The Big Dance with Dogger9 (Part 9)

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
Part 8--Stepping into history (first half)
Part 8--Stepping into history (second half half)

Part 9--You can go home again
by Bernard Lee

Day 9: Friday, July 15th
I rolled over in bed. The clock read 10:09am. I had slept well for nine hours, my longest sleep of the week. I awoke with a sense of calmness that I had not felt for days. But, I missed the tension, anxiety and anticipation that had driven me forward all week.

This morning, my cell phone had over a dozen messages from family and friends congratulating me on my run at the 2005 WSOP. Also, the Boston Globe and Boston Herald wanted final reaction interviews. They asked me about yesterday's action, my "entourage," my last hand, my plans for the prize the money and how I was returning home.

Over the course of the day, I either saw or spoke to all my buddies that had flown in yesterday. Charlie had to leave early in the morning. Before he left, he told me, "I've been a spectator at the last two Super Bowls and this was just as, if not more, exciting. It was like standing on the sidelines with one of your good friends playing the in game. This was incredible. I wouldn't have missed it for the world." DooJin left in the early afternoon. Bob and Sasha had a red-eye flight later that night. They planned to enjoy more of Vegas and I would see them back at the office. My dad, brother and I would meet up later in the afternoon so they could come with me to collect my winnings and then enjoy a celebratory dinner.

For lunch, I had an appointment with Rich Korbin, Director of Marketing for PokerStars. During our meal, I happened to see Joe Hachem and his entourage. I gave him a handshake and hug, "Joe, good luck, today. I hope everything goes well. Win this, my friend."

"Thanks mate. But, I may need some of your good thoughts and prayers, Bernie."

"You got them, Joe. Good Luck! Go get 'em." I sat back down with Rich. As we continued our conversation, he asked if I would be interested in writing a blog (this one that you are reading) for PokerStars. I was honored and accepted immediately.

After lunch, I picked up my father and brother and we drove down Flamingo Road to the Rio to secure my winnings. Walking in to the casino, they flanked me like bodyguards. At the cage, the cashier told me I had a choice of cash, check or wire transfer. I chose to wire the money into my account at home. I pictured myself being rather paranoid and worried if I had to carry a $400,000 check all the way home (can you imagine me with a briefcase of cash?).

After signing all the paperwork, we went back to the hotel and watched the replay of the 2nd round of the British Open. It was Jack Nicklaus' farewell at St. Andrews. And I thought last night was emotional. This was the first time I had relaxed and watched TV in over a week. While we watched Jack stride over the bridge on the 18th for the final time, I made reservations at an upscale Italian restaurant for 7:00pm. I also got caught up reading the PokerStars blog for the recap of yesterday's events. I got slightly choked up reading Brad "Otis" Willis' comments about my elimination.

During dinner, my father, brother, and I discussed whether we would go to see the final table action. Although I was disappointed that I had not made the final table myself, I was still first and foremost a big fan of poker. The day would be a historic one, the last day that WSOP played at the world-famous Binion's. We decided to go.

When we arrived, the players were on dinner break. Before play resumed, I sought out Brad and thanked him for his kind words in yesterday's PokerStars blog recap. At this point, only seven players were left, and unfortunately, one of the two remaining PokerStars players, Brad Kondracki, had already been eliminated in 8th place. Shortly after play resumed, Daniel Bergsdorf, the final PokerStars hope exited in 7th place. Congratulations to both Daniel and Brad for an excellent tournament. The action was slow to develop since the remaining players played cautiously -- who could blame them with $7.5 million at stake. While we took in the action, I was glad to have had the chance to say good-bye to many of the staff members at Harrah's and the WSOP team (Johnny, Jack, Nolan, Beverly, Sara, Greg, Guppy). Thanks for all your help. See you next year.

At about 1:00am, we left Binion's after that level was completed since I had an early flight in the morning. There were still five players remaining. Good luck to all. My father, brother, and I chatted for a little bit in my room, and then I finished packing and said good night. Have a safe flight. I'll see you again when I get back home.

