Event #25: Pot-Limit Hold'em Championship
Location: Rio, Las Vegas
Buy-in: $2,500
Number of Entries: 425
Total Prize Money: $977,500

World Series of Poker history is filled with memorable moments: Doyle Brunson's back-to-back wins in 1976 and 1977 holding his trademark hand -- ten-deuce; Stu Ungar's rise from the ashes in his third world championship (a.k.a. "the comeback") in 1997; Online poker player Chris Moneymaker's stunning victory in 2003. These events rank among the most unforgettable poker memories.

What happened at 3:18 am on Sunday night at the Rio Pavilion in Las Vegas ranks right up there as one of the game's greatest moments. Johnny Chan won a record tenth WSOP gold bracelet. After a two-year stretch during which poker's three most famous players remained locked in a virtual dead heat with nine gold bracelets each (lifetime wins), Chan finally broke through and became the first player to win Number Ten.

It would be hard to decide which was more exciting - the final duel between Chan and Phil "the Unibomber" Laak -- or, the fanfare of media and well-wishers swarming around Chan afterward.

Neither of these things would have happened had it not been for one dazzling hand during four-handed play at the final table. Chan was dealt Q-Q. His opponent, Frank Kassela, was dealt A-A. The former world champion was all-in. Chan, not accustomed to needing help from the deck, was in serious trouble. Almost as though his fate was pre-ordained, the flop brought a queen. The jam-packed crowd went ballistic. In mere seconds, Chan went from one step away from the rail to the chip lead. Indeed, pocket queens would prove to be lucky for Johnny Chan.

The tournament began with 425 entrants. Finalists included three former gold bracelet winners - Johnny Chan, Jerri Thomas, and Humberto Brenes. The chip leader was formidable poker pro, Tony Hartman. Players were eliminated in the following order:

10th Place: Ivo Donev, $11,730
Austrian Ivo Donev has made several final tables and in-the-money finishes at the WSOP. He arrived low on chips and went out first.
9th Place: Humberto Brenes, $19,550
Costa Rican Humberto Brenes went out next when his 6-6 was flattened by Richard Harroch's 9-9.
8th Place: Ashok Surapaneni, $29,325
After Brenes departed, Ashok Surapaneni was eliminated on the very next hand when his A-10 was topped by Frank Kassela's Q-Q. That gave Kassela the chip lead for the first time.
7th Place: Richard Harroch, $39,100
Richard Harroch took a tough beat on what might have been one of the most important hands of the tournament. Harroch was dealt A-J and was all-in against Johnny Chan's 4-4. The flop came J=5=8 and was followed by a 7 and 6 on the turn and river. The runner-runner straight gave Chan the pot and put Harroch on the rail.
6th Place: Tony Hartman, $48,875
Tony Hartman had a disappointing final table. He arrived as chip leader, but watched helplessly as his chips moved in the wrong direction. Hartman's bad run was summed up in his final hand - pocket queens versus Phil Laak's pocket tens. Wham! A ten on the flop booted Hartman out.
5th Place: Jerri Thomas, $58,650
Jerri Thomas was low on chips. She managed to survive six all-ins before finally succumbing to a 5th place finish. On her final hand, A-8 was dominated by Richard Osborne's A-10. Neither player made a pair, but the ten played.
4th Place: Frank Kassela, $68,425
After Frank Kassela lost the most important pot of the night to Johnny Chan (see A-A versus Q-Q), he went out a short time later, losing his final hand to Phil Laak.
3rd Place: Richard Osborne, $78,200
While play was three-handed, Chan widened his chip advantage. Then, another bizarre hand took place -- Phil Laak had the worst of it with K-10 and had his opponent (Richard Osborne) all-in with A-K. The river brought a ten to Laak while Osborne staggered away in disbelief.

Runner up: Phil Laak, $156,400
The final duel was so compelling that ESPN cameras were turned on for an event not originally scheduled to be televised. Phil Laak and Johnny Chan played some of the best poker in the history of the World Series. Johnny Chan may have seen everything in his 23 years as a pro, but he had certainly not witnessed the equivalent of Phil "Unabomber" Laak playing the role of circus clown, crazed lunatic, and grand shaman all wrapped up in a single, seemingly disturbed, poker player. Chan sat stoically, while Laak bounced around the final table. He darted back and forth around Chan, the dealer, and the Tournament Director - often in the middle of hands. When he folded a hand, he pleaded with the dealer to rabbit-hunt cards, seemingly more interested in a hypothetical outcome than reality. Like a deranged madman, Laak had the audience (and occasionally Chan, too) in stitches. No one would have thought that there was about 150 grand riding on the outcome.

It would be safe to say that although it was past 3 am, no one - not the players, the audience, or the staff -- wanted this match to end. It was theatre worthy of an extended encore. The final curtain came down on the Chan-Laak show when the Unabomber was dealt K-J. Chan was dealt Q-Q. The flop came J=5=5. Laak was trapped. He was all-in with top pair and Chan had an overpair. Two blanks fell and Chan had delivered the final knockout punch.

1st Place: Johnny Chan, $303,025
Johnny Chan won the world poker championship in 1987 and 1988. He came within one card of wining the 1989 WSOP, as well. His win in this event amounted to $303,025.

One must now wonder if and when Phil Hellmuth (or Doyle Brunson) might catch Chan for the all-time "most wins" record. Given that Chan plays fewer tournaments than any of the three, his record is even more extraordinary.

View final results.

Tournament reporting by Nolan Dalla / worldseriesofpoker.com