Championship Event: No Limit Hold 'em
Location: Showboat Atlantic City
Number of Entries: 96
Total Prize Money: $931,200
Back in 1998, Chris Reslock was in his mid-40s and was working what many would consider to be a dead-end job. Reslock was driving a taxi in Atlantic City. Reslock wanted more. He started playing poker part-time to make extra money. Then one day, Reslock decided to take a chance. He made an investment in himself.
Reslock parked his taxi inside a casino parking garage and started playing poker professionally. He vowed that he could always go back to the garage, hop in the cab, return to the streets, and start making a living by driving again if he went broke. Now seven years later, after winning $335,235 in the World Series of Poker Circuit Showboat Atlantic City championship event, it appears Reslock won't have to worry about hustling for fares.
From the very start of this tournament, it seemed Reslock was destined to win. He was the chip leader at the conclusion of both Day One and Day Two. However, after Day Three when he arrived at the final table in fourth place, he must have feared that his momentum was slipping away. Reslock faced a formidable challenge, facing nine very tough opponents. Of these players, three were former WSOP gold bracelet winners - Mickey Appleman (with 4 wins), John Juanda (with 3 wins), and John Spadavecchia (with 1 win).
The final table included two very distinct phases. The first phase went by in a flash, at least when compared with most major poker tournaments. Eight players were eliminated in a lightning-fast pace -- just under three hours. But if anyone in the audience was thinking of making early dinner reservations, such arrangements would be rudely postponed. It might have been wiser to make breakfast reservations for the following morning.
It was an 11-hour final table that, despite an interesting mix of personalities and obvious talent, did not produce many exciting moments. Oddly enough, there were few, if any bad beats, miracle draw-outs, or emotional outbursts. It was, for all intents and purposes, perhaps the only final on record where the smaller stack (when 'all in") failed to double up each and every time. When 1983 WSOP champion described no-limit hold'em as "hours and hours of pure boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror," he must have been thinking about a final table like this.
10th Place: Mickey Appleman, $0
Tenth-place was a mixed blessing. On one hand, the player made it to the final table and appeared on ESPN, albeit briefly. The downside was - he received absolutely no prize money. Mickey Appleman took the proverbial bittersweet pill. He moved all-in with his last 9,000 holding A-9 suited. John Spadavecchia, holding A-J, busted Appleman when a Jack fell. Mickey Appleman, a living legend in the gambling world, took poker's worst beat as the tournament's bubble finisher. Outlasting nine-tenths of the field and surviving four days was never less satisfying.
9th Place: Daniel Shak, $27,395
Daniel Shak, a hedge-fund manager from Pennsylvania who enjoyed a successful run at this year's WSOP, went out next. He was dealt A-Q and flopped and Ace. Trouble was, John Juanda held K-K and managed to flop a King, good for trips. The three cowboys held up and Shak went from 60,000 in chips to the payout window. Shak collected $27,395 for ninth place. With Shak's elimination, Juanda extended his chip lead to 280,000, nearly 2 to 1 versus the rest of the field.
8th Place: Julien Studley, $37,250
Julien Studley was the ultimate survivor in this tournament. He never had many chips, but managed to hang on long enough to make it to the final table. Studley's luck finally ran out when he was dealt pocket 8s and called a raise by Chris Reslock, with A-4 suited. Short stacked, Studley was committed to the pot, even though an Ace flopped and was "all in." Studley failed to improve and Reslock dragged away the last of Studley's chips. Julien Studley, a successful New York businessman and philanthropist, collected $37,250 for eighth place. That pot gave Reslock 210,000, which was second in chips.
7th Place: Eric Panayiotou, $46,560
Then, Reslock pulled off an encore. Eric Panayiotou was short on chips and moved "all in" with 8-8. Reslock was dealt A-5 this time, called the raise and - almost as if he knew it was coming - flopped an Ace. The pocket eights, often called 'snowmen,' melted. Reslock had eliminated two players back-to-back with a similar hand. Panayiotou ended up as the seventh-place finisher, grossing $46,560 in prize money.
6th Place: Dan Tolley, $55,870
Next, Dan Tolley took the fall. He was dealt Q-10 and found himself "all in" versus John Juanda's Q-J. Both players flopped a pair, but Juanda had the better kicker and Tolley was doomed. Dan Tolly, an airline pilot, crash landed in sixth place. $55,870 helped to cushion the blow somewhat.
5th Place: John Spadavecchia, $65,185
John Spadavecchia went out next. He was "all in" with A-7, which was dominated by Chris Reslock's A-K. Spadavecchia was drawing slim. When a King fell on the river, Spadavecchia's tournament life ended. Spadavecchia, who appeared at the final table of the 1994 World Series of Poker, ended up in fifth place. He received $65,185.