Day 10: Saturday, July 16th
I drove away from the hotel early in the morning to catch my 6:30am flight back to Boston. The dream week was ending. I was returning to real life. I assumed that I would slip back quickly to my previous world of anonymity. That morning, I happened to wear a PokerStars polo shirt since I had run out of regular clean clothes (I had only packed clothes for 6 days). I quickly realized that the internet and PokerStars had made me recognizable even outside the poker world when the hotel receptionist and airline ticket agent knew my face. A couple of people asked me how I did. One woman even told me how sad she was when I was eliminated. I was truly humbled that people I had never met before were rooting for me.

In the airport, I observed a mother with her 2-year-old son (the same age as my son Noah). The little boy asked where his Daddy was. My eyes welled up. I couldn't wait to see my son and daughter to give them a real kiss instead of just one on their pictures. Emotionally and physically exhausted, I immediately fell asleep on the plane. I woke upon arrival in Boston. I turned on my cell phone to tell Katie I had landed and suddenly received a call from an unknown number: "Bernard, have you just landed? This is the Boston Herald. We are here to take a few pictures of your arrival back home." They took pictures of my wife, son, daughter, and me at the baggage claim. Another new experience, to say the least.

When I landed in Boston, I learned that Joe Hachem had won. I can't be happier for him! We played for two days on the same table and he is a truly great guy. Sometimes nice guys do finish first! Many may say I'm Monday morning (or really Saturday afternoon) quarterbacking because he's the champ, but Joe knows the truth. Additionally, I believe that his win will be great for the game of poker. It should significantly increase the fan base in the land Down Under. What a great new ambassador for poker. Congratulations, Joe! Don't forget us little people now that you are the World Champion. (I spoke with him a few days later and he was the same guy that I played with, sincere and humble.) Hope to see you again soon.

Eleven days ago, I had flown out of Boston as an "unknown." In Las Vegas, I made a tiny ripple in the poker world. Now, I have come home to the open arms of my family. My unbelievable week was over.

Please indulge me as I have to thank a few people (I'll try my best to make it brief and not like the Academy Awards). First and foremost, I want to thank my family and friends for all their support. Without everyone calling me and encouraging me, I don't know how I would have made it through the week. Special thanks to: Mark -- next year, baby; DooJin -- thanks for being my brain/on-site manager the last few days; Dad and Ken -- thanks for coming, it meant more to me than you know; Dave and Max -- thanks for the steady coaching and analysis all week long. Most importantly, without one incredibly wise and patient woman, I would not have even left for this event. Occasionally, she kiddingly reminds me, "You are so lucky to have married me." Katie, I cannot agree more. I love you very much. Thank you for letting me follow my dreams. Additionally, my wife has faithfully and painstakingly edited every paragraph of this blog. All of the eloquent, descriptive imagery and sophisticated words are hers (ha, ha, that is me editing again-- Katie). And, lastly, my kids. Noah and Maya, I am sorry I was away so long. But, Daddy is home and will hopefully make up for lost time. I love you both.

I want to thank ESPN (especially Matt M., Norm C., Adam and Steve R.) for befriending a regular guy and granting me the chance to tell my story. Also, thank you to the entire Foxwoods poker staff (especially Kathy R., Mike, Glenn, Lenny and Brian S.) who have all always treated me with kindness and respect. Without Foxwoods, I would not have had so many opportunities to practice and hone my ability playing live.

Finally, I want to send my sincere thanks to PokerStars, not only for the opportunity to play at the 2005 WSOP Main Event, but also for allowing me to share my experiences here on this blog with countless other poker aficionados. Thank you also to these individuals at PokerStars -- Dan, Rich, Brad, Courtney, Lee, Mad, Kristin. You all are truly the best.

I hope you enjoyed the week as much as I did. As determined as I was to "get out of each day," I am equally determined not to be "just a flash in the pan." I hope to see you at a tournament some time soon. Until next time, this is Bernard "Dogger9" Lee signing off from PokerStars -- Where Poker Players Become World Champions.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker