Event #20: Pot-Limit Hold 'em Championship
Location: Rio, Las Vegas
Buy-in: $5,000
Number of Entries: 239
Total Prize Money: $1,123,300

The new generation of poker players which have recently flooded into the game can be easily characterized by the slogan, "No Fear." These players have trampled on tradition, ignored conventional thinking, and disregarded the establishment. Brian Wilson absolutely embodies this new attitude. At the poker table, he has no fear.

"I had some players [in this tournament] tell me I'm a 'bad player,'" Wilson said immediately after winning $370,685 and his first gold bracelet in the $5,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Hold'em championship. "They had no idea what I was thinking or why I did what I did. Now, I'm sitting here and this is the greatest feeling in the world."

In a post-tournament interview, Wilson was asked about arriving at the final table and facing a formidable list of poker foes. Of the nine finalists, he was the player with the least amount of experience at this level. So some degree of trepidation might have been expected. But not according to Wilson.

"With all due respect to these great players, I wasn't thinking about them at all," Wilson said. "It didn't matter to me who I was playing against. I just played my game and had no fear about anything. That's they way you have to play if you want to win. If you come in afraid or scared, you have no chance."

Wilson's fearless attitude made the difference in a nine-hour final table that had a number of lead changes and exciting moments. The total prize pool in Event #20 amounted to $825,700. The final table included two former gold bracelet winners - Allen Cunningham (with 3 wins) and Cyndy Violette (with one win). In fact, this was Cunningham's second final table appearance (he won Event #2) this year. This was Violette's fourth time to cash and second final table, as well (she finished second in Event #9). On Day Three, Atlantic City-based poker pro Violette arrived as the chip leader. Wilson was close behind in third place. Players were eliminated as follows:

9th Place: Burt Boutin, $22,465
A few minutes into play, Burt Boutin took a horrible beat when he flopped a set of nines. He hoped to trap his opponent, Brian Wilson, for all his chips. But Wilson caught a straight on the turn and that was enough to eliminate Boutin, a Las Vegas stockbroker who has now made it into the money four times at the WSOP.
8th Place: Joe Sebok, $33,700
Joe Sebok is an aspiring professional poker player. He calls himself an "Internet geek," but hopes to play and win enough to make a living at the tables. Sebok moved a step closer to his dream by topping 232 of the 239 players in this highly competitive tournament. The UC-Berkeley graduate went out with A-J versus Brian Wilson's A-K.
7th Place: Cyndy Violette, $44,930
This was Cyndy Violette's second final-table appearance thus far at the 2005 WSOP. Incredibly, although she is best known as a seven-card stud specialist, all of her four in-the-money finishes have been in hold'em. Given Violette's high expectations, her 7th-place finish had to be a major disappointment. After losing half of her stack within the first three hours, she tried to semi-bluff her way back into the chip lead by moving all-in with a nut-flush draw. Allen Cunningham called the raise with top pair, and made three-of-a-kind on the turn. Violette needed to catch a club, but missed.
6th Place: Steven "Lucky" Liu, $56,165
Steven "Lucky" Liu was born and raised in Hong Kong and now lives in England. This was his first time to appear at the WSOP. On his final hand, "Lucky" Liu was not so lucky. He had Q-J and flopped a pair and an open-ended straight draw on K-J-10. There were two spades on board and John Gale called the raise and caught a fifth spade to make a flush. The put Liu out in 6th place.
5th Place: Tony Cousineau, $67,400
Tony Cousineau has quite possibly the highest number of cashes of anyone on the pro tournament circuit. Cousineau's records are littered with finishes in the teens, 20s, and near-bubble finishes, which show a tremendous amount of staying power. But Cousineau rarely arrives at final tables with many chips. His starting stack in this event, at just short of 100,000, seemed to be enough to make him a serious contender. But Cousineau took a bad beat on his final hand (A-10 versus Cunningham's K-10) when four hearts fell and Cunningham had the only heart.
4th Place: Allen Cunningham, $89,865
What goes around comes around. Just when it seemed Cunningham might be on a roll toward his fourth gold bracelet (and second within three weeks), Brian Wilson made an astonishing call which essentially propelled him into a big chip lead and proved he belonged at the table playing against former champions. Cunningham tried to bully Wilson out of the pot with an all-in raise after the flop came 10-10-4. The raise amounted to 150,000. Many players might have gotten away from the hand, but Wilson read the situation correctly and called Cunningham down with a lowly pair of fours. It didn't matter that Cunningham was on a stone-cold bluff, the fearless Wilson made the right play at the right time.
3rd Place: Derek Leforte, $112,330
If there was an underdog today, it was clearly Derek Leforte. Not that Leforte wasn't on par with the competition. His small stack size from the start - only 36,500 in chips - eventually was too much of a burden to overcome, especially given that his two opponents played quite aggressively when Leforte was in the pot. Leforte, a part-time dealer from Canada, finally went out with K-9 and lost to John Gale's ace-high.

Runner up: John Gale, $204,440
When heads-up play began, Englishman John Gale enjoyed a marginal chip lead over Brian Wilson - 695,000 to 505,000. The key hand of the poker duel took place when Gale had 10-10 versus Wilson's 4-4. A four flopped and that put Wilson into the chip lead. About an hour later, Wilson had A-Q versus Gale's K-J and the outcome of the tournament rested in who hit the flop. Neither player managed to hit a pair, which meant the ace-high was the best hand. Brian Wilson took the victory. John Gale was forced to settle for second.

John Gale won a major event held at the Atlantis Resort (Bahamas) in January. He has since turned pro and is doing quite well in poker tournaments.

1st Place: Brian Wilson, $370,685
Winner Brian Wilson is a 37-year-old real estate agent originally from Rockford, IL. He now lives in Ft. Meyers, FL. He has a fiancé, who has been very supportive of his poker playing. She can now share Wilson's glory and the $370,685 in prize money.

Wilson insisted that British pro David Colclough be acknowledged as a major influence on his improvement as a poker player. He played in some tournaments in Europe earlier this year and came to develop an appreciation for Colclough's poker talent.

Most interesting is how it all started for Wilson. "I came out to Las Vegas last year to attend a bachelor party," Wilson said. "I stumbled into the Horseshoe, and I won a $10,000 seat into the main event. I ended up playing last year and that really made me more determined to get more into poker and to improve my game."

Poker has not seen nor heard the last of Brian Wilson. Perhaps it is Wilson's opponents who should fear the worst.

View final results.

Tournament reporting by Nolan Dalla / worldseriesofpoker.com