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Hand History Time Capsule -- Greg Raymer's Run to the World Championship

New Series on Continues with a Look at Raymer's Run to a World Championship


Greg Raymer and his trademark GlassesIn this new series, “Hand History Time Capsule,” Card Player digs up memorable hands to help you relive, or perhaps discover for the first time, pivotal situations from some of poker’s most exciting moments.

In 2004 the World Series of Poker main event grew by leaps and bounds over the previous year thanks to the heroic efforts of Chris Moneymaker. The main event field ballooned to 2,576 players from the 839 who entered the year before. One of those players was 39-year-old patent attorney from Connecticut named Greg Raymer. Throughout the main event that year he used fossils to guard his cards and picked up the nickname “Fossilman” in the process.

Over the course of the main event he picked up a ton of chips with his aggressive play straight out of the gates. By day 4 he held 1.8 million in chips thanks in large part to a big hand against Mike Matusow. He carried that momentum through the final table, catching key cards when he needed them to take a 2-1 chip advantage of 17 million into the heads-up final against David Williams.

The Fossilman Quiets the Mouth

Mike Matusow raised to 12,000 preflop from the hi-jack with 9Spade Suit 7Spade Suit and Raymer reraised to 36,000 from the small blind with ADiamond Suit JDiamond Suit in the hole. The flop fell 10Heart Suit 9Diamond Suit 3Diamond Suit and Raymer, with two overcards and the nut flush draw, decided to move all in for 241,000.

Matusow made the call after some deliberation and at one point he said, “I told you I was going to bust you when you came after me, didn’t I?” The Fossilman simply replied with a stare from behind his holograph sunglasses that he bought at the Tower of Terror gift shop at Disney World while on a family vacation. It was not the first time the two had confronted each other in the main event in 2004, with Raymer usually coming out on top.

Raymer, who was a slight favorite to win the hand, hit his flush when the 2Diamond Suit fell on the turn and the hand was over. Matusow was down to 117,000 after the hand and he busted a short time later.

A Big Stack Allows the Fossilman to be Aggressive Late

By the time the final table began Raymer had twice as many chips as his next closest competitor with more than 8 million at his disposal. He put his dominant chip stack to work with an aggressive strategy. He eliminated four of the first five players at the final table and he ultimately took out seven of his opponents on the final day of the tournament. That was thanks in large part to the luxury of looser calls that had been afforded Raymer by the hard work he put in during the earlier parts of the tournament to build a large stack. When lady luck came knocking Raymer was waiting for the call.

He came from behind to beat the pocket aces of ninth-place finisher Michael McClain with pocket tens when a 10 hit the flop to start the day. The next elimination saw Mathias Andersson move all in preflop for 670,000 under the gun with ADiamond Suit KClub Suit in the hole when the blinds were at 30,000-60,000. Raymer made the call with ASpade Suit 10Diamond Suit from the hi-jack. The board ran out QSpade Suit 9Heart Suit 7Club Suit JSpade Suit before delivering the 8s on the river and a queen-high straight for Raymer.

How Pocket Eights Became Raymer’s Favorite Hand

On the seventh hand of the heads-up final David Williams decided to bet 300,000 on the button with AHeart Suit 4Spade Suit in the hole. Raymer simply made the call with 8Spade Suit 8Diamond Suit and the flop was dealt 5Spade Suit 4Diamond Suit 2Diamond Suit. Raymer then checked and Williams bet 500,000. Raymer raised to 1.6 million total and Williams quickly made the call.

The turn brought the 2Heart Suit and Raymer bet 2.5 million. Williams made the call promptly once again and the river brought another deuce, this time the 2Club Suit to give each player a full house. Raymer moved all in and Williams made the all-in call. When the cards were revealed Raymer was the world champion with the higher full house.

How the Hand Histories Look Now

Raymer had all but won the tournament before the heads-up final began in 2004 but what if the cards had gone the other way? Would Williams be the King of the Poker World as opposed to the Man who would be King? Both players have gone on to win major titles since their tangle in 2004, but could the marketable Williams have rivaled Phil Ivey or Phil Hellmuth in terms of poker fame with the moniker of world champion attached to his name?

The heads-up final, much like the rest of the tournament, seemed to be predetermined for Raymer to rule the day. What might have looked like luck at the time holds up as a solid tournament performance from start to finish by the Fossilman. He was ahead of the curve at the time by playing aggressive from the very start of the tournament, eschewing the old-school strategy of survival in order to pick up the dead money on the early days of the tournament. That set him up to make looser calls late in the tournament against short stacks where he could afford to be aggressive.

So did the Fossilman simply get lucky to cripple the Mouth, and then eliminate players at a torrent clip on the final day of the tournament that was capped off by a full house on the final hand? Or was the dream day he had at the final table a byproduct of the work he put in to take a dominant chip lead into the final table?

The answers to these questions are for you to decide.