Event #8: No-Limit Texas Hold'em Finals
Location: Harrah's Rincon, San Diego
Number of Entries: 208
Total Prize Money: $1,976,000
Day One started Sunday, February 27, with 209 players. The final 18 were paid in amounts ranging from $19,855 up to $655,220. ESPN, the leader in sports television, was on hand to film the championship event.
The final table included one former world champion (Ferguson), three former gold bracelet winners (Ferguson, Williamson, Friedman), and two players who made it to the final table of the main event at the inaugural WSOP Circuit event (Ferguson finished 9th and Brown finished 7th). The depth of final table experience would be illustrated at this finale as three players -- Ferguson, Friedman, and Brown all made it down to the final trio.
10th Place: Naseem Salem, $27,795
Salem exited when he moved all-in with 7-7 and was called instantly by Alex Prendes, with 10-10. When a 10 flopped, Salem was all but eliminated.
9th Place: Mark Hanna, $39,710
Hanna (a.k.a. "Big Daddy from Cincinnati") managed to last nearly two hours into the finale. On his final hand, Big Daddy took a horrible beat when he was dealt pocket Kings -- normally a terrific chance to double up and get back into contention. Trouble was, Robert Williamson III caught pocket Aces. Big Daddy went out when an Ace flopped.
8th Place: Lonnie Alexander, $59,565
Alexander lost most of his chips with A-Q when a Queen flopped as the high card. Prendes was all-in with A-A. Blanks fell on the turn and river, which left Alexander with only a few thousand in chips. He went out on the next hand.
7th Place: Robert Williamson III, $79,420
Williamson was dealt K-Q and the flop came Q=10=8, giving him top pair. Williamson bet out with about half of his 200K stack and was raised all-in by the chip leader, Prahlad Friedman. On the hand, Friedman had 8-8 and flopped a set of 8s. Williamson knew he was very likely beat, and would have to commit his last 100K to make the call. He had a vulnerable kicker and reasoned that Friedman probably had A-Q or better, making Williamson a significant dog. Up to that point, play at the final table had been very conservative, and Williamson knew Prahlad was not making a power play on a draw, or bluffing. Despite his fears, Williamson finally made a crying call and was caught drawing dead when a 2 fell on the turn.
6th Place: Keith Sexton, $99,275
On his final hand, Sexton had A-10 and raised before the flop. Friedman was in the blind and had enough chips to call. The final board showed 7=7=6=8=4 and Friedman, with 8-5, made the straight.
Side note: Play at the final table played very much like a pot-limit game. Because the blinds and antes were so low in proportion to the amount of chips in play, players had a chance to maneuver. It was arguably the final table with the most post-flop play in WSOP history. Unlike many No-Limit events where two players push all-in and five cards are dealt, players bet very methodically, and were faced with multiple decisions during the course of the hand. This made for a very long night, but also provided witnesses with one of the greatest strategic poker displays on record.
5th Place: Alex B. Prendes Jr., $119,130
At 7 pm, Friedman became the first player to cross the million-dollar threshold. He dealt a crushing blow to Prendes on one hand, making a Jack-high straight. After a dinner break, Chad Brown doubled up on a big hand when he had 9-9 against Chris Ferguson's 4-4. When a Nine came on the turn, Brown was second in chips and Ferguson was staggered and on the ropes for the first time, with less than 200K. That would prove to be Ferguson's low point at the final table. Prendes, however, was unable to recover from his low point. He was getting low on chips and made his final stand with K-Q against Ferguson's A-6. The flop came A=J=6, giving Ferguson two pair.
4th Place: James "Krazy Kanuck" Worth, $158,840
Clearly the least known of the four finalists, Worth has not played in many live tournaments. In the end, Worth failed to become a serious contender. He remained around the 250K mark most of the day, but was gradually blinded down and made his final stand with 4-4. Ferguson was dealt 6-6, which held up.
3rd Place: Chad Brown, $198,550
Brown ran card dead at the worst possible time of a tournament, and was down to about 100K when he was dealt his final hand of a very long night. Just after midnight, Brown tried to make a stand with K-9 on a bluff, but Ferguson had A-Q and decided to call Brown's final bet with Ace-high. The board showed 7=6=2=5=10 giving neither player a pair. Ferguson's Ace played as the high card.
Note: After his elimination, Brown offered some interesting personal observations. Although he was naturally disappointed not to win, Brown stated he was "so proud" of the way he played in this tournament. Brown took a number of crushing beats over the four-day period, which he says normally would have caused most players to steam and give up. But Brown kept his emotional equilibrium and fought on, each time regaining those lost chips through intense skill and focus. "It's a strange feeling to be satisfied with third place," he said afterward. "But as I look back on several of the beats I took, I really believe I went as far as I could under the circumstances."
Runner up: Prahlad Friedman, $361,365
Winner: Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, $655,220
After a long series of stealing antes and few showdowns, both players were dealt a hand. Ferguson raised and Friedman called pre-flop, which brought the pot to 150,000. The flop came A=A=K. Both players checked. A third Ace fell on the turn. Again, both players checked. A King fell on the river - and the final board showed A=K=A=A=K. Friedman checked and Ferguson bet 345,000. From Friedman's point of view, it appeared that with the large bet Ferguson was trying to push his opponent off the hand. Ferguson made a perfect play - overbetting the pot by just enough to cause doubts in Friedman's mind that Ferguson had the dreaded Ace for four-of-a-kind. Expecting to play the board and split the pot, Friedman tabled his hand playing the board, and was horrified to see Ferguson roll over an Ace - good for quad Aces. That was a blast that not only ripped away half of Friedman's stack, but perhaps more importantly helped Ferguson to completely seize the momentum at the final table. Although Friedman played remarkably well and demonstrated an intimidating and powerful table presence for the duration, the tournament was effectively over at that point. The final hand came just a short time later. Friedman was dealt 5-4 of spades, normally not much of a hold'em hand. But heads-up, just about any two cards are playable, even worth calling a standard 3X-the-big-blind-sized raise. The flop came K=J=10 with two spades. Friedman moved all-in on the semi-bluff with a spade draw. Ferguson didn't take long to call and Friedman was now on his last gasp of hope. Ferguson held Q-J for second pair and a straight draw. It all came down to Friedman catching a spade or a running two pair or better. Such a catch would have allowed Freidman to draw back to even with Ferguson, and had that happened, the remaining spectators might have been there until breakfast. But the spade failed to come for Friedman and one of the World Series of Poker's longest final tables ever came to a close. Ferguson won with a pair of Jacks.
View final results.