The Big Dance with Dogger9 (Part 7)

Note: One of the greatest PokerStars stories to come from the World Series of Poker was that of Bernard "Dogger9" Lee, a Frequent Player Point qualifier who caught everybody's eye as the real deal. Lee has agreed to chronicle his journey for the Official PokerStars Blog. His trip report will be published here over the next several days. Enjoy.

Part 1--Before the Storm
Part 2--Goal Keeping
Part 3--Shuffle Up and Deal
Part 4--A picture is worth 105,800 chips
Part 5--In the money
Part 6--The biggest laydowns

Part 7--Making it to Binion's
by Bernard Lee

Day 7: Wednesday, July 13th

Ring! Ring! Ring! My wake up call at 9:30am actually rang -- the first time this week. I slept long enough to hear it -- 8 whole hours and I feel great. I opened the curtains to see another sun filled morning. My cell phone buzzed to say I had 9 new messages-- all were from family and friends across the country congratulating me on making it to the next day. It was heartening to know that many people back at home were following my progress via the Internet. As always, I called for my daily analysis from Max. He informed me that my 377K in chips was once again about 40% of the average chip stack. On Day 7, I would begin 52nd out of the remaining 58 players. However, my table draw was once again fairly good. Even with my short stack, I was not the lowest chip stack at the table and two others had chips within 100K of me. The only slight worry was that I would have two outstanding pros at my table -- Kenna James and John Juanda -- both whom I had watched play on TV and had tremendous respect for their play. Well, at least I didn't have to figure out a new strategy -- same as yesterday, "I still had more than 20 times the big blind, so I'm not too short stacked. I need a good break within the first few hours for me to survive." As we were ending the conversation, Max informed me that had written a short piece about me and my family. I quickly checked on-line and couldn't believe that a picture of my kids and wife were now on the Internet. I immediately called my wife and told her about the website. She looked it up and couldn't believe it herself. "Honey, tell the kids I love them! This week has been incredible. Thank you for giving me the chance to live out my dream. I told you that this could happen one day and that day is now!" She told me how proud and happy she was for me and wished me good luck.

As I finished my morning shower, my cell phone had already received two additional messages -- one from another friend, while the other was from the Boston Globe. The reporter wanted additional reactions of making it through Day 6 and what I would expect on Day 7. I called him back and spoke for approximately 15 minutes. However, I repeated my mantra that I have proclaimed since the beginning. "My goal is to get out of each day. I can't make it to Day 8 until I get out of Day 7." In my pre-tournament thoughts, my third and final goal was to make it to Binion's (the final 27 players) since 2005 would be last year the WSOP would be held at this historic casino. If I made it out of today, I would accomplish that goal.

After eating a quick breakfast, I drove to the Rio to meet Matt for my interview with ESPN. As he escorted me into the interview room, I saw that they were setting up the cameras, a poker table and chips. When I sat down and saw my face on one of the television monitors, the surreal-o-meter went off the chart. I can't believe that the TV show that I had watched repeatedly over the last couple of years was going to interview me. This was unbelievable! Matt asked a lot of questions about my background, my week's experience so far, and how I was doing, but I had to hold back the tears when he asked me about my wife (especially about her recent surgery), my kids and the family pictures. Originally, I was worried that this interview would not allow me to concentrate on the task at hand. However, after the fact, I realized that it helped distract me from any potential nervousness.

About 10 minutes before we were to start the day, my college roommate, DooJin Kim, who had visited me earlier in the week, called my cell phone. He had to leave on Sunday, but said that he would come back if I was still in the tournament on Wednesday. "Bernie, you are doing great! Do you still want me to come out?" I couldn't have asked for anything more. I had been alone for the last few days and to have someone to talk to during the breaks and dinner would be fantastic. He booked a flight after work and would get to Vegas around 7pm. I was determined to not make his flight for naught and promised him I would survive at least until then. However, I definitely had some work to do. I needed some luck, and my good luck charm came by just as we were about to begin. ESPN's Norm Chad came by and stuck out his arm. "This is the best jacket I have," joked Norm. To me, it did not matter which jacket he had on. As I had done all yesterday, I rubbed his jacket sleeve for good luck. And once again, I was rewarded...

Less than an hour into the first level of the day (blinds were 8K and 16K, ante 2K), I caught KK (again) in mid position. A player in early position raised to 50K. "I'm all in," I proclaimed. With no hesitation, one of the big stacks to my left called me. Uh! Oh! He called so fast. Did he have Aces? Everyone folded to the original raiser, who thought about it for a couple of minutes, but eventually folded. I flipped over KK, anxiously awaiting the big stack's hand and I was very relieved to see 44. However, it's far from over -- I was about an 80 to 20 favorite. So anything could still happen. So, as I had done all week, I got up with my pictures and watched the flop intently. However, the flop was huge for me - KQ3. I knew with no flush or straight draws, he needed runner runner 4s and when the turn brought a 3, I let out a scream that could be heard throughout the room. I didn't even see the river. I had doubled up early again and had approximately 700K in chips. The original raiser had JJ and would have tripled me up had he called -- Oh well!

