PokerStars qualifiers rake in $6 million at WSOP final table

by the members of Team Blog

When the PokerStars qualifiers rolled into Las Vegas, a little basic math could’ve predicted the presence of one or two qualifiers at the final table. After all, PokerStars sent more than 1,600 people to the biggest poker event in history. By the time the final nine were seated, PokerStars qualifiers made up exactly one third of the field. It was a surreal scene. Unlike the old days at Binion’s, there was room for as many people who wanted to watch the final table.

Team Blog’s Wil Wheaton wrote, in part:

With a few platforms, some bleachers, lots of indirect lighting and creative use of their signature black drapes, ESPN has built a small sound stage, complete with studio audience, in one quadrant of the Amazon room. Where there were a twenty-five tables filled with players as recently as five days ago, there are now platforms filled with spectators and enough security goons and velvet ropes to meet the needs of any Las Vegas night club. Plasma TVs broadcast ESPNs feed — sans audio — for the assembled spectators outside the ropes, while friends, family and pro players alike cheer on their favorite players from within.

Read: The Transformation of the Amazon Ballroom (by Wil Wheaton)

Around the final table were nine guaranteed millionaires.

Seat 1 – Richard Lee – $11,820,000
Seat 2 – Erik Friberg – $9,605,000 ($160 Double Shootout)
Seat 3 – Paul Wasicka – $7,970,000
Seat 4 – Dan Nassif – $2,600,000 ($160 Double Shootout)
Seat 5 – Allen Cunningham – $17,770,000
Seat 6 – Michael Binger – $3,140,000
Seat 7 – Doug Kim – $6,770,000 ($650 satellite)
Seat 8 – Jamie Gold – $26,650,000
Seat 9 – Rhett Butler – $4,815,000

Here’s a recap of our qualifiers’ day on the final table:

Dan Nassif
Qualified: $160 Double Shootout

Dan “danxxx1” Nassif, the 33-year-old advertising sales exec from St Louis, Missouri, had to call his bosses at the Riverfront Times last weekend and ask for a few more days’ vacation so he could finish his run at the WSOP. Despite the fact he was guaranteed $1.5 million, he had no plans to retire early.

He came into the final table short-stacked and only made it through the first few hands. With a relative short stack, AK looked really good and he ended up playing it for all his money. Like many people at the final table, his demise came at the hands of Jamie Gold who flopped a set of deuces and sent Nassif to the rail. Gold was eliminated in ninth place, earning a $1,566,858.

Team Blog’s Mad Harper covered Dan Nassif through his storybook run to the final table and wrote this about Nassif’s exit:

Just half an hour after taking his seat on the final table of the WSOP 2006, PokerStars qualifier Dan “danxxx1” Nassif was knocked out by chip leader Jamie Gold. The 33-year-old advertising sales executive from St Louis, Missouri was the shortest stack at the table with just $2.6 million (a tenth of Jamie’s stack) – so his all-in raise with AK after seeing a flop of 235 was understandable. But Gold had flopped a set of deuces. Dan said: “I should really have pushed all in before the flop but I didn’t want to risk my whole stack for a win of just $400,000. In hindsight, that was an error.”

Dan Nassif, just before busting in 9th place for $1.5 million

I have been watching Dan play – and chatting with him in the breaks – for five days now and I have been deeply impressed by both his rock-solid poker skills as well as charming and down-to-earth character. It’s no surprise to me that, despite winning over $1.5 million, he has no plans to give up his day job at the Riverfront Times. He said: “They have been so great and supportive, letting me take off two weeks to come here and play. They are great people. The Riverfront Times isn’t just a job for me, it’s like family. So no, I’m not leaving. It would be a lack of character on my part to walk away.”

Nor has Dan has any plans to become a poker professional. In fact, he doesn’t even want to play cards for a while and described playing in the World Series as “brutal”. He said: “The experience has been incredible, very exciting – but I don’t know how these guys do it, playing day in, day out, playing from noon to 3am, it’s an absolute grind.”

Dan’s parents John and Noreen, twin brother Peter, sister Amy and step-brothers Matt and Tom all flew in from St Louis yesterday to watch him play and are thrilled he did so well. His father said: “No, I’m not disappointed. He has played so well. I’m really proud.”

Finally, if any of Dan’s friends are reading this back home in St Louis, please note Dan publicly pledged earlier to reimburse any of you who paid for Pay-per-Vew to watch him play today!

Erik Friberg
Qualified: $160 Double Shootout

Erik Friberg, our 23-year-old PokerStars qualifier from Stockholm, Sweden, had the kind of tournament at the World Series that furiously aggressive poker champs tend to have. He began the last day of play second in chips with $5,905,000 and, as he approached the final table, ended up with $9,605,000. It placed him 4th out of the last nine.

When playing against a monster stack and hyper-aggressive, Johnny Chan-coached player like Jamie Gold, sometimes one just has to hope the cookie crumbles one’s way. Today, it didn’t for Erik Friberg. His limp-reraise with jacks seemed to be the best move against Gold. This time, though, Gold held an actual hand. Friberg is, in his words, “Disappointed. I felt I played badly today.” After winning nearly $2 million, Friberg turned on a little Stu Ungar. What will he do with the money? “Gamble it,” he said.

