When Good Things Happen to Good People

Former U.S. Marine and Iraqi War Veteran Wins Gold Bracelet at WSOP

Ken Griffin Wins $1,000 Buy-In No-Limit Hold’em Championship

Houston Amateur Poker Player Rakes-In $455,356 Pot

Phil Hellmuth Jr. Cashes Again – Now Up to 83 for Career (All-Time Leader)

Full House at the 2011 WSOP -- Tournament Attendance Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

45 Gold Bracelets Won – 13 More Still to Go


Poker often uses the terminology of warfare, which is ridiculous.

Poker is not war.

War is war.

Ken Griffin knows this fact all too well.  He was once a proud United States Marine, where he served his country for 10 years.  He served in various military posts around the world -- including Iraq.  Following his distinguished service, Griffin’s career duties shifted to the role of civilian.  Yet he remained committed to supporting the efforts of servicemen and women, many of whom were not simply his clients or business associates – but his close friends.

Now employed as a defense contractor, Griffin has spent considerable time traveling to and from both Iraq and Afghanistan.  He’s seen more than his share of life-threatening situations, and loss.  Griffin knows all too well, that war has no winners -- only losers.

Yet, Griffin perhaps more than anyone also realizes and understands the fragile balance between incremental success and looming failure.  War is not like any card game, where there’s a fundamental respect for a common set of rules.  War is not like poker, where some sense of victory is assured.  Unlike poker, war does not bestow fame or riches upon those who partake in it.

Ken Griffin took a well-earned leave of absence from all that is wrong in some parts of the world, in an effort to reconnect with what's right and enjoyable to millions of his fellow citizens.  He arrived back in the United States and decided to attend the 2011 World Series of Poker for a couple of days.  Griffin hoped to play in an event, or perhaps two.

Griffin entered the most recent $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament, which was packed to near capacity with 2,890 players.  The fact was, Ken Griffin was but one of thousands of mostly nameless faces in a very large crowd of dreamers.

Three days later, Griffin’s face is no longer nameless.  He’s become a decorated poker champion.  Griffin defeated a tough final table lineup and won what he considers to be a life-changing amount of prize money -- $455,356.  He also received his first WSOP gold bracelet, a well-deserved amulet that he will wear just as proudly as the many medals he’s earned in battle.

Griffin is 34-years-old.  He lives in Houston, TX when he's not working overseas.  Incredibly, this marked the first time Griffin has ever cashed in a WSOP tournament of any kind.

Griffin’s journey from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to the Rio in Las Vegas and the world’s most prestigious poker event is almost a surreal disconnect from his daily reality.  Yet his voyage does not end with his victory.  In fact, the real winner of this tournament may very well be his mother.

Sadly, Griffin’s mother was recently diagnosed with a very serious illness.  He is back in the U.S., in part, to make sure his mother will receive the proper medical treatment she needs.  Following his victory, Griffin revealed his plans for the prize money he won – and it’s not to enter dozens more poker tournaments.

“I’m going to take care of her and be closer to home,” Griffin said in a post-tournament interview.  “I’m going to be transferring money into her account as soon as I get it.  You know, she’s a senior, working-class, she’s going through some chemotherapy and medicine is expensive.  She lives paycheck to paycheck, so I’m really looking forward to helping her out.”

Supposedly, there are fairly tale endings.  Then, there are real life stories of good things happening to good people like Ken Griffin – a war hero, a devoted family man, and now….a WSOP champion.  

For a comprehensive recap of Event #45, please visit the WSOP.com tournament portal page HERE.


The 2011 World Series of Poker $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em champion is Ken Griffin, from Houston, TX.

Griffin is a 34-year-old consultant for a defense contractor.

Griffin was born in Pasadena, TX.

Prior to working as a civilian, Griffin served in the military.  He was a United States Marine for ten years.

As a U.S. Marine, Griffin served on active duty in Iraq.

As a civilian contractor, Griffin has served in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Griffin learned how to play poker from his younger brother, who was with him during his moment of victory.

Griffin has attended the WSOP during each of the past three years.  Yet, this is only the third event he has played.  This was the first time Griffin ever cashed in a WSOP tournament.