4th Place: Nick Schulman, $74,495
With Reslock and Juanda dueling for the chip lead, Nick Schulman got clever at the wrong time. He tried to make a move trying to steal with 4-5 and was caught bluffing. Reslock had A-8 and called Schulman's last 98,000 on the turn. The board showed A-8-3-10. That gave Reslock two pair. Schulman hoped to steal the pot with the bluff, but did still have four outs drawing to an inside straight. A brick ended the night for Schulman, which meant poker's newest millionaire was the fourth-place finisher. Schulman won the main event at Foxwoods in Connecticut only three weeks ago. He added $74,495 to his poker bankroll.
3rd Place: Chris Moore, $109,430
The next big hand took place just moments later. Chris Moore, who stayed under the radar all day, was "all in" with pocket Sevens against Reslock's J-J. The flop came 8=9=10. That meant neither player wanted to make trips on the turn, since the opponent would make a straight. Two blanks ended it for Moore and he collected $109,430 for third place. Moore later explained he failed to catch a hand of any significance at the final table. Considering that fact, his finish had to be satisfying.
Runner up: John Juanda, $186,240
1st Place: Chris Reslock, $335,235
Fittingly, the two players who unquestionably dominated the event from start to finish ended up playing against each other for the WSOP Showboat championship. When heads-up play began, Juanda had 509,100 to Reslock's 450,900.
The two finalists battled for an hour before the first big hand. Reslock picked up 100,000 from Juanda's stack and seized the chip lead. That lasted exactly one hand. Disaster struck Reslock when he was dealt 9-7 and flopped two pair. Reslock slow-played the hand and let Juanda catch trips on the river (sixes) good enough to take down a 350,000 pot. Murmurs in the crowd suggested the end might be near. Such premonitions were off by about six hours.
During the next forty hands or so, Reslock picked up several small pots to draw back close to even. The see-saw battle continued and three hours after the duel started both players were even in chips.
Two more hours went by and Friday turned into Saturday. At precisely 12:15 am the hand of the tournament came like a comet out of the night sky. Juanda was dealt pocket Jacks. Reslock was dealt pocket Aces. Before the flop, Juanda moved "all in" with a re-raise, and Reslock called. When the flop brought a Jack, Juanda's supporters screamed with joy. But they were so focused on the Jack that they missed that an Ace has also flopped. Remarkably, both players flopped a set. Juanda was drawing to the case Jack, missed, and in one hand was down by nearly 4-to-1 to his pesky rival. After the buzz died down, the chip counts stood as follows: Reslock with 754,500 and Juanda with 205,500.
Once again, whispers that the final table was about to end would fade. Juanda silenced that prospect when he won a few pots and drew back close to 300,000. Demonstrating the fortitude that has made Juanda one of poker's most respected superstars, it appeared he might stage a comeback and the final table would drag into the morning hours.
The final hand caught everyone by surprise. Juanda was dealt A-K. Reslock was dealt K-7 (suited diamonds). Juanda raised and Reslock called. The flop came 7=6=3, with two diamonds. Juanda moved "all in" with the two overcards, and Reslock, with top pair and a flush draw made the call instantly. The crowd, which has been in a trance-like state, jumped to their feet just in time to see two blanks fall and Reslock win the final hand of the late night hour.
John Juanda, winner of three WSOP gold bracelets, was disappointed by the defeat. "Maybe because I was so tired, I made a mental mistake," Juanda said of the final fateful hand. "I could not put (Reslock) on a hand. He played solid all night long."
"When you play heads-up and you are an experienced player, you wait for the opponent to break down or make a mistake. But he didn't."
Afterward, Reslock was highly complimentary of Juanda's play. "He's as good a player as I have ever played against," Reslock stated.
John Juanda, the second-place finisher, collected $186,240 in prize money.
Chris Reslock is 52-years-old and married with three children. He is well-known in most of Atlantic City's cardrooms, having crafted out a career playing limits from as low at $5-10 years ago, to $100-200 today.
"I think there is a real hometown advantage when you play poker," Reslock said. "This win is good for Atlantic City. It shows we can play against and beat the best."
Don't expect to see Chris Reslock behind the wheel of his rusting taxicab, anytime soon. In fact, if anyone is interested in a 1992 Chevrolet Caprice with a dead battery and 230,000 miles on it, please contact Mr. Reslock immediately.
View final results.
Tournament reporting by Nolan Dalla / worldseriesofpoker.com