WSOP Main Event: More than meets the eye -- Gary Jones
by Howard Swains
Just before heading to Las Vegas for the World Series, I was faced with the arduous task of moving house; sentimentally weeping my way through years of letters, photographs, dust and memories before shoving them into a box and pretending it all never happened.
More happily, I also revisited the 1990s in the form of my VHS collection; plenty more to be embarrassed about there, but also some hidden gems. In the latter category, I found the germination of my interest in poker: eight cassettes, all with their tabs removed, representing six series of Late Night Poker, the Channel 4 series that screened every Friday night in Britain and changed the entire poker landscape.
Not only was this first show to utilise under-the-table cameras, but it was also a brilliantly structured and edited tournament that showed real poker the way it is really played. Coin flips were a rarity, quality play from quality players was not. Eight years later and we are still nowhere near replicating the standards set right at the beginning of the TV boom.
One of the stars of this show is currently representing PokerStars in day three of this WSOP main event. Gary Jones is a qualifier for the second year in succession and is currently sitting beneath a PokerStars cap and behind more than 200,000 in chips.
That's not exactly rare this year (PokerStars qualifiers are tearing through this World Series field) but unlike some of his peers, Jones is hardly playing in his first live tournament. He is a regular in the biggest games in London's Victoria Casino, arriving daily in the Ferrari that a decade at the top of the game has bought. In 2004, the year Greg Raymer claimed the top WSOP prize, Jones was the highest finishing British player, his 17th place worth $175,000.
On Late Night Poker, Jones made one of the best calls ever seen on the show, brilliantly reading a bluff from Marty Wilson, another British pro, and calling him on the turn with ace-high. When Wilson went on to hit his three outer on the river, Jones sat in the interview room, ruefully shrugged "That's poker", and left with his reputation forever enhanced.
Gary also has a neat sideline in poker commentary, grabbing the mic for the British Poker Open, one of the first tournaments ever to be screened live in its entirety on British TV. It is therefore amusing to watch the reaction among the majority of the players here to see what appears to be a novice (Gary's "Choirboy" nickname comes from his adolescent looks) play with the obvious ability of a veteran.
As the bubble approaches, Jones is still well set to go even deeper. Stay tuned for when the Choirboy sings even louder.