On this day, my thanks go out to two of my work colleagues -- Todd Mirasola and Steve Paul -- who were there during the morning to celebrate with me. Kenna James, who was a true gentleman while we played, congratulated me on a well-played hand. Kenna, thank you, too, for taking the time to discuss the poker world with me while we were playing. I truly appreciated it. I was once again back in the tournament. As I was organizing my chips, my cell phone went off 5 separate times. I finally stepped away from the table to answer Mark Hanna's (my original WSOP partner) call. "Nice double up buddy." How did he know? Was he here? "No, Bernie. I'm following on the blogs." Technology is amazing! Everyone who called had just read my double up on the blogs and almost instantaneously called to congratulate me. Unbelievable!

I called my wife at the break to tell her that things were going well. She answers the phone and exclaimed, "I know how you're doing. We are all here following you on the web. Keep it up, honey! We miss you and love you!" Wow, even my wife is getting into this by reading the blogs. She told me that she was most impressed when the PokerStars blogger reported that at 4:52pm, he saw Bernard Lee "in an all out sprint" to the bathroom -- 'It was so you" she said. This is phenomenal, I thought!

Regarding my cards, the rest of the day was fairly uneventful. I did knock out a short-stack using JJ vs 99 and maxed out my chip stack at around 1.1 million in chips around 6pm. The tournament director's decision was to continue onward and not stop for dinner. I'm glad that we didn't have to take an hour plus break just to eliminate 3-4 players. Good decision, Johnny. And, at my final table for the day (I had been moved from my original table), there were three notable personalities: First was my mentor from the beginning of the tournament, Tuan "Tommy" Vu. Once again, thanks for everything Tommy. Second was John Juanda, who moved to my table later and sat two to my left. He was severely short stacked when he arrived, but in true John Juanda fashion, he scratched and clawed until he was caught trying to steal the blinds and finished 31st. In the short time he was at the table, it was a privilege to play with one of my idols, as he was a true competitor and sportsman. Thank you, John, for being so amicable to an unknown and I hope to see you at future tournaments. The third was John McGrane, a fellow from England, who knocked John Juanda out of the tournament. John McGrane also played while severely short stacked and said that he was just holding on for dear life to get to 36th and the next money level ($274,090 to be exact). We exchanged stories about our new little babies and I continued to encourage him that he could do it. What a great guy! And when it was announced that the 37th player was eliminated, I hugged him and told him, "You did it!" The smile on his face was more than enough to explain the jubilation he was feeling. However, he was not done. Shortly thereafter he would TRIPLE UP when his AQ spiked an Q on the flop and it held up vs John Juanda's 84 vs Connor Tate's TT (Connor was a quiet honorable guy who I had the pleasure of playing with for a couple of days). Now, McGrane was right back in the tournament. Around this time, Nolan Dalla came over with a note from the Boston Herald, requesting an interview later tonight or tomorrow morning. Finally, amidst all of this chaos, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that DooJin had arrived.

When the final player was eliminated at 9:40pm, my chip stack had dwindled to 770K in chips. But who cares? I was ecstatic. I was going to Binion's. Goal #3 -- CHECK! The ESPN cameras came over and asked me for a final sound bite. Begrudgingly, I agreed. I described my three goals, how I had now accomplished them, and how ecstatic I was to be going to Binion's. Finally, I looked into the camera with my family pictures telling my kids that Daddy was not coming home just yet. I had a little more work to do. Next, I went over to John McGrane. I hugged and congratulated him for not only making the next money level ($304,680), but also going to Binion's and the final 27. Then, I jumped over the ropes and celebrated with my college roommate, DooJin. It's announced that we will start tomorrow at 3pm. I can't believe it! I'm going to Binion's tomorrow! I just can't believe it!

As I'm bagging up my chips, my cell phone started to ring non-stop. One of the calls I immediately recognized -- it was my father. We had not spoken all week about the tournament because he and my mother had disapproved of me leaving my wife at home so soon after surgery to go play in a "poker tournament." But, he told me that he had been following me on the internet and was very proud of me. (Sorry folks, this was another misty eyed moment!). To my surprise, he told me that he and my brother, Ken, would be flying out first thing in the morning and would arrive in Vegas around 11:30am. Another call came in from a work colleague, Bob Howe, telling me that he and another colleague, Sasha Papalilo, would be flying in around 10:30am. Finally, one of my local poker game buddies, Charlie Tillett, would be arriving around 10:00am. Wow! This was so cool. Not only am I going to Binion's, but also I'm going to have 6 people cheering me on. As if this wasn't enough, while DooJin and I were walking back to the car, someone ran after me down the hallway. I thought I must have forgotten something at the table. However, it was a teenager asking me for my autograph. "Are you sure? I haven't done anything yet," I told him. "Please. You never know. I think you can win," he replied. As I signed the brim of his cap, I told him I would do my best to make that signature worth something one day.

I called home and my wife answered -- it was 1:15am in Massachusetts and she was awake breastfeeding our baby girl, "You made it. Congratulations! Do you know that several people are coming out to see you?" Yes I do. I can't wait for tomorrow.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker