Valley Center, CA – President John F. Kennedy uttered the immortal words "Ich bin ein Berliner" over 40 years ago during the height of the Cold War. The potent and powerful phrase was intended to comfort a vulnerable city and its people during a time of despair. That same phrase took on quite a different meaning on February 15th, 2007 when Ken Berliner, a 40-year-old orthopedic surgeon from Houston, won his first major tournament victory.

Mr. Berliner staged a dramatic tournament win, overcoming several major obstacles en route to a payoff totaling $18,700 for first place. In a strong field which included several champions from previous tournaments held here and elsewhere, Mr. Berliner's win marked yet another occasion that an aspiring tournament winner overcame long odds and defeated many of the best players in the game.

The fourth event at this year's Harrah's Rincon series attracted 119 entrants, creating a prize pool totaling $57,715. Day one eliminated 110 players leaving the final nine to return for play on day two. Michael Souza, who had made it into the money in previous events here at Harrah's Rincon, arrived as the chip leader. Seating order and chip counts were as follows:

SEAT 1: Shawn Hart 10,600
SEAT 2: Mike "Champagne" Lancaster 45,800
SEAT 3: Ed Tucker 18,200
SEAT 4: William Ullauri 7,200
SEAT 5: David Williams 50,500
SEAT 6: Michael Souza 55,200
SEAT 7: Ken Berliner 34,600
SEAT 8: Jeff Tecca 4,400
SEAT 9: Laurie Swaney 11,600

The first female to appear at the final table at this year's Harrah's Rincon series was Laurie Swaney. Unfortunately, she took a terrible beat on just the second hand of the finale when her A-K was hammered by Shawn Hart's A-Q. Despite being dominated with the worst hand, Mr. Hart flopped trip queens, and in an instant, most of Ms. Swaney's chips were gone.

However, Jeff Tecca managed to beat short-stacked Swaney to the guillotine. His K-Q suited was cut down by Michael Souza's A-Q. Both players flopped a queen, all the money went into the pot, and Mr. Souza ended up making two pair (aces over queens). Mr. Tecca, who was making his first WSOP-related money finish, collected $1,154 in prize money.

Laurie Swaney went out a few hands later when she played J-8 and got into a three-way pot. David Williams ended up scooping with an ace-high, which meant the lady from Olympia, WA was out of the tournament. Ms. Swaney's share of the prize pool came to $1,731.

A short time later, William Ullauri took a tough beat when he moved all-in with A-Q. Big stacked Michael Souza called the small raise from the big blind holding the less than stellar 7-3 and was delighted to see two 7s flop. The three-of-a-kind held up. That ended Ullauri's hopes of a rally and put the Ecuadorian out in seventh place. Ullauri, a 21-year-old student, collected $2,309.

Ed Tucker, a video tape producer from San Diego, would have liked to edit his final hand of the tournament. He would have scripted a better ending for his 5-5, which was topped by Ken Berliner's 10-10. Another player announced that he folded 5-5 pre-flop, which meant Mr. Tucker was close to drawing dead. The higher pair held up and Mr. Tucker was forced to settle for sixth place. His payout amounted to $2,886.

Ken Berliner's good fortune continued. A few hands later, he moved all-in after flopping a set of nines holding 9-9. David Williams called with 6-6. That sealed the fate of Mr. Williams, a contractor from San Marcos, CA. David Williams (no relation to the WSOP gold bracelet winner by the same name) has enjoyed his own measure of success in major tournaments. At last year's WSOP, he placed 144th out of 2900 entrants. He achieved fifth place in this event, which paid $3,463.

After Shawn Hart doubled up versus Mike Souza on a big hand (his A-K hit an ace versus pocket 10s), the four finalists battled for nearly an hour before the next elimination. That came when Mike "Champagne" Lancaster got toasted holding a pair of sixes, versus Ken Berliner's trip-tens. Mr. Lancaster (dealt K-6 on his final hand) was low on chips and made a commitment to the pot after a six flopped. Unfortunately, his rival with Q-10 not only flopped a ten, but also picked up another ten on the river to rub salt in Mr. Lancaster's wound. "Champagne," who was actually born and raised in Australia (he now lives in Canada) made off with fourth place, which paid $4,617.

Three-handed play commenced with Michael Souza holding a slight chip lead. He then began to pull away from the pack. Mr. Hart's stack dwindled down again and he was forced to move all-in with pocket fours, which held up versus Ken Berliner's A-Q suited. That marked the third time Mr. Souza had been all-in and survived.

On the fourth try, he was not so successful. Proving that tempting fate can be risky, Mr. Hart moved all-in pre-flop with K-Q suited. After some deliberation, Mr. Souza made the call with A-J. Neither player made a pair, which meant the ace-high played as the best hand. Shawn Hart, who had arrived as one of the short stacks, made it all the way to third place. The commercial plumber from Utah sealed up $5,772 in prize money.

When heads-up play began, Michael Souza enjoyed slightly more than a 2 to 1 chip lead over Ken Berliner. That lead was reversed when Mr. Berliner caught a lucky card in an all-in situation with K-J versus Mr. Souza's K-Q. A jack flopped, which meant the chip lead had flipped-flopped to about 3 to 2 in Mr. Berliner's favor.

Things would go from bad to worse for Mr. Souza. The final hand of the tournament was dealt when Mr. Souza moved all-in with K-Q against Mr. Berliner's 10-10. The final board of the night showed nothing but low cards, which meant the pocket 10s held up. The second-place finish was a bitter disappointment to Mr. Souza, who was determined to win a WSOP Circuit for the second time (only six players have successfully won more than once).. Mr. Souza had previously won the WSOP Circuit event in Las Vegas lat year. He has also cashed three times at the WSOP (premier tournament). Mr. Souza had previously won the WSOP Circuit event in Las Vegas lat year. He has also cashed three times at the WSOP (premier tournament). Michael Souza, a 33-year-old poker pro and collector of baseball cards, added $9,812 to his poker bankroll.

The winner is a true Renaissance man of many talents. Ken Berliner earned a degree in biochemical engineering. He has worked a medical doctor for more than a decade. Not content to do just one thing as a career, Mr. Berliner started law school last year. He stated that many of his patients have legal needs and he is eager to share his knowledge to help them. Now that Mr. Berliner has started winning poker tournaments, could a part-time poker career also be a possibility?

by Nolan Dalla

Note: All content in this report may be re-printed by media.


For official news and latest updates from the World Series of Poker and Circuits, please visit:

For official photographs from the World Series of Poker, please contact Eric Harkins (Image Masters PDI) at:
Or visit:

For additions news and information from the 2006-2007 WSOP and Circuits, please contact:


Tournament Director – Janis Sexton

Harrah's Rincon Poker Room Manager – Mike Adams