Team Blog’s European correspondent Howard Swains caught up with Erik Friberg following his eighth place elimination:

It is not immediately easy to find sympathy for a man who has just won $1.9 million, but the hundreds at the Rio who just witnessed Erik Friberg’s elimination from the final table of the main event will know that it is indeed possible.

The 23-year-old PokerStars qualifier from Sweden ran his jacks into Jamie Gold’s pocket queens and just gave the kind of press conference that proves once and for all that money is not necessarily the only thing that makes the world go round.

Erik Friberg

“I’m disappointed I didn’t go all the way,” he explained, the anguish plainly etched on to his face. “I had a good time in this tournament. I woke up feeling great this morning but I played poorly today and am really disappointed. The World Series is like Christmas for poker players – and now it’s over.”

The end of Christmas. It is not an analogy many had thought of, but it fits perfectly for the termination of something that promises so much, invariably delivers, but is then over so quickly leaving only faded memories and a year-long countdown until the fun begins once more.

That said, Friberg was probably being unduly harsh on himself in his post-game analysis. The hand that turned out to be last was an example of his thoughtful, cultured play that, this time, did not give the desired result.

“I picked up pocket jacks in early position and just wondered how I could best get my chips in,” he said. Erik limped and Gold, the bullying chip-leader, surprised no one with his raise. “I came over the top,” said Erik. “But he had queens.”

That, of course, is poker and Erik, who intends to re-invest his winnings in the entirely plausible search for even greater success, realises this as well as most. A huge cash game player, both live and online, he will return to the tables even stronger for his World Series experience. Outlasting more than eight and a half thousand players is something that very few can boast.

Sweden, Europe and PokerStars are proud.

Doug Kim
(Qualified: $650 PokerStars satellite)

Doug Kim from Westchester, New York, is a recent graduate of Duke and won his seat in the WSOP Main Event on one of the last satellites available on PokerStars. He started the last day of play 11th in chips at $3.6M in chips, then rode a roller coaster on Day 6. He moved down as low as $2.5M and as high as $7.8M on the final day before the final table. He had an extremely tough table draw down to two tables, with Jamie Gold and Allen Cunningham to his left. He took some hits along the way but finally took some pots from Gold, including a big pot with K-8o on a king high board. He ended at $6.77M, good for 6th chip position.

As deep as the stacks were, it seemed like Kim was in a good spot. However, as the blinds went up and the table got increasingly erratic, Kim picked his spot to get in–pocket nines on an all undercard flop. It was the wrong time. He was up against pocket queens.

Team Blog’s Craig Cunningham covered Doug Kim since Day 1 of the WSOP. He offer this post-script of Kim’s stellar WSOP performance:

Doug Kim desparately wanted to play in the World Series Main Event, spending over $3,000 in a variety of qualifiers on PokerStars for the chance to play in Las Vegas. He finally made it on the last day of qualifying, and he was off to join 8,772 others for a chance at the final table. He hadn’t played in small tournaments at a local casino or in earlier World Series events. This was the first live tournament he’d played in, and he rode a meandering journey through each day to get here. Along the way his friend Jason Strasser was left behind, and Doug was forced to march on alone. His family flew to Las Vegas yesterday, supportive yet concerned that their recently graduated son would turn away from the career path he had chosen He starts work in September, and for most young men it would be easy to take $2.39M and live large for awhile.

Doug Kim

Doug Kim isn’t most young men. He’s kept all of this in perspective as he moved to the Final Table on Tuesday. “For me, poker is an interesting game that I’ve tried to become good at. It hasn’t been my life, but I enjoy playing and learning about the game.” He came into today in good shape with $6.77M in chips, but he quickly ran into a buzzsaw. “I was re-raised three times in the first few hands, and I really had to focus and readjust. It was tough with Jamie Gold on my left, so I knew I had to battle. I could have played to move up in pay levels, but I didn’t get to the final table that way. I played to win, and I feel I played my best today.”

Doug Kim will report to work in a few weeks with an updated resume. Under the Achievements section at the bottom it will read: “Enjoy video games and poker, recently finishing 7th in the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event.”

Doug Kim walking with Chris Bigler after exiting the 2006 WSOP

This has been an exceptionally long six weeks. There have been fantastic vicories and tear-welling defeats. We have made friends. We have found heroes. We have escaped villians. More than anything, we have survived the biggest poker event in history.

PokerStars, as it always seems to do, conducted itself here in a way that can make its players proud. The PokerStars community is one that is more family than it is clubhouse. We on Team Blog have felt the wins and losses along with our players. We, like PokerStars as a whole, want to wish all of our friends and personal heroes both congratulations and thanks. You have made this marthon survivable. You have given us hope. And you have given us a reason to keep loving a game that is sometimes very hard to play and watch.

That’s a long way of saying, thanks for playing for Team PokerStars and congratulations on another successful World Series of Poker.

PokerStars WSOP Main Event Winners


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