- Gary Wise, ESPN Poker
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With so much going on over the past week that I haven't reported on, I'm going to skip right over the introduction for this column. Enjoy.
- My love for the $50,000 HORSE event transcends that of anything else in the game -- including the main event -- for the following 10 reasons:
(1) It's like one of those Poker Superstars/NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship events, except without the players looking like they'd rather be at choir practice for the deaf than playing it out.
(2) On Wednesday, for a brief moment, we got to see a Mike Matusow-Greg Raymer-Daniel Negreanu triangle. All three pairings between these guys are fire to gasoline waiting to happen, with flare-ups in the past. We also got to see confrontations between Mike Sexton (WPT) and John Duthie (EPT), Negreanu and Howard Lederer, and Matusow and everyone he's ever made fun of.
(3) Dewey Tomko, T.J. Cloutier and Jim Bechtel, meet Justin Bonomo and Mark Vos. It's the past meeting the future, with the only common threads being poker and too much money to know what to do with it.
(4) I did a fantasy draft with some of the other media that went longer than 50 picks before either Phil Hellmuth or Johnny Chan was taken.
(5) In the same draft, I took Phil Ivey first overall, then got Allen Cunningham back on the wheel. Of course, neither made the money, nullifying my brilliance.
(6) Barry Greenstein and Jesus Ferguson were seen sprinting between HORSE tables trying to play hands in other tournaments simultaneously.
(7) It's the only event of the year that Joe Hachem wouldn't participate in because: "A man's got to know his limitations."
(8) Despite problems with the blinds moving too high too fast, the starting table of Kirk Morrison, Ali Eslami, Ivey, David Singer, Todd Brunson, Tomko, Cloutier and Sexton didn't lose a player on Day 1. If you weren't counting, that's four final-table finishers from last year, two multi-game specialists, one son of a legend who can play the cards just fine himself and one bona fide poker great turned commentator. Not the easiest way to start a tournament.
(9) They fixed it. Can't wait for that final table. Or the six hours of TV time this thing is going to get.
(10) The high rollers were all assembled in one place. I swear to you, you've never seen so much prop betting in your life. There's nothing more entertaining in the poker world than watching Ivey wandering through the tables calling: "So many great players all in one place some of you must want to make bets," with a sly little smile on his usually-stoic face. If you want to beat that, try listening to Robert Williamson III and Huck Seed negotiating a who will last longer bet (abridged version):
RWIII: I'll give you $125-$100 (Williamson had the bigger stack at the time)
RWIII: That's it, $125 is off the table because you took too long.
Huck: OK, $125
RWIII: Too late!
They eventually settled at $125. I Swear, these guys could persuade Lindsay Lohan to join a nunnery. Yeah, I know, I just resorted to a Lindsay Lohan joke.
This event isn't just the most skill-testing tournament in poker, it also brings the focal points of every corner of the industry together in one massive celebration of the game. This is the high point of my World Series.
Thanks to Bill Simmons for showing hacks like me that article segments can be written this way. Now if only I could get you to not call preflop raises with K-10.
- Paul Wasicka is throwing the WSOP to prevent me from catching up to him in the ESPN Fantasy pool.
- As reported on wickedchopspoker.com, once Ivey, Erick Lindgren and Gavin Smith were eliminated from the HORSE event, they still got their gamble on. Check out this prop bet:
Lindgren bet Smith $100,000 that he could play the Bear's Best golf course four times in a day while, walking and carrying his own bag in the Vegas heat and scoring under 100 in each round. When he heard about the bet, Ivey put down another $200,000 against Lindgren, and other pros got in on the action. All told, Lindgren won $340,000 for himself, and more than a few bucks for other bettors who got in while the going was good. You can check out the bet on RawVegas.tv sometime Thursday afternoon.
- The single greatest thing I read all week (fixed for typos):
"If I meet you at the poker table I will do my best to grind you under the heel of my well-coordinated, carefully chosen, gorgeous cobra-skin boots, and take all of your chips. Given the opportunity I will wish you well and tell you that you played great (even if you didn't), because that might make you feel better and will also hopefully encourage you to play in a way that will allow me to beat you. You see? Competitive, Friendly and Devious - I am a Woman Poker Player." 'mauicjpoker'
That's from the comments section of my column 1,268 Ladies and a Whole lot of Trouble. Thanks maui, you taught me something there, and bowled me over with the brilliant simplicity of the whole thing. I don't think all of the women in the ladies' event had the same thing in mind, but I believe more of them did than I might have originally given credit for.
The final word from me on that whole issue, as posted in those same comments;
"I hope you'll come to understand I felt I could write what I did because all things being equal between the sexes, the habits of women are just as susceptible to parody as those of men are, and to not treat them as such would be to suggest they aren't equal."
It's because I love and respect you that I can pick you apart, ladies. Sorry if you didn't feel the love.
- When almost 2,000 half-century survivors showed up for the seniors event, the jokes started flying. I'll let you use your imagination other than offering the suggestion made by a colleague of mine that there might be more players than real teeth in the event. That crudeness aside, "Oklahoma" Johnny Hale knows how to put on a tournament.
Hale founded the tournament in 1995 in California before offering to merge the event with the World Series of Poker. The inaugural edition had a field of 42 players, so the field has multiplied 40 times in its 12-year history.
The event's mood could be described as reflective. Hale, a 79-year-old, fiercely loyal veteran of two wars, started the proceedings by having the players stand to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I wondered for a moment if that was politically correct, but there were no complaints. The reading of the Pledge was perfect, held in one voice. They sounded like the Borg. If you don't get that reference, I'm not going to explain it to you.
After the Pledge, the seniors took their seats only to be asked to stand again as Hale read off the roster of those seniors who recently died and would be enshrined in the Senior Poker Hall of Fame. There was a momentary pause as "the whippersnappers" (as Hale likes to call those of us who are 49 and under) exchanged knowing smiles at the lumbering rerise of the aged. We were immediately awed though, into joining the respectful silence at role call. You could have heard a pin drop as names like Benny Binion and "Treetop" Jack Strauss were read. When the action finally got underway, all you could hear was the deafening sound of chips being rattled. No trash talk, no jocularity, just 2,000 people enjoying one another and the game they share.
- Quote of the week: During a break in the seniors event, I was walking down a hallway shared only by one small, slightly frail looking older gentleman. As I approached, he dialed his cell phone and put it to his ear, and when the call was answered, he said in an excited voice;
"Honey, I'm still alive!"
Some times, it's the little things in life.
Gary Wise's is looking forward to someday playing in the seniors event. He's producing content during the WSOP at www.worldseriesofpoker.com.
With the most expensive event of the WSOP happening now, Gary Wise has been very busy gathering news and notes.