For this victory, Griffin collected $455,356 for first place. 

According to official records, Griffin now has 1 win, 1 final table appearance and 1 in-the-money finish at the WSOP.

Griffin currently has $455,356 in career WSOP winnings.

This was the only event Griffin entered this year.

Griffin is to be classified as an amateur poker player (in WSOP records and stats), since he has a full-time job out of the industry. 


What do you do as a defense contractor?

“I actually did about 10 years in the Marine Corps and after that I got out and I started supporting the military and the government providing media expertise, strategic communications planning, media analysis, that sort of thing.  I spent about three and a half years in Iraq, between Marine Corps and consulting and eight months in Afghanistan as a consultant and various other places.”

How did you get into poker?

“Actually, my little brother taught me to play real poker.  I dabbled with my friends and I came home on leave and my little brother had gotten into poker, and so I started going to card rooms with him and learning what real poker was and listening to my brother.  You know, from there I just started reading and playing and it just grew from there.”

How many World Series of Poker events have you played, can you recall?

“This is my third event.  I played in one event one year and didn’t do so hot.  A couple years ago I played in an event and I came about 90 people from the money.  And this is my first event this year.”

Did you really think you could or would win this tournament?

“Not to sound cocky, but from Day One, I knew I was going to go deep.  There were three of us playing.  The other two guys are way better than me, and we all traded a piece of each other’s action.  I staked one guy and we all traded action.  Both of those guys busted out so I said it’s up to me now, so just kind of went from there.  But I was winning pots, picking up cards when I needed to, winning races when I needed to.  And I just had a really good feeling.”

How did you get from overseas to the WSOP?

“I actually came home from Afghanistan because my mom is sick.  So, I came home to take care of her and be closer to home and originally I wasn’t even supposed to be here.  I was supposed to be in Afghanistan, but I guess everything happens for a reason.”

And so is this something that is going to be able to help take care of your mom?

“Oh, absolutely.  I’m transferring money to her account as soon as I get it.  You know, she’s a senior, working-class, she’s going through chemotherapy and medicine is expensive.  She lives pay-check to pay-check, so I’m looking really forward to helping her out.”


The official final table was comprised of the top nine finishers. 

The final table contained just one former gold bracelet winner – Antonio Esfandiari.

Four different nations were represented at the final table – France (1 player), Germany (1 player), Great Britain (1 player), and the United States (6 players). 

The runner up was Jean Luc Marais, from Paris, France.  He came very close to becoming the fourth French gold bracelet winner at this year’s WSOP.  Second place paid $282,676.

Former gold bracelet winner Antonio Esfandiari finished in seventh place.

Final table play began Tuesday at 7 p.m.  Played concluded the following day at 1 a.m.

The final table was played on ESPN’s main stage.  The new final table set this year is getting raves in terms of design and appearance.  No stage in the history of poker has ever looked as spectacular.  Viewers will be able to see ESPN’s coverage again once the WSOP Main Event begins in July.

Action was streamed live over WSOP.com.  Viewers can tune in and watch most of this year’s final tables.  Although hole cards are not shown, viewers can follow an overhead camera as well as a pan-shot of the table.  The floor announcer provides an official account of the action. 


The top 297 finishers collected prize money.

Phil Hellmuth Jr. finished 28th in this event, marking his 83rd career cash at the WSOP.  He is the all-time leader in that category.

Tournament results are to be included in all official WSOP records.  Results are also to be included in the 2011 WSOP “Player of the Year” race.

“WSOP Player of the Year” standings can be found at WSOP.com HERE.


This tournament attracted yet another huge field of 2,890 entries.

The average age of entrants was 37 years.

There were 131 females who played in this tournament, representing 4.5 percent of the field.

This is the 937th gold bracelet awarded in World Series of Poker history.  This figure includes every official WSOP event ever played, including tournaments during the early years when there were no actual gold bracelets awarded.  It also includes the 16 gold bracelets awarded to date at WSOP Europe (2007-2010).  Moreover for the first time ever, one gold bracelet was awarded for this year’s winner of the WSOP Circuit National Championship.

The official WSOP gold bracelet ceremony takes place on the day following the winner’s victory (or some hours later when the tournament ends very late).  The ceremony takes place inside The Pavilion, which is the expansive main tournament room hosting all noon starts this year.  The ceremony begins at the conclusion of the first break of the noon tournament.  The ceremony usually starts around 2:20 p.m.  The national anthem of the winner’s nation is played.  The entire presentation is open to the public and media.  Video and photography is permitted by both the public and members of the media.

Griffin’s gold bracelet ceremony is set to take place on Thursday, June 30th.  The national anthem of the USA will be played in honor of his victory. 


Through the conclusion of Event #45 the 2011 WSOP has attracted 53,018 combined total entries.  $93,745,185 in prize money has been awarded to winners. 

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the breakdown of nationality of gold bracelet winners has been:

United States (28)

Canada (5)

Great Britain (3)

France (3)

Ukraine (3)

Russia (2)

Brazil (1)

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the national origin (birthplace) of winners has been:

United States (26)

Canada (5)

Great Britain (3)

France (3)

Russia (2)

Ukraine (1)

Israel (1)

Honduras (1)

Indonesia (1)

Germany (1)

Brazil (1)

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the home-states of (American) winners have been:

California (5)

Nevada (4)

New York (3)

Texas (3)

Illinois (2)

Florida (2)

Connecticut (2)

New Jersey (1)

Tennessee (1)

Indiana (1)

Maryland (1)

Virginia (1)

Michigan (1)

North Dakota (1)

Washington (1)

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the breakdown of professional poker players to semi-pros and amateurs who won gold bracelets has been:

Professional Players (35):  Jake Cody, Cheech Barbaro, Eugene Katchalov, Allen Bari, Harrison Wilder, Matt Perrins, Sean Getzwiller, Viacheslav Zhukov, David Diaz, Andrew Badecker, Tyler Bonkowski, Brian Rast, John Juanda, Aaron Steury, Darren Woods, Jason Somerville, Bertrand Grospellier, John Monnette, Elie Payan, Mark Radoja, Chris Viox, Dan Idema, Andy Frankenberger, Chris Lee, Sam Stein, Mark Schmid, Jason Mercier, Mikhail Lakhitov, Fabrice Soulier, Mitch Schock, Matt Jarvis, Justin Pechie, Ben Lamb, Rep Porter and Andre Akkari

Semi-Pros (5):  Sean R. Drake, Amir Lehavot, Oleksii Kovalchuk, Eric Rosawig, Arkadiy Tsinis

Amateurs (5):  Geffrey Klein, Foster Hays, James Hess, Kirk Caldwell, Ken Griffin

Since tracking first started in 2005, this year’s WSOP has the greatest disparity of professionals winning over semi-pros and amateurs than any year recorded, so far – with 40 out of 45 events being won by pros or semi-pros.

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the victories of 9 of the 45 winners (20 percent) marked the first time the new champion had ever cashed at the WSOP.

Every WSOP held over the past 11 years has included at least one multiple gold bracelet champion (meaning two or more wins within the same year).  The last year the WSOP was comprised exclusively of single-event winners was back in 1999.  The record for most multiple gold bracelet winners within a single year was in 2009, when five players managed to win two or more titles.  So far this year, no player has yet won two gold bracelets.

The streak of consecutive male WSOP gold bracelet winners has now reached 204 consecutive events.  Aside from the annual Ladies Poker Championship, the last female player to win a WSOP tournament open to both sexes was Vanessa Selbst, in 2008.  The longest “cold” streak for female players occurred between years 1982 and 1996, when 221 consecutive open events passed without a female champion.

The highest finish by any female (open events) at this year’s WSOP was by two players.  Maria Ho finished second ($5,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em).  Kim Nguyen also finished as the runner up ($1,500 buy-in Six-Handed Limit Hold’em).

The highest finish by any defending champion at this year’s WSOP was by David Baker, who after winning the previous $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven Draw Lowball World Championship finished in sixth place in defense of his title.

Reigning world poker champions rarely perform well the following year after their victory.  Chris “Jesus” Ferguson was the last world champion to win a gold bracelet the next year, which happened in 2001.  Perhaps it’s due to the increasing size of the fields.  But there’s also great pressure on the champions to do well.  What follows is a list of the only world champions in history to win a gold bracelet after winning the championship during the previous year:

Johnny Moss (1975)

Doyle Brunson (1977)

Bobby Baldwin (1979)

Johnny Chan (1988)

Hamid Dastmalchi (1993)

Chris “Jesus” Ferguson (2001)

By contrast, players who make it to the final table of the Main Event Championship (November Nine) one year tend to do quite well in subsequent WSOP years.  Consider that last year, three former Main Event finalists won gold bracelets – Eric Buchman, Tex Barch, and Scott Montgomery.  This year, Matt Jarvis won his first gold bracelet one year after making it to the November Nine in 2010.

New tournament records set at the 2011 WSOP (to date):

Biggest Heads-Up tournament prize pool in history ($3,040,000) – Event #2

Largest live Omaha High-Low Split Tournament in history (925 entries) – Event #3

Largest live Six-Handed tournament in poker history (1,920 entries) – Event #10

Biggest Deuce-to-Seven tournament prize pool in history ($1,184,400) – Event #16

Largest live $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament in history with single day start (3157 entries) – Event #18

Largest live $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament in history with single day start (3175 entries) – Event #20

Largest consecutive-days starting field sizes in poker history (combined 6,332 entries) – Event #18 and Event #20

Largest live Pot-Limit Omaha tournament in poker history (1,071 entries) – Event #22

Largest Mixed-Game (Eight-Game Mix) in poker history (489 entries) – Event #23

Largest Seniors tournament in poker history (3,752 entries) – Event #30

Biggest Seniors No-Limit Hold’em championship prize pool in history ($3,376,800) – Event #30

Largest single-day live tournament start in poker history (3,752 entries) – Event #30

Largest consecutive-days starting field sizes in poker history (combined 6,580 entries) – Event #30/Event #32 (broke Event #18/Event #20 record from earlier in 2011 WSOP)

 Largest four-consecutive days field sizes in poker history (2,500+3,752+2,828+3,144 =12,224 entries) -- Events 28, 30, 32, 34, June 16-19, 2011

Largest Mixed Pot-Limit tournament in history (606 entries) – Event #39

Biggest Pot-Limit Omaha prize pool in live poker history ($3,393,400) – Event #42

New player records set at the 2011 WSOP (to date):

The 35-year span between Artie Cobb’s first cash in this event (1976) and most recent cash in the same event (2011) represents the longest time span in WSOP history.  He accomplished this in Seven-Card Stud High-Low Split (Event #25).

Phil Hellmuth Jr. added to his record as the individual all-time leader in cashes (82) and final table appearances (42).


Bad Beat on Cancer was created in 2003 by Phil Gordon and Rafe Furst as an easy and fun way for poker players to donate to the Prevent Cancer Foundation.  It all began when Chris Moneymaker pledged 1 percent of his 2003 Main Event winnings and went on to capture the championship, contributing $25,000 when he was awarded the $2.500,000 first- place prize.  By taking the pledge, wearing the patch, and joining ‘Team 1%’, players can feel good supporting a cause that only benefits when they win.  As the official charity of the WSOP, pledges simply indicate to the payouts staff that they are donating 1 percent of their winnings, and the funds are automatically withheld.  A tax receipt is generated and sent to their mailing address.  Several high profile professionals have made ‘life pledges’ of 1 percent of all their winnings -- including Annie Duke, Phil Hellmuth Jr., Lee Childs, Paul Wasicka, Andy Bloch, Dennis Phillips, and others.  Since 2003, the initiative has raised over $3,500,000 for cancer prevention research, education, and community outreach programs.  Players can pick up a patch and join Team 1% by stopping by the Bad Beat on Cancer booth, located at the 2011 WSOP opposite the Amazon Room in the concourse.  The Nevada Cancer Institute based in Las Vegas is a benefiting charity from the Bad Beat on Cancer.

Note:  Various categories and statistics will be updated with each gold bracelet event as they are completed.