Joseph Hachem wins 1st Prize - 2005 World Series of Poker
by Jason Kirk  

Joseph Hachem - 2005 WSOP Winner - Source:


"We had seven players last year, and this year we had thirteen. I look to have better than twenty next year. It's even liable to get up to be fifty. Might get up to be more than that; it will eventually."
-- Benny Binion, as quoted in Mary Ellen Glass' 1973 work Some Recollections of a Texas and Las Vegas Gambling Operator

For the last two years there has been no better barometer of the poker boom than the World Series of Poker's $10,000 buy-in Main Event. In 2003, Chris Moneymaker won the title and a record $2.5 million after outlasting 838 opponents - the largest field ever in the Main Event - and showed us that online poker was a great way to win seats in larger tournaments. In 2004, unheralded pro player Greg ""Fossilman" Raymer took home the bracelet and a record $5 million, fending off another record field of 2,575 opponents that confirmed the growth of online poker. This year's Main Event was no exception to the trends of recent years. 5,619 entrants - another record field - either put up $10,000 of their own money or won their way in to the tournament through satellite events, with Australian professional Joseph Hachem taking home the coveted bracelet and yet another record prize of $7.5 million. Chances are that Horseshoe and World Series of Poker founder Benny Binion never envisioned the tournament growing to such mammoth proportions, but if he were around today he'd surely be pleased with how the world has responded what he once referred to as "this poker game."

There were many stories to follow this year at the Main Event. The first, and biggest, was the relocation of the tournament for the first time in its history. The bulk of the tournament was played at the Rio Casino, just off the Strip, though the final two days of the tournament did make a final return to Binion's Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas. There had been some worries that moving the tournament away from its original location would ruin some of its luster. While some people will always feel that the World Series belongs downtown, the consensus seems to be that the roomier Rio served the tournament well.


Greg "Fossilman" Raymer at WSOP 2005 - Source:


Another big story was the play of defending Main Event champion Greg "Fossilman" Raymer. Raymer was trying to become the first back-to-back winner since Johnny Chan in 1987 and 1988, a feat that would have placed him in an elite group of poker players (only Chan, Johnny Moss, Stu Ungar and Doyle Brunson have ever won more than one Main Event title). Unlike several defending champions in recent years, Raymer didn't bust out of the tournament right away. In fact, he was in the top ten chip leaders after the second day. His stellar play continued into Day Three, and at the end of that day he more chips than any of the remaining 185 players. "Fossilman" was finally eliminated on Day Six, finishing in 25th place and cementing his reputation as a solid player who knows how to navigate the deadly waters of today's large tournament fields.


Tiffany Williamsen at WSOP 2005 - Source:


One big surprise was the play of Tiffany Williamsen, a Columbia Law graduate who now works as an attorney in London. Williamsen won her way into the tournament through a small buy-in online satellite and was merely one of thousands of players who no one expected to advance deep into the tournament. Defying the odds, Williamsen built a chip stack and managed to survive confrontation after confrontation. Her play kept her alive until Day Six, when she moved all-in with pocket fives and her opponent paired his jack on the turn to knock her out in 15th place. Williamsen was stopped just short of making history by becoming only the second female to make the Main Event final table (Barbara Enright finished 5th in 1995), but she did take home $440,000 for her efforts, making her the highest-paid woman ever at the Main Event.


2005 WSOP Final Table - Source:


The final table was notable in many respects. It was the last final table that will ever be played at Binion's Horseshoe, the original home of the WSOP. Only one big-name professional player, Mike "The Mouth" Matusow of Team Full Tilt, made it to the top nine. Three of the players came from outside the United States - Sweden's Daniel Bergsdorf, Ireland's Andrew Black, and eventual champion Joseph Hachem of Australia - giving the tournament's conclusion a truly international feel. This was the first final table since 2002 not to feature "Action" Dan Harrington, who was knocked out early on in the tournament. Two of the players at the final table - Brad Kondracki and Daniel Bergsdorf - qualified through PokerStars satellites, helping to grow that site's reputation as a producer of championship-caliber players. The final table also played longer than any other in Main Event history, clocking in at 13 hours and 56 minutes - 18 minutes longer than the 1983 final table when Tom McEvoy won the title.

This year's World Series of Poker Main Event was definitely one for the record books. The largest field and prize pool ever, the largest first prize ever, and the end of the downtown era of the WSOP will be remembered for a long time to come. With the poker boom still in full swing, you can count on next year's event being just as big.

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