Event #21: Omaha High-Low Split Championship
Location: Rio, Las Vegas
Buy-in: $2,500
Number of Entries: 359
Total Prize Money: $825,700

When Todd Brunson was 23 years old, he told his parents that he intended to become a professional poker player. Newly graduated from Texas Tech University, Brunson had many career options from which to choose. But like his famous father, who made an identical decision a generation earlier, Brunson figured he could make a much better living toiling across the green felt rather than conforming to a more conventional way of life.

Doyle Brunson later remarked that upon hearing his son's professional poker aspirations, he acted displeased. "I knew that his mother would be upset, so I acted like I didn't want him to do it. But, the truth is - when I heard Todd wanted to be a poker player, I was very proud inside."

From the first day Todd Brunson walked into a public cardroom, he became an object of curiosity. Most new poker players have the luxury of anonymity. They make common mistakes and bad decisions, and lose money while learning to become better poker players. No one remembers beginning players or their errors. Brunson was in a different league. He knew that every decision would be dissected, every action evaluated, and every session assessed.

Imagine being the son of Jack Nicklaus and teeing-off at The Masters. Or, growing up as Bill Walton's son and playing in the NBA. While these children of legendary sports figures failed to live up to the lofty expectations of the public and media, Todd Brunson can now say he has stepped out of the long shadow cast by his famous father.

On Thursday, June 23, 2005, Brunson traded in his "son of a poker champion" title for a new one: "poker champion." Brunson topped a highly competitive field of 359 players in the $2,500 buy-in Omaha High-Low event and won his first gold bracelet. First-place prize money amounted to $255,945. Players were eliminated in the following order:

9th Place: Nat Koe, $16,515
Thai-born Nat Koe arrived with the lowest stack at 27,000. With limits set at 6,000-12,000 Koe didn't get many chances to find a hand. Koe started with A-J-10-6 and was called down by Todd Brunson holding 5-4-3-3. Brunson flopped a three, good for a set. The board failed to bring a low and Koe was the first player to be felted.
8th Place: Ben Lang, $24,770
South African-born Ben Lang now lives in San Diego. This was his second event ever at the WSOP. After getting three-quartered in a big pot, Lang took a 10-minute penalty (for swearing). When he returned to the table he was low on chips. He went out with A-K-5-5 which lost to Todd Brunson's two pair (aces and queens). Brunson also had a better low for the scoop.
7th Place: Glenn Cozen, $33,030
Glenn Cozen is likely to always be remembered for his mystifying 2nd-place finish in the 1993 main event - versus Jim Bechtel (and John Bonetti who came in 3rd). The southern California-based manager of a surgical center hoped to win his first gold bracelet after several in-the-money finishes over the past 15 years. But the best he could do in this event was 7th place. All-in and desperate to double up and stay alive, Cozen mucked his hand (not shown) and lost to Allen Kessler's nut flush.
6th Place: Allyn Jaffrey-Shulman, $41,285
Allyn Jaffrey Shulman is a Brooklyn-born attorney who now lives in Laguna Niguel, CA. She is one of the foremost legal experts on gambling, and specifically Internet gambling -- knowledge which serves her well as Corporate Counsel for "Card Player" magazine. Jaffrey-Shulman has also proven she can play tournament poker with the very best in the world, evidenced by the fact she has a number of final tables and high finishes at major tournaments in recent years. Jaffrey-Shulman went out when she was dealt K-Q-9-9 and missed a flush. Tood Brunson ended up scooping the pot.
5th Place: Larry Reynolds, $49,540
Larry Reynolds arrived as the chip leader but watched helplessly as Tom Fischer and Allen Kessler caught fire and zoomed up to over 300,000 each in chips. Reynolds tried to stop the hemorrhaging when he hoped to scoop a big pot with a high-straight draw. But he bricked on the final two cards. Tom Fischer then ravaged Reynolds' final chips.
4th Place: Manelic "Manny" Minaya, $57,800
Manelic "Manny" Minaya was born in the Dominican Republic. He now lives in Tampa, FL. The 53-year-old billing and collection manager got zonked out of the tournament when he flopped a set of kings, which failed to improve, finally losing to a straight.
3rd Place: Tom Fischer, $66,055
Tom Fischer was shooting for his third gold bracelet. The longtime poker player previously won titles in Deuce-to-Seven Lowball and Seven-Card Stud High-Low (both in 1985). After Fischer lost most of his chips with a flush to a higher flush, Fischer went in with J-8-8-3 after the flop came Q=9=3. Fischer had both a straight and flush draw and missed both.

Runner up: Allen Kessler, $132,110
When heads-up play began, Todd Brunson enjoyed nearly a 2-to-1 chip lead over Allen Kessler. But Kessler played tough for nearly an hour. Just when it seemed Brunson was on the verge of victory, Kessler would stage a small rally which gave him hope of coming back. But in the end, the comeback fell short. On the final hand of the tournament, Kessler took a brutal beat when Brunson hit an inside straight. Kessler started with A-J-10-5. Brunson started with 9-6-2-2. Brunson had plenty of chips with which to call Kessler's raise. The flop (K=10=3) gave Kessler a pair with redraws to the straight. The turn brought a four. That meant Kessler enjoyed an even bigger advantage. Only a five on the river would allow Brunson to scoop the pot and finish off his opponent. Wham! The five fell out of the sky, busting Kessler and turning Todd Brunson into a World Series champion.

Allen Kessler, an experienced gambler and talented poker player, earned a well-deserved $132,110 as the runner up.

The winner of several majors, Kessler was dissatisfied with the final outcome but had to feel that he played his best game at the highest level on the grandest of poker stages.

1st Place: Todd Brunson, $255,945
Todd Brunson is a 35-year-old poker player who has won 10 major events in his lifetime. He also routinely plays in the biggest cash games in the world, mostly in Las Vegas. This was his first WSOP victory.

Given the magnitude of his father's shadow, Todd Brunson's victory was indeed historic. Todd and Doyle Brunson became the first father and son in World Series of Poker history to both win gold bracelets.

The reality is - given that Todd Brunson already plays in (and routinely wins) the highest-limit poker games in the world, and has now won a WSOP championship - he deserves to be judged on his own merits and accomplishments.

But that won't happen. He will always be judged as a Brunson. And that may be the toughest scale of all.

View final results.

Tournament reporting by Nolan Dalla / worldseriesofpoker.com