Commentary

A family effort for Matthew Jarvis

Updated: November 5, 2010, 7:26 PM ET
By Bernard Lee | ESPN.com

Prior to the 2005 WSOP main event, my wife was diagnosed with a tumor on her right ovary. Although it was thankfully benign, the procedure to remove the tumor was invasive, requiring a rather large incision in her abdomen. It was a pretty intense time and fortunately, she recovered and urged me to go play in the WSOP main event, fulfilling my lifelong dream and changing my life forever.

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Thus, when Matt Jarvis explained that his father received similar news before the 2010 WSOP, I completely understood his predicament. Unfortunately for Jarvis, the situation for his family was far more serious as his father, Norm, was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer. The doctors were not thoroughly optimistic, giving his father a 50-50 chance of recovery. This was not the type of coin flip that Jarvis was used to seeing.

"We found out he had cancer about a month before the start of the World Series," recalled Jarvis. "It was a real surprise to the family as it came out of nowhere. He has always been a pretty healthy guy being a professional golfer."

In fact, Norm Jarvis had played numerous years on the Canadian tour and one year on the Champions tour. The established golfer became a true role model for Matt who, throughout the years, always looked up to his father, especially admiring his work ethic and his competitive drive. However, Matt truly appreciated his father's support, even when he decided to leave college in order to pursue poker.

"Because poker is a lot like golf, my father has always been supportive of me playing poker," said Jarvis.

Matthew Jarvis
AP Photo/Laura RauchMatthew Jarvis will enter the final table fifth in chips.

Always maintaining a close relationship with his entire family, Jarvis was faced with being away from his family, especially his father, during the month of preliminary WSOP events. It was very difficult for the 26-year-old Canadian who maintains his status of being an amateur poker player. With his mind understandably elsewhere, Jarvis basically broke even during the first few weeks of the WSOP. Afterward, he flew back home for a week to see his family and friends. Upon returning to Surrey in British Columbia, Jarvis was unsure if he should even return for the WSOP main event. However, his father wholeheartedly encouraged him to return to Las Vegas.

"My father told me to go back and do what I do best," he said. "And when I came back to Vegas, I really tried to focus throughout the main event."

Nevertheless, his father was never far from his thoughts. During the main event, especially with about 200 players or fewer, Jarvis would speak with his father and mother three or four times a day. Realizing what his father was going through, Jarvis also drew upon his father's incredibly positive attitude and made the final table, sitting fifth in chips.

"Both my parents definitely helped me stay focused during the last few days of the main event," he said. "I definitely drew upon my father's never-give-up attitude as he took this cancer head on. I definitely would not have made it [to the November Nine] without their love and support."

Jarvis is moves onto the main event final table Saturday, but despite his success, he hasn't committed to poker full-time.

"I haven't officially turned pro yet," said Jarvis. "Although I have not worked in the real world for three years, it was not something that I thought I would for sure do. I had a few decent online wins and wanted to see where it took me. Earlier this year, I thought depending how the summer went, I may have only given it another six months and decided to move on."

However, after making the November Nine, Jarvis has begun to seriously consider poker as his future profession. Deciding not to rest on his laurels and continue to hone his skills for the November Nine, Jarvis has given himself even more reason to officially join the poker tour full-time. During the four-month hiatus, he has added two impressive wins to his résumé:

• $4,600 Canadian Heads-Up Championship at the Canadian Open in August
• $1,000 rebuy no-limit hold 'em at Festa Al Lago at Bellagio in October

The two victories not only earned more than $170,000, but they also additional confidence and momentum heading in to what may be the biggest night of his career. Joining Jarvis on that night and on the stage at the Penn and Teller Theater will be his biggest supporters, his family.

Recently the Jarvis family received some encouraging news regarding Norm's battle with cancer. He is exponentially better than prior to the 2010 WSOP. After undergoing radiation and chemotherapy throughout September, his prognosis is presently very good. Although not given a clean bill of health just yet, the doctors are optimistic. He is even back out on the golf course, playing about six times a week.

Although entering the November Nine as one of the shorter stacks (16.7 million in chips), Jarvis truly has a lot to be thankful for. In addition to the tremendous momentum and confidence from his recent success, he will definitely utilize all the life skills that his father taught him over the years at the final table. Whether he captures the 2010 WSOP main event or not, Matt will also receive something at the final table that he will never forget: His biggest fan will be just feet away from him, cheering on his son in what will become a night they'll both remember forever.

Bernard Lee is a columnist for ESPN.com and the co-host of ESPN Inside Deal. Since finishing 13th in the 2005 WSOP Main Event, Lee has earned over $2 million in career earnings, including three poker titles. Along with his contributions to ESPN.com, Bernard is the weekly poker columnist for the Boston Herald and also the host of a weekly poker radio show in Boston, "The Bernard Lee Poker Show".

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