I can see Men’s got his work cut out for him now. A half empty bottle of Corona is on a side table behind a single column of chips, and the Master strides in unbuttoning his jacket and offers to a fan, “I better kill them before they kill me!” Men is way out chipped and wearing a final table worry bracelet of bright yellow beads strapped to his right wrist.

ESPN has gone professional this year. Four cameras surround the specially built TV table in the center of the room, each camera on a trolley with a cameraman and an assistant. Plus a big swinging boom camera and another fixed overhead. They’ve built a nice set as well, a black plastic floor with a raised oval stage ringed by blue lights

And Ted Forrest’s not the chip leader neither, it’s a black haired tall fellow named Chad Brown that’s ruining their plans. He’s got most of the chips on the table and big pink ears, and he sits down in the one seat as tournament director Matt Savage races for the 500 chips, clearing them off the table. All three players look loose and relaxed as they chatter among themselves while waiting for the TV men to get the show online.

Limits are four and eight thousand, ante one thousand, and Men gets knocked out about four hands into the new level. All the chips are in on fifth street and Men’s not looking too good with a pair of sixes against your man’s one hundred over cards and a double belly buster to boot, worse when the straight gets made on sixth. Men needs a six or seven to win and when the dealer shoots him the last card his short little arms squeeze it extra slow, Baccarat style, peeling up only the side. Thirty seconds later and the Master is gone, smile and handshakes and plenty of camera time for his gear. The other two are, brand less.

Ted’s out chipped nearly 2-1, but the limits aren’t big. You don’t get much opportunity to play heads up 7-stud, not unless you play in the biggest games regularly and especially enjoy one on one. Ted fits both these bills; he has for quite some time, and after about ten hands the lines have gone tight around Chad Brown’s face. Ted is relaxed; he’s shuffling his chips seven by seven, a perfect riffle every time, then leans in a little as the cards are dealt.

Mike Laing is sipping coffee on the rail and you have to notice him, every three minutes he shouts out in a Western accent, “Hey now! What the hell is going on?” Ted makes a pair of eights on sixth street when Chad makes open fives, and Chad raises it to sixteen thousand after Ted’s bet. Ted leans his nose over the table like he’s trying to sniff out Brown’s hand. Ted calls, the river comes down, and Ted shuffles, squeezes, and then bets, called by your man after a puzzled indecision. Straight, says Ted, flipping over three from his hand. “What the heck, I say, what the heck is that?” shouts Mike Laing in his best Yosemite Sam. Chad shakes his head, but doesn’t he know? It’s Ted Forrest, and he can rewrite the rules.

Chad Brown is not a name many have heard of before, one guy says to me, “You probably never heard of him unless you play big limit stud, but they all know who he is.” Chad’s a long time and steady winner in the California stud and stud eight or better games, and he plays in those limits that are sky high without being sickly. Sky high, though, high enough so that it’s where nearly only sharks will tread, and Brown has distinguished himself by being there year in and year out for more than a decade, and never losing control or getting out of line, your consummate professional in high limit poker.

There’s some kind of invisible rhythm in Ted’s head. Many times he folds the high card to the bring-in, his head rocking perceptibly to some unknown beat. When he bets, he wins. Six fifty pm and Chad puffs his cheeks and blows out hard. It’s not easy. A few hands later Ted folds open aces on the river. Chad doesn’t even show a pair. Ye gads.

Okay. Seven Stud is not the most exciting game in the world head-up, and ESPN’s taking a gamble by trotting it on TV. They’ll need some strong narrative to get this one going, says Chad Brown’s man to me, and Matt Savage turns around with a helpless smile about an hour in and says, “Head up Stud. Bet a thousand. Raise. Fold!” Because 90% of the hands go no further than fourth street and it is limit poker. If you want a place on the rail step right up, without the cameras they’d be toiling in anonymity. Lucky they’ve got two of the best players in the world.

Limit poker is like dancing, and head up limit poker is a series of binary numbers where the cards fade in significance. At least in Hold’em. In limit Stud, you’ve got the dance, you’ve got the binary progressions, and you’ve got the relative strength of the players’ board cards thrown in to boot. It’s enough factors to just take a genius, and just when you think it can’t end until the limits get high, it doesn’t become that way at all. Separation gets achieved. Believe me.

A bell rings and the room empties. It’s the dinner break in the limit Hold’em tournament and the 250 left in the action file noisily out with the loudspeaker admonishing, “Tournament players don’t forget to use your pink slips for the buffet. Pink slips required for the tournament players wishing to eat at the buffet.” There’s also been a lull in the final table action. Chad has won a large number of small pots in the last half hour and crept back to even. This one’s not over yet.

The players take a dinner break of their own, and I start talking to dealer who puts things in perspective. In Hold’em, he says, the most aggressive player usually wins, or at least has an advantage that serves him well. But you can’t do that in seven card stud. You try and run someone over and they’ll trip you up.

Twenty-five minutes after they’re own dinner break and the only noticeable change is that they’ve taken a lot of the 1000 chips off the table. Micro raise to the limits. For and eight becomes five and ten. They’re dead even in chips. Ted stacks his chips neatly to his left, always carefully keeping one stack of yellows in front, for shuffling. He’s incessant – shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. Chad’s hands are clasped while he waits for his cards, a silent prayer.

Seven stud requires you to pick up a pile of sand with a feather. Grain by grain and don’t get frustrated. And that’s what Ted Forrest did. I don’t know how they’re going to show it on TV, I don’t know how they can televise what happened there without showing every hand, every hand for five torturous hours. Ted beat Chad without trying to run him over, he beat the steadiest player in the game by outsteadying him himself, and that is something. Never underestimate the heart of a champion. Chad Brown did nothing wrong. He’s a great player who played a great tournament. But he ran into the Chinese water torture trick of one William Ted Forrest, and this should be a signal to the poker world. Ted played fast at the Bellagio in Hold’em, he played slow at Binion’s in stud, he’s in form and it’s scary. And as the sun goddess said to me yesterday evening, she who never bets, “What price is Ted Forrest for the main event? I think I might have me a few bucks down.”
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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