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WSOP, Day 5 (cont.)

Posted: Thursday July 14, 2005 4:11PM; Updated: Friday July 15, 2005 1:41AM
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And then there's Tex

Notable players as of Thursday
Place Player Chip count
1. Mike "The Mouth" Matusow $5,140,000
2. Phil Ivey $4,635,000
3. Steve Dannenmann $4,300,000
4. John Derrick "Tex" Barch $3,900,000
5. Greg "Fossil Man" Raymer $3,840,000
15. Tim Phan $1,575,000
17. Bryant King $1,440,000
19. Tiffany Williamsen $1,125,000
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You can expect ESPN to devote a lot of time to John Derrick "Tex" Barch of McKinney, Texas, as well. Barch, 34, has entered the main event twice before but was considered nothing more than a hometown hero (as were hundreds -- no, thousands -- of other entrants this time last week). However, by playing strong and with a little luck Barch enters Thursday in fourth place.

Why will ESPN love him? Well, Barch is a good-looking guy with a confident but polite demeanor. His wife, Jana, is easy on the eyes as well, with a sort of Meg Ryan-meets-the-Dallas-Cowboys-Cheerleaders look going for her (What is it about Texas, anyway?). When you see an ESPN camera pointed toward the railbirds, chances are that camera is pointed at Jana (and I'd be willing to bet that those cameras aren't even turned on half the time).

"Derrick's been playing as long as I've known him," says Jana, who's been married to Barch for five years. The Barch's just opened a bar, Big Johnson's Beer Garden ("Are you sure you want to write that?" she asks), in Dallas over the 4th of July weekend, but they may not have to worry about income for some time after Saturday. Tex and Jana have clearly emerged as "Most Popular Couple" of this WSOP.

Tex's mom, Anita Barch, attributes her son's success to his intelligence, his affinity for financial matters, and his extreme competitiveness.

"When Derrick was in high school," she says, "his brother took out a loan from him. He held his brother's letter jacket as collateral and charged 50 percent interest. That's when I had to step in."

It also does not hurt that the game is called Texas Hold 'Em, after all, and that its patriarchs had their own beginnings in Barch's backyard.

Benny Binion, who opened the casino that bears his name and launched this tournament 35 years ago, was a Dallas emigre. So too was Johnny Moss, who won this event three times in its first decade. Binion and Moss were streetwise characters who fit the mold of the poker player you'd have to beat twice ("once at the table, and then again in the parking lot").

Barch, an alumnus of the University of Montana, is the new breed of Texan. Besides, as his mom says with a wink, "Cash poker games are illegal in Texas."

Russell the Muscle

You couldn't help but notice Russell "The Muscle" Salzer, who finished in 29th place ($274,090), the past few days. The Muscle went nowhere without his faithful masseuse Sookie ("Just Sookie," she says. "That's what I go by"). Whereas the WSOP supplies masseurs/masseuses to any player (rates are $15 for 20 minutes, $20 for 25 minutes, and $25 for 30 minutes), Sookie was the only independent masseuse here. She worked entirely, and exhaustively on Salzer. For five days, almost non-stop, Sookie rubbed just about every muscle on The Muscle.

"Everyone gives her respect," Salzer says. "She's a top-gun masseuse.