Las Vegas, NV (June 10, 2011) -- Every so often the World Series of Poker spawns a very special story which transcends card playing and places towering bundles of prize money and shiny new gold bracelets into their proper context.
David Diaz has provided such a story.
Beneath the glow of the Las Vegas Strip, Diaz just won the most recent WSOP event, which was the $1,500 Buy-In Triple-Chance No-Limit Hold’em Championship. He collected $352,808 in cash for his victory and was presented with the ultimate symbol of achievement in the game of poker -- the WSOP gold bracelet.
But Diaz’ greatest lifetime victory took place 22 years ago.
As a child growing up in Honduras, Diaz was accustomed to daily struggle. His family’s daily ritual didn’t include casino gambling or entering big-time poker tournaments. Staying alive and remaining healthy were the equal to be being dealt pocket kings and aces. For a little boy named David -- beset with the griping trials of incessant poverty, lack of nutritious food, and little opportunity for education or advancement -- things were about to go from bad to worse. The four-year-old was hit with his biggest challenge of all when he was diagnosed with cancer.
It’s a six-letter word no four-year-old can quite understand nor comprehend in terms of its potential devastation.
At the time, for most children living in Central America, a cancer prognosis might as well have been a death sentence. Diaz had few medical facilities that could treat his condition. Worse, his family did not have the money to pay for proper treatment.
But Diaz and his family got a big break. In poker parlance, they hit a proverbial one-outer on the river. The “dealer” in the game of life and death was none other than the late, great actor and philanthropist Danny Thomas and the extraordinary medical facility he helped to create, called St. Jude Children’s Hospital. It was quite literally, young David's salvation.
Diaz was taken from Honduras to Memphis, TN to undergo medical treatment. Some years later, he was finally cured and cancer free.
Diaz and his family eventually went on settle down as legal residents in the United States They moved to New Jersey, where he attended school. Diaz learned English. He made new friends.
Now, at the age of 26, Diaz is a professional poker player who calls Memphis, TN his home. He’s become a self-described “grinder,” which means he spends countless hours squeezing out a profit playing in cash games. In recent years, Diaz has traveled around the tournament circuit. Wherever the action may be, Diaz shows up. He could usually be found sitting in a juicy cash game or hanging out with one of his many friends, who tend to congregate around major cardrooms located in the American South.
Even with some modest success as a player, no one could have possibly foreseen the monster-sized score he would earn at this year's WSOP. Diaz entered a $1,500 buy-in poker tournament with 1,340 entrants. Three days and 36 hours later, he was the new champion.
Late on a Thursday night, as Diaz reached across the green felt of the final table he had just conquered preparing to snap on his gold bracelet for the first time, what the rest of the world didn't know was -- he was a two-time winner.
This was the twelfth event (of 58) on this year’s WSOP schedule. The total prize pool amounted to $1,809,000. The top 144 finishers collected prize money. Among those who cashed were former WSOP gold bracelet winners – Bill Chen (4th), J.C. Tran, Cliff Josephy (37th), Carlos Mortensen (40th), Ted Forrest 80th), and David Sklansky (142nd).
So far, this year’s tournament series has produced several newcomers WSOP stardom -- including Diaz. Remarkably, all of the first dozen gold bracelet winners have been first-time winners. In fact, several tournaments (5 of 12) were won by players who had never previously finished in-the-money in any WSOP tournament.
For a list of all players who cashed, in EVENT #12, please click here.
A full official report from this tournament will be posted shortly.