Defending champion Raymer has to fold

He exits, rival Matusow gains as last 3 tables play


July 15, 2005|By Bill Ordine | Bill Ordine,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS - Defending World Series of Poker champion Greg Raymer was eliminated last night in 25th place as play continued in the 2005 No-Limit Texas Hold 'em title tournament.

He suffered his biggest loss in a 4 million chip pot in which his pocket kings lost to a flush, which came on the last card.

Still, Raymer took his ouster in stride.

"I don't think you can prove anything in poker other than you're playing well," he said. "But results don't prove anything other than in the long run."

The day began with 27 competitors at the final three tables.

Raymer's exit ended a possible confrontation between the Connecticut patent attorney and archrival Mike Matusow.

Joining "Mouth" Matusow in the field of 27 players, which was expected to be winnowed to today's final table of just nine, from an original field of 5,619 players, were superstar Phil Ivey and local amateur Steve Dannenmann, an Anne Arundel accountant.

Dannenmann, a flamboyant character Tuesday ordering a steady stream of Bloody Marys and chatting up fellow competitors, settled into more sober play Wednesday as he built his stack to 4.3 million chips, which placed him third behind chipleader Matusow with 5.1 million and Ivey with 4.6 million. Tex Branch, of McKinney, Texas, was fourth, with 3.9 million. Another Marylander, John Howard, of Lexington Park, made it to the final three tables with 730,000 chips.

The lone remaining woman, Tiffany Williamson, a corporate attorney who is a U.S. citizen and lives in London, had 1.1 million. Williamson has been notable for deliberate play that has prompted some opponents to request having her put on a clock during individual decisions.

She wasn't the only one being watched closely. In the first hours of play yesterday afternoon, two competitors were eliminated and Matusow and Shahram Shublem were assessed 10-minute penalties for a banned expletive and inappropriate communication, respectively, during a hand.

At stake is a first-place prize of $7.5 million and instant celebrity as poker's reigning champion. But even those who fall short of the top spot will pocket fortunes. Everyone who reaches the final table is guaranteed becoming a millionaire and making the final 27 assures a minimum of a $304,000 payday. The buy-in for the tournament was $10,000 but many players win their seats in qualifying tournaments, including online games, for far lesser amounts.

The Matusow-Raymer story line began during last year's poker World Series main event when Matusow mocked Raymer during one hand, questioning his nerve in less than delicate terms. The moment was captured by ESPN and shown dozens of times in reruns.

Later, Matusow anguished in near tears when he was eliminated, another scene captured by the cameras.

Meanwhile, Raymer went on to win $5 million.

Since then, their paths have been just as dramatically divergent. Raymer has spent the year touring the world as an ambassador for the poker Web site,

Matusow spent six months in a Las Vegas jail on a drug conviction from a 2003 arrest.

"It was all a big setup," Matusow said Wednesday night. "I was set up by my doctor who was in some big trouble. He begged me to pick up some drugs from someone and after they caught me, they wanted me to wear a wire because they were after someone prominent in town. If I had, my life could have been in danger.

"But it was wrong, I shouldn't have done it. Now, I've been trying to be a good person."

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