WSOP Final Table Wrap

There was a time many, many days ago when these players could not have thrown a football and hit each other across the tournament floor. The vast expanse of tables was too wide, too crowded with the thousands of players, and too full of early-day jitters. But this was a day that began with the desert sun burning at 113 degrees. The sun set and the night became midnight, and the pre-dawn hours beecame morning. During these long hours, there was no distance between the players. They could feel their nervous opponents' breath across just a couple feet of felt.




The 2005 WSOP final table

PokerStars qualifiers numbered 1116 when the event started. By the time we reached the final nine, only two of our qualifiers remained. Brad "bogey54" Kondracki and Daniel "berka" Bergsdorf had fought through more than 5000 other players to become guaranteed millionaires. Though their pockets would surely be full regardless of the outcome, the young men had a bracelet in their sights.

Twenty-four year old Brad Kondracki, a second year law student at Penn, came into the day with the shortest stack, just more than a million in chips. On the very first hand, Kondracki found himself under the gun and moved all in. He only won the blinds and antes, but it set the stage for his performance. He was going to fight for his moment.




Brad Kondracki

It wouldn't be too long before Kondracki had to get his money in again. He raised pre-flop to $450,000. Steve Dannenman pushed all-in. Kondracki thought for a moment before saying, "I have to call." He turned over pocket tens to Dannenmann's AQo. The flop gave Dannenmann his queen, but the QJ4 flop was all spades. A deuce of hearts on the turn was no help. Kondracki stood, a bundle of nerves, staring at the felt. Then the dealer peeled off the river card and laid it down. It was the seven of spades, just enough to double Kondracki up and push him to $2.6 million.



Kondracki celebrates after hitting on the the river


As Kondracki fought against the advancing blinds, Mike Matusow suffered two very unfortunate beats and was eliminated in ninth place. Though it advanced Kondracki in the money, it didn't help his stack. He had to keep fighting from behind. Finally, Kondracki moved in pre-flop with AQ and Irishman Andy Black called in the big blind with a pair of eights. This time, the board would offer no help to the young man. After earning his trip here with a simple $160 double shoot-out, Kondracki walked away in eighth place and $1,150,000.



Kondracki holds his earnings


Kondracki fields reporters questions

Team Blog's roving correspondent, Mad Harper, went out on her last assignment and brought back Kondracki's final moments at the WSOP news conference.

Only at the World Series of Poker can someone show disappointment after being given a check for $1,150,000 but at the press conference held just after he busted out in 8th place, Brad Kondracki admitted he was slightly let down. "Well, I am feeling disappointed now, but I'll be feeling pretty good in an hour's time. I don't think I could have played my chips any differently. I did what I could."

A whole load of Brad's college friends, who flew in to Vegas today to catch his final table performance, were at the media conference whooping and cheering - especially when Brad was asked how he felt about being the best-looking guy at the final table.

There were more laughs when Brad sheepishly confessed he hasn't actually played any live tournaments bigger than a $10 buy-in before qualifying on PokerStars.com for the WSOP. He said: "It's been kind of surreal being here. I was thinking this morning about how many breaks I've had to have just to get this far. But I also know now that I can get up there and hold my own."

"How do your parents feel about how you've done?", asked a journalist. Brad's dad Tony, standing beside his son, said he was thrilled. But Brad cut in quickly "They weren't so happy when I told them last year that I was taking a year off from law school to play poker."




Brad talks to Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth after the game

Audio Blogger James Haritgan got a chance to talk to Kondracki after it was all over. Right click here and save to your hard drive to listen to Kondracki's last words.

Kondracki's departure left PokerStars hopes on the shoulders of the 27-year-old truck driver from Umea Sweden, Daniel Bergsdorf.



Daniel Bergsdorf

After living the life of a card rack Thursday (he caught aces twice and kings once in the period of just a few minutes), Bergsdorf seemed to go card dead on Friday. He played very few hands past the flop and eventually found himself needing to make a move. He chose the right spot.



Bergsdorf eyes his table

Joe Hachem made it $360,000 to go from the button on Daniel's big blind. Tex Barch, in the small blind, raised to $2,000,000 and Daniel moved all in. Daniel had jacks and Tex had tens. The flop brought a queen and ten. The turn was a eight. Daniel needed a nine or jack to win the pot. It didn't come. Daniel left in seventh place for $1,300,000. Right click here and save to your hard drive to listen to Bergsdorf's final interview.



Bergsdorf with his winning


Bergsdorf puts his name on the final table felt

And with that, PokerStars hopes of bringing home a third straight bracelet left the room. It would take almost another ten hours to finally find a winner. In the end, Aussie Joe Hachem won the biggest event in poker history.

Looking back, it has been a long, but satisfying World Series of Poker. The sleepless nights, high anxiety, and bad beats were hard to take. But the victories were heartening and made it all worthwhile. In the main event alone, PokerStars qualifiers cashed for $7,368,940. That, my friends, is not so bad.

It is now time to get home for a while. We here at Team Blog thank everyone for the kind e-mails, suggestions, and support we've received over the past several weeks. We were quite surprised to see not just tens, but hundreds of thousands of visits to this little poker portal. Please feel free to e-mail at the address on the right to let us know if you liked what we've done.



Thanks from Team Blog

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker