2005 World Poker Finals
2005 Jason Kirk  

This year's World Poker Finals at Foxwoods Resort Casino concluded just a few days ago when the final table of the Main Event finally concluded. The casino in Mashantucket, CT, played host to one of the largest fields in the history of the World Poker Tour. There were so many players entered in this year's tournament that what would normally be the first day of play was split into two heats to accommodate all the players who either put up $10,000 or won their way in through satellites. Exactly 783 players entered the Main Event - that's more than the number of players who entered the Main Event in its first 10 years combined. Anyone who says the poker boom will slow down anytime soon isn't paying attention to what's going on out there in the world of tournament poker.

Day 1A of the Main Event saw some notable players leaving the field. Among those not making the cut were Mike "The Mad Genius of Poker" Caro, Evelyn Ng, 2005 Party Poker Million champ Mike Gracz, 1991 WSOP Main Event champ Brad Daugherty, 2002 WSOP Main Event champ Robert Varkonyi, Positively Fifth Street author Jim McManus, and CardPlayer contributor Joe Sebok, Brian Haveson, Liz Lieu, John Phan, and John "World" Hennigan. The two names at the top of the chip leaderboard at the end of the day were just as notable: World Poker Tour CEO Lyle Berman had over $150,000 in chips, and 2005 WSOP double bracelet winner Mark Seif had over $105,000.

Day 1B was a bad day for plenty more notable players. Leaving the tournament on this day were Team Full Tilt members Andy Bloch, Richard "Quiet Lion" Brodie, John Juanda, and Clonie Gowan; 2005 WSOP Main Event final table player Tex Barch; 2004 WSOP Main Event champ Greg Raymer; and WSOP Circuit Caesars Indiana winner Vinny Vinh. Among those who survived the day to come back and fight for the money were 2003 WSOP Main Event final table player Amir Vahedi, 2005 WSOP Main Event final table player Andrew Black, WSOP Circuit Caesars Indiana final table player Bill Edler, Tennessee pro Glyn Banks, 1988 WSOP Main Event runner-up Erik Seidel, Allen Cunningham, John Myung, Steve Zolotow, Ted Forrest, Kathy Liebert, Bill Gazes, "Minneapolis" Jim Meehan, John D'Agostino, Chip Jett, and Poker Player Newspaper contributor Donna Blevins.

Day 3 began with 240 players remaining from the original field of 783. Once half of the remaining players had been eliminated, the $7,855,000 prize pool would begin to be distributed. The bubble wasn't cracked before the dinner break, so those remaining short stacks had plenty of time to decide on the proper strategy for making their way into the money. Professional player Chip Jett became the 2005 World Poker Finals main event bubble boy when he only had enough money to post the ante and had his J-J cracked by Q-5 flopping two pair. The rest of the day saw the elimination of another 89 players, leaving 31 to battle it out to see who would make the final table.

Day 4 saw Lenny Cortellino enter as the chip leader with nearly $590,000 in chips. Right behind him were Allen Cunningham with almost $575,000, and Lyle Berman with over $560,000. Bringing up the rear was short-stack Avdo Djokovi, who managed to double up on consecutive hands at the beginning of the day. (Djokovi lasted until 9th place.) The first player out was Erik Seidel, who couldn't crack Loi Phan's 7-7 with his own A-2. The last player to exit for the day was Samir Shakhtoor. Shakhtoor went from 2nd chip position with 7 players remaining to the TV bubble boy, but he took home a nice paycheck for his efforts. The final table was set, with these seating assignments and chip stacks:

Seat 1: Lyle Berman $659,000
Seat 2: Nick Schulman $3,502,000
Seat 3: Anthony Licastro $1,412,000
Seat 4: Lenny Cortellino $773,000
Seat 5: Allen Cunningham $795,000
Seat 6: Bill Gazes $693,000

On the 14th hand of the final table, Tony Licastro and Lenny Cortellino both flopped sets. Unfortunately for Coretllino, his was the smaller of the two and he went home in 6th place with $276,000. On the 25th hand, Lyle Berman's A-J was dominated by Allen Cunningham's A-K, and when it didn't improve he was eliminated in 5th place with $345,000. Then on the 38th hand, Allen Cunningham moved all-in preflop with J-T and had the misfortune of running into Nick Schulman's K-K. With no improvement to his hand, Cunningham finished in 4th place and won $483,000. It was two hours before the next bustout, when Schulman's A-Q took down Bill Gazes' K-8. Gazes won $759,000 for his 3rd place finish. Then, just four hands into heads-up play, Schulman scored his third straight knockout when he turned a flush to send Tony Licastro's two pair home. Licastro took 2nd place and won $1,035,000, and Schulman won $2,142,000 and a seat in the WPT Championship for his stellar tournament performance.

The World Poker Finals is without a doubt one of the marquee stops on the WPT. The size of this year's event is a testament to the popularity poker is enjoying today, and the future of both the game and this historic tournament only looks brighter.

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