2008 World Series: Ready to rumble

If you had ambled into the Amazon Ballroom at around 3.30pm today, you could have been forgiven for thinking you'd taken a wrong turn and wound up in the MGM Grand during a world title fight. Tournament director Jack Effel has clearly been practising his Michael Buffer impersonations in recent months, for when Effel took the microphone to introduce the final table players in the HORSE event, his did so with all the gusto of the legendary boxing MC, stopping only just short of the trademark: "Let's get ready to ruuummmmbbbblllllle!"

Instead, Effel filled us in on all the biographical details one could ever wish for on the eight players, a line-up including Team PokerStars Pro Barry Greenstein, and PokerStars sponsored player Matt Glantz.

Greenstein is one of poker's best known and well-respected ambassadors, multiple bracelet winner (including this year), generous philanthropist and the only man to cash three times in all three renewals of this $50,000 HORSE championship at the WSOP.

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Twelfth in 2006, seventh in 2007, Greenstein is a pretty good bet to go even further this year, maybe all the way to the top, a feat that would give him a near unassailable lead in the running for the Player of the Year accolade.

Glantz, on the other hand, is not quite a household name, but perhaps should and could be. He's a high-stakes cash player on the east coast, frequenting Atlantic City and Foxwoods, among others, to seek out the top limit games.

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But he's also no slouch at tournament poker and is today earning his seventh World Series cash, on his third final table. He previously took $364,620 for second place in a $3,000 hold 'em event in 2005, and a couple of weeks ago finished third in the $10,000 mixed event, good for another $185,000. Today he's sporting the PokerStars livery as a sponsored player.

The HORSE event was always designed to be the one that really sorted the men from the boys at the World Series, testing players' skills across five poker variants, as well as their bankrolls. At $50,000 a seat, there were no make-weights in the field, simply taking a fly for the sake of it. In its first year, the man who came out on top was Chip Reese, consistently recognised among the top players as the best of the best.

Reese died in December last year, at the age of 56, and the poker community was united in its desire to honour such a great player. None would argue with the decision to name this event in Reese's honour, and this year HORSE players have been battling for the Chip Reese Trophy, which was unveiled for the first time in the run up to this final table.

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The trophy is an appropriately sizeable thing: 60 pounds of black marble, topped by a poker hand rendered in gold. Not just any old hand, of course, but the one held by Reese when he wrapped up the inaugural title. The base is engraved with the slogan "Standing the Test of Time" and the winners' names will be added year on year.

Reese's daughter, Taylor, joined Doyle Brunson in making announcements ahead of the final table. Brunson paid tribute to his friend and sparring partner, describing him as "certainly the best player I ever played with," which is some compliment coming from the celebrated rounder.

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Taylor, meanwhile, quoted her father as the final eight looked to book their own place in poker folklore: "As my dad would say, 'May the best man win,'" she said.

Those eight are now trying to do precisely that. We'll let you know how they get on.