Reports Of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
--Mark Twain, after newspapers reported that he had died.

By Max Shapiro

The Starting Field: 839
Players Left After Day 1: 385
The Prize Pool: $7,802,700
First Place: $2,500,000

Ditto for reports of the death of the World Series of Poker. The financial woes of Binion's Horseshoe have been well chronicled. Economic cutbacks have included the elimination of glossy brochures, less expensive gold bracelets and even turning off the outside lights during off-peak hours, leaving Binion's a pool of darkness amid the blinding lights of casinos lining Fremont Street.

Ah, but it's much harder to dim the luster of the World Series of Poker, especially the championship event. The lure of instant millionaire-hood and everlasting poker renown still has a magical attraction like no other event in poker. And this year, thanks largely to the proliferation of seats won in satellites online and at other brick and mortar casinos, an astonishing total of 839 players signed up for the big one!

This is a 33 percent increase over the record turnout of 631 recorded last year and far more than the 700 or so that the tournament staff had predicted. There was even a last-minute scramble to borrow a couple of tables from a nearby casino and crowd them in. With all of that, the event started on time, without a hitch, thanks to the superb work of tournament co-directors Matt Savage and Jim Miller and their staff.

Where did they all these players come from? Well, there were only 63 paid entries. The rest came from the smorgasbord of satellites offered by Binion's and outside venues. Binion's had one-table satellites, two-tier satellites (pay $125 to play at the first table, with the winners of 10 tables returning to play each other at a second table), super-satellites, and $50 satellites to win a seat into a super-satellite. About 50 entrants were delivered by online casinos, with PokerStars alone accounting for 37 of them. Paradise Poker, Ultimate Bet and a couple of others also contributed. Traditional casinos chipped in with about the same number of satellite winners, led by Mohegan Sun's 14, followed by five each from Bay 101, Garden City and Lucky Chances. Even such obscure casinos as Midnight Rose, Red Lion Inn and Akwesasne Mohawk chipped in with one apiece.

"When I saw the figures this morning, I couldn't believe them," remarked Benny Binion Behnen." Echoing the headline of this report, Matt Savage said all the predictions of the death of the World Series have turned out very wrong.

The enormous prize pool allowed paying 63 spots, from the $2.5 million for first place down to $15,000 for the last nine.

Just 15 minutes after the tournament got underway, one of the most spectacular hands of this or any other tournament came down. One player held pocket sevens and flopped quads, a second player made a straight and the third player made a straight flush, knocking the other two out.

There were 11 world champions in attendance: Amarillo Slim Preston (1972); Doyle Brunson (1976 and 1997); Tom McEvoy (1983); Berry Johnston (1986) Johnny Chan (1987 and 1988); Phil Hellmuth (1989); Jim Bechtel (1993) Huck Seed (1996); Chris Ferguson (2000); Carlos Mortensen (2001); and Robert Varkonyi, (2002).

The most "interesting" table of players was seated in the area where ESPN had installed a battery of TV cameras. These players included Brunson and Varkonyi. Doyle, unfortunately, only lasted an hour or so after the dinner break.

Even more amazing was the story of a young Vietnamese lady named Hong Ngo who wandered in the day before and saw what was going on. "Honey, I'd sure like to play," she said to her husband. She wheedled $50 from him to play a satellite, despite his advising her that she'd be better off playing blackjack.

"By the way," she remembered, "I don't know how to play." She was given a fast three minutes of instruction, and by some miracle won her table, which earned her entry into a super-satellite.

"What do I do now?" she asked. Well, needless to say, not having a clue, she went on to win a seat in the championship event. It was enough to make any dedicated player cry. Imagine someone like that busting Phil Hellmuth? It would cause the loudest explosion since the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.

Anyway, I'm sure that readers are more interested in the fortunes of Andy Glazer than they are of Doyle Brunson or Hong Ngo. Here is his report:

I'm starting at table 74, seat two, with $32,175, I'm guessing par is 23,000 (Note: the average chip count would be about $21,800), I feel good about how I played except for one hand against Patti Beadles that she played perfectly and I played badly and I got lucky with pocket tens beating pocket kings. The really, really bad news is that my back, which had not been hurting at all the last four days, got completely trashed just before the event started, when someone came flying out of the gift shop without looking and I had to kind of dodge to avoid a collision. The back went out again. I tried playing without meds for a while but it got impossible, so I took some. I was on meds for the Beadles play but I think the pain was so much that it was keeping me alert and can't really blame that. I think she deserves a real sportsmanship award for the way she took the beat gracefully.

To sleep now, perchance to dream, but mostly to hope I awaken more pain free. Five days like this would be a nightmare, albeit one I would gladly endure for the $2,500,000 first prize.


At the 7:45 dinner break, there were 630 players left. At the 11 p.m. break, the field was down to an even 500. The 385 players still with chips at the 1:15 a.m. cutoff time will return tomorrow at noon. Stay tuned.

Prize Payouts for Top 10 Places:

1. $2,500,000
2. $1,300,000
3. $650,000
4. $440,000
5. $320,000
6. $250,000
7. $200,000
8. $160,000
9. $120,000
10. $82,700


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