Champagne and Bud!

I saw Jimmy White in the men’s room. Side by side I was with the people’s champion about twenty minutes before the whole thing started. ‘Knock ‘em dead Jimmy’, I said, and he didn’t say a word. The concentration was intense. ‘Yeah’, he said on my way out, as an afterthought. Ready for the final? Even God must fancy Jimmy White’s chances when it comes to the big stage.

Jimmy White was great. Jimmy White was nothing short of fantastic on a night that was good for poker, and I say fair play to him. Well, he didn’t play like you or me. Not even Jac Arama would have called for all his chips with a six-four of spades before the flop when there was a clear cut 150,000 dollars at stake and there wasn’t a player on the planet didn’t know that the six-four suited couldn’t beat a toy drum at that stage in the hand. But reports are that there was absolute mayhem going on at the Victoria Club, where all the poker players were betting and shouting at the TV, and a whole load of them who had laid the favorites before the off were now rooting for Jimmy to win. They were standing in front of the TV pumping their arms and yelling ‘Go, Jimmy go, call, Jimmy, call!’ because they liked his chances with the six-four suited and there wasn’t a person watching who after seeing what Jimmy had done with flushes and the flops and the river cards so far, there wasn’t a person in the building who didn’t like Jimmy’s chances with the hand. But there is the rub. Not one of them would have been a person in the world with the bottle to put it in with all the money on the line. You can call it crazy if you want. There is nobody that gets crazy when they’re playing for $150,000. When you’re playing for all that money, most people just get scared. And I say fair play to Jimmy White.

What is it with all the bars closing at two am? I tell you its hell on the poker players. Back at the Vic, Jimmy White tried to set a world record for the number of bottles of champagne that could be opened or given away in fifteen minutes. The bartenders were just throwing bottles. There wasn’t a person ready for sleep in the crowd that spilled out of the club and over into the Metropol hotel, where the poker players were drawing dead for alcohol at the bar. Budweisers from room service, or bed, and left with those options there was little to do but duly troop up to a room and place the largest late night room service order the Metropol had ever had.

And then everybody left, so when one hundred and forty-nine pounds of food and drink arrived an hour and a half later, there were more carts than people. And just when the legitimate question arose, what are we going to do with all these beers, who should come waltzing in the door but Ian Dobson. It was apt that the Reindeer came into play, he being the nearly man of the first Poker Million who called Duthie’s million dollar bluff only to see it spiked away. While Jimmy White and Co. were whooping it up on TV, Dobson was winning a trophy at the Vic Festival, besting a hi-lo stud field for 20,000 pounds. The Reindeer will be off with the troop for the fortunes in Vegas, so start tracking him now.

From my nine cup of coffee memory (and that was only the first level), the final featured great plays across the board. After the first hour, The Elegance was textbook management of a short stack, and his re-raise with the nine-seven from the big blind was huge bottle as the stakes got high. Tony Bloom came to the table with a game plan to win, and he nearly pulled it off. Every player was a credit to poker and themselves when they came off the table. Guy Bowles, having just been brutalized holding pocket aces and kings, said, ‘Well, that’s poker’.