John Gale takes second place in heartbreaker

When John Gale stepped into the tournament area today, he was relaxed. He was eighth out of nine in chips and had little to prove. The lower money levels weren't much compared to the hundreds of thousands he already won this year. His eyes--and I'd venture to say his heart--were set on only one thing: a World Series of Poker bracelet.

Gentleman John Gale

In front of him was the arguably longshot possibility of being both a World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker winner in the same year. Gale wanted it. I could see it in his eyes. So, that's why when Gale chipped away at his opponents, hit some good draws, and battled his way to heads up play, it seemed fate was going to make it happen. He had a chip-lead and what seemed an experienced edge over his opponent Brian Wilson.


With more than a million chips in front of him, something happened. The fates that were overseeing the game took a powder. With hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash on the table, Gale was ready to get his money in with the best of it.

At first, he got in as a slight dog, AJ versus two sixes. A jack on the turn had the crowd standing and Gale looking to the bracelet. But the flop had opened up a straight draw for Brian Wilson and it hit, a miracle five on the river to double Wilson up.

On the very next hand, perhaps bouyed by his win, Wilson was ready to get his money in the middle again, this time holding pocket fours. Gale couldn't call fast enough. He held pocket tens.

The crowd stood, Gale hugged his opponent, and we prepared to strap the bracelet to Gale's wrist. A four on the flop ripped the gold from Gale's hand and dealt a blow to his chips and psychological edge.

Team PokerStars rallied its troops and Gale steeled himself. As he walked back in from the hallway, he patted me on the shoulder and said, "I'm fine now."

He chipped and chipped away at Wilson's stack. But in the end, he got all-in with KJ against Wilson's AQ. This time, there would be no miracles. The fates, seemingly on a permanent vacation, did not re-appear.

In a conversation just now, a fellow player asked, "How is it that someone can win more than $200,000 and still want to cry? Why do we play this game?"

Some people would say, "Well, certainly, for the money."

But, at this level of play, the money, while not insignificant, does not mean the most. It's something else. Glory, maybe? Not even really that. It's something that is without a ready definition. It's something intangible and somewhat scary.

Why do we play this game?

I offered the only answer I could: "Because we're masochists."

John Gale is getting ready to walk out of the tournament area now and I feel compelled to let his exit tonight to be the end of today's report. Today, one of the true gentlemen of the game played his heart out. He knows it, too.

It's just sad that when someone plays their heart out, sometimes they have to leave it behind when they walk out the door.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker