Event #9: No-Limit Hold'em Championship
Location: Rio, Las Vegas
Buy-in: $2,000
Number of Entries: 1,403
Total Prize Money: $2,581,520

The standing-room only crowd packed inside the Rio Pavilion expected to see a memorable final table for this event. They weren't disappointed. The nine finalists, and particularly the last trio of rivals, gave the audience (and the ESPN television cameras) a number of thrilling moments. In a classic confrontation in which the chip lead was taken at various stages by five different players, the final battle for the gold bracelet came down to the three tournament veterans who had previously won championships at the World Series. At the end of the night, widely-respected tournament pro Erik Seidel of Las Vegas won his seventh gold bracelet and took $611,795 in prize money. For Seidel, the victory was more satisfying in many ways than wins from years past.

"Walking into the room and seeing this many people is incredibly exciting," Seidel said afterward. "Any time you make it through a field of this size, it's even more meaningful to win."

There were 1,403 entries for the third open no-limit hold'em event so far at this year's World Series. Each player paid $2,000 to enter. The final table included three former gold bracelet winners - Erik Seidel (with 6 wins), Perry Friedman (with 1), and Cyndy Violette (with 1). The early chip leader was Morgan "the Machine" Machina, who enjoyed a whopping 3 to 1 advantage over his closest rival. With over a million at the start, it seemed that this was Machina's tournament to lose. Players were eliminated as follows:

9th Place: Bill Blanda, $51,630
Bill Blanda lasted about an hour. He was down to his last 40,000 in chips with blinds and 8,000-16,000 and moved all-in with A-4, which was covered by Perry Friedman's 9-9. A nine on the turn - making trips for Friedman -- ended Blanda's last hope and put him on the rail. This was Blanda's first-ever WSOP final table appearance.
8th Place: Chris Wunderlick, $77,445
Chris Wunderlick was short-stacked and picked up A-K on his final hand. Paul Sexton called with J-J and watched with delight as the flop came J=7=7, good for a full-house. That knocked Wunderlick out in 8th place. Wunuderlick, a retired investment broker, was making his third lifetime cash at the WSOP.
7th Place: Soulier Fabrice, $103,260
On his final hand, Soulier Fabrice got into a showdown holding A-10 versus A-J. Completely dominated, Fabrice's vocal French supporters chanted "dix! dix!" A "dix" (the French word for ten) failed to rescue Fabrice, which meant the former TV director, who has cashed numerous times in Europe and here in the US, was cut.
6th Place: Harry Demetriou, $123,915
Midway into the finale, chip leader Morgan Machina had played relatively few pots. He seemed content to allow players to be eliminated and then get into a short-handed game. Machina did, however, play a big pot against Harry Demetriou. Machina was dealt A-K raised and was re-raised with the rest of his chips by Demetriou (with Q-J). Demetriou's bold move backfired. The final board showed A-Q-2-K-6, giving Machina two pair and more than half of the chips on the table. Meanwhile, Englishman Harry Demetriou was knocked out in 6th place. This was his second final table appearance so far this year
5th Place: Paul Sexton, $147,145
Machina lost half of his chips when he tried to bluff Paul Sexton out of a big pot, then watched hopelessly as Erik Seidel seized the chip lead. Machina's misery continued when he doubled up Cyndy Violette. Actually, Violette got a huge break on the hand as she was holding 10-8 against Machina's K-10. She rivered an eight to stay alive.The chip lead changed for the third time when Paul Sexton took a bad beat against Perry Friedman. Sexton was dealt pocket Aces and made a large raise, which was called by Friedman. A ten flopped -- good for a set -- and Friedman saw a great opportunity to double up. Friedman moved all-in, which committed Sexton to the pot. Friedman won the pot and took the chip lead. Meanwhile, Sexton was on life support. He busted out a few hands later. Paul Sexton, who was making his first WSOP final table appearance, is a student at the University of San Diego.
4th Place: Morgan Machina, $170,380
The firecracker that was Morgan "the Machine" Machina finally exploded about six hours into play. The player many expected to win based on his impressive chip lead, finally ran out of momentum. Machina was low on chips and tried to make a move at the pot with his last 180,000. He raised all-in with K-8 and was called instantly by Cyndy Violette, who was holding A-Q. The sequence was brutal for Machina, as he flopped a king and then watched in horror as an ace and queen on the turn and river put the final two nails in his coffin. Machina is a professional poker player and owner of Home Poker Pros, which stages poker events.
3rd Place: Perry Friedman, $196,455
Perry Friedman, a.k.a. "The Baiter" (questions as to nickname origins were unasked) is one of the famed "Tiltboy" group, a fun-loving band of former Stanford grads who have made poker their private playpen. Friedman may be jovial on the outside, but he certainly plays great tournament poker - proven by his gold bracelet win at the 2002 World Series. Friedman went out the hard way on his final hand of the night with pocket queens, which were crushed by Erik Seidel's pocket aces. A queen failed to provide salvation, and Friedman vanished.
Runner up: Cyndy Violette, $295,970
Cyndy Violette has developed a well-deserved reputation as a top seven-card stud player. However, this was her third time to cash at this year's WSOP -- all in hold'em events. Violette, who stresses the importance of physical and emotional equilibrium and practices meditation before tournaments and during breaks, went on the wildest ride of the night. She was down to only 50,000 in chips at one point and somehow clawed her way into the chip lead during one stage when play was heads-up against Seidel. Violette's money card was an eight when she was all-in with 10-8 early in the finale, and against the dominant K-10. That catapulted Violette into several double-up situations, and at one point, it looked like this might be Violette's night. But nothing could prepare Violette for what was to come.

The final hand was exhilarating for both players and the audience, as Violette came over the top with an all-in re-raise holding 9-9. Seidel was holding 8-8 and called. With the outcome of the tournament and a difference of $300,000 in prize money in the balance, it looked like Violette might deliver a victory. With her father in the audience watching, smiles turned to shock when the flop came 8=5=5. Incredibly, Seidel had flopped a full-house, with eights-full. With the turn of the dealer's wrist, Violette had gone from a 7 to 1 favorite to an 11 to 1 underdog. Desperate for a nine, the crowd shouted for a miracle card, which stayed buried in the deck.

Cyndy Violette did have her biggest payday ever. Even Seidel praised the runner up. "It was fun to have all the crowd around the final table cheering - mostly for Cyndy," Seidel said. "If I wasn't playing against her, I would have been cheering for her, too."

1st Place: Erik Seidel, $611,795
Erik Seidel has been a professional poker player for nearly 20 years. The former stock trader from New York moved to Las Vegas after finishing as the runner-up to Johnny Chan in the 1987 world championship. He has since won bracelets in five different events. This was his second win in no-limit hold'em.

"This is a big deal for me. It's really special. The World Series of Poker is where history is made. It's the biggest and the best tournament. It has the best structures in poker. So it's very impor