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Poker Stories: Heartbreak at the 1998 World Series of Poker

“I’ve built up the whole year for this.”


It might be most notable for Scotty Nyugen's legendary table talk, “You call, it’s gonna be all over baby,” but the 1998 World Series of Poker(WSOP) was a drama-filled event. In an at-this-point quant documentary titled The Millon Dollar Deal, we follow everyday grinders, especially Irish players, as they take their shot at poker’s biggest payday.


It took place at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino. 352 players bought in for $10,000 each, and first place was guaranteed a million dollars.


Photo: New York Post


Trial and Heartbreak


Of the relatively small number of Europeans in the tournament, Mike MaGee is a favorite. On day 1 he racked up the chips, winning pot after pot as his stack grew. In an interview about these Euro players, however, Poker Legend Amarillo Slim ain’t impressed. He tells the camera that these Europeans “can’t track an elephant in four feet of snow” in their poker play.


The trials really begin at night, after the action is over. MaGee doesn’t sleep a wink, and he’s feeling the effects of exhaustion as day 2 begins with around 200 players left on the field.


Still, he keeps grinding. Pot after pot, Mike MaGee plays his heart out until he has 200k in chips with 28 players left in the field. If he can last a little longer, then he’ll be one of the top 27 players guaranteed to make it into the money and to play on day 3.


Playing the Bubble


“There are few players that I’ll allow to bully me at the poker table,” MaGee says and he explains how there was one player raising him up basically every hand. He was sick of dealing with his aggro. Then he wakes up with pocket queens in the big blind.


After the bully raises “for the 40th time in 60 hands,” MaGee decides to play back by putting in the 3-bet. It doesn’t take long for the bully to shove his stack and say “I’ll put all my chips in.”


In hindsight, MaGee says that he knew he should have folded then, but he was sick of being pushed around. He calls the bet without even thinking, explaining that “I was incapable at that moment of rational thought…. I knew that once Bobby [the bully] went all-in, I was dead in the hole.”


After losing this big pot, MaGee is desperate to get heads up with someone and win his chips back, despite being on the bubble. So he shoves it all in with KJh and gets called by pocket aces. When the turn brings a king, he feels a glimmer of hope for either a king or a jack on the river. But when the final card is a 6, he’s out of the tournament. He takes a swig.


Later, he says that “I hope I never go through the same emotional turmoil that I went through after that hand. It was a learning experience. An expensive experience.”


Still, he says that he’s already planning on putting another $10k on the line in Vegas next year.


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