by Craig Cunningham
How do you know you're doing well at the Main Event of the World Series of Poker? Here are a few hints:
- When your chips are chest high and you have lost any system to keep track of the quantity. You've started thinking in $10k increments.
- When Norm Chad from ESPN hands you a fact sheet and asks you to fill it out.
- When you attract more media than a picnic attracts mosquitoes.
- When you could walk away and come back once everyone is in the money Friday, still with a deep arsenal ready to attack the field.
He sat in the 3s of Table 5 for almost ten hours, his back to the wall with a clear view of his table and the entire room. Noise cancelling headphones adorn his head, with one often askew from his right ear. He has a focus during hands that is similar to a John Juanda or Phil Ivey. His mannerisms at the table could pass for these two as well; not identical, but a vague similarity. The slight pursing of lips as play moves on after his hand has been mucked, an occasional tilting of the head. When decisions are ready to be made, he does so and decisively at that. Chips may be flipped into the pot, or a large stack may be eased forward with two hands. The other player in the pot has the opportunity to decide if he would like to fold and continue to play at the World Series or call the bet and leave. Other hands, he'll maximize the value he can make with the best hand, as he did holding the flopped low straight when K-Q-J hit the board. Jason's play is very predictable: he makes great decisions, he can change gears, he hasn't become seduced with his stack, he will put anyone to the test at any time. In a word, he's unpredictable. He's no maniac nor is he a luckbox, these things are certain.
Table 5 is in the back right part of the Amazon Room, and as the field declines the tables are broken from back to front. His table broke around 9:30, and his randomly drawn table had him move as a knight would on a chess board: over two tables and up one to Table 26 in the 9s. It took ten minutes to unrack his chips as he stood over them, and the other nine players at his new table stared at the six racks of chips as if they were eleven year-olds watching a woman disrobe for the first time. Every player was thinking the exact same thing: how long will it be before Table 26 breaks and I can get as far away from this guy as possible. Jason stopped unracking his chips long enough to bend over and peer at his cards, the headphones on both of his temples this time. He grabbed the closest chips he could find, flipped some toward the pot, then added this pot to his growing stack of chips. He sat down, pulled his left headphone over his ear, and returned to his world. All the while, the nine men at the table said nothing, staring at the PokerStars force with the mountain of chips.
He had one large stack to his right with around $200k in chips when a hand developed which shows where Jason's play is tonight. The big stack raised to $4.5k, and Jason called. The flop came 4-9-Q, and the 8s bet $6k, which Jason called. The turn was a 3, and this time the bet was $13k, again a call. The river was another 4, making the board 4-9-Q-3-4. The 8s pushed a stack of $30k, thirty yellow chips, into the pot. Jason flipped his headphones up as he contemplated his next move. After maybe 45 seconds, Jason called as his opponent showed A-6. Jason never shows emotion, but as he stood up he threw down his J-9, taking the $110k pot and jerking his stack to $352k.
As Jason stacked his chips, the 8s called an all-in holding Q-10 on a flop of Q-8-8 on the next hand, doubling through the 2s who had an 8 for flopped trips. He was obviously shaken, but there was no one at the table that was left unaffected by the play of Jason. Their saving grace was that the Tournament Director announced there would be only one more hour of play after the break and the night would end. Table 26 can't break soon enough for the other nine players, but their eyes had moved above the mountain of chips. Now they all stared at the player behind the chips, Jason Strasser.