Event #1 Results
|1. Charlie Brahmi||$338,000|
|2. John Bonetti||173,565|
|3. Mario Esquerra||86,780|
|4. David Goldberg||54,810|
|5. Andrew Davey||41,110|
|Las Vegas, NV|
|6. Ken Flaton||31,975|
|7. Mike Shi||22,840|
|8. Layne Flack||18,270|
|9. John Juanda||14,615|
|10. Vic Kramer||10,960|
|11. John Brody||10,960|
|12. Joe Gualtieri||10,960|
|13. Jennifer Harman||9,135|
|14. Andre Boyer||9,135|
|15. Danny Dang||9,135|
|16. Dave Gorman||7,310|
|17. Sherry Byrd||7,310|
|18. Ernest Ostreicher||7,310|
|19. Jack Lindsay||5,480|
|20. Kevin Lewis||5,480|
|21. Dennis Seagle||5,480|
|22. Shur Martindale||5,480|
|23. Frank O'Dell||5,480|
|24. Al Barbierri||5,480|
|25. John Brummitt Jr.||5,480|
|26. Paul Rowe||5,480|
|27. Mel Silva||5,480|
Though Brahmi has previously attended the World Series, this marks the first time he has actually entered an event. "I'm really a satellite specialist," explained the 46-year-old Atlantic City Boardwalk merchant. "But I've played some smaller tournaments at Foxwoods and in Atlantic City, and I felt I was finally ready for the big show. I played the best I know how, and I'm really tickled to win."
Brahmi arrived for the final showdown as a chip underdog but caught a rush early on, managed to stay out of trouble, and continued to steadily build his stack. By the time play was down to three-handed, he held a substantial lead over both John Bonetti and Mario Esquerra. "I'm going to sweeten you up before I rob you," Brahmi said, as he tossed candy and gum in the middle of the table. He first seized Esquerra's chips when "Super Mario" raised all in before the flop with pocket sevens. Brahmi called from the small blind with K-8 offsuit, and a board of A-K-10/K-A gave him the pot.
Holding a 4-to-1 advantage but needing a little extra incentive, Brahmi spread photos of his children on the table, whereupon Bonetti quipped, "Now you've got the whole family against me." Nevertheless, Bonetti battled furiously for almost an hour before he, like Esquerra, wagered his fate on pocket sevens, raising all in before the flop. Brahmi called with J-9, and when the final board showed J-4-3/8-K, he claimed the pot and his first WSOP title with a pair of jacks.
"I enjoyed myself tonight," said Bonetti, who received $173,565 for his runner-up finish. A 70-year-old poker pro from Houston, Texas, Bonetti has won three WSOP gold bracelets and holds titles from countless other major poker competitions.
For his third-place finish in the limit hold'em event, Esquerra took home $86,780. A 68-year-old real-estate agent from Whittier, California, "Super Mario" has to his credit numerous major titles and most recently captured the Best All-Around Player award at the Seniors V World Championship of Poker.
In only the second poker tournament he has played, David Goldberg of Margate, New Jersey, finished fourth for $54,810. He was eliminated from the competition when he bet it all on J-10 and was challenged by Esquerra, who held K-8 and rivered a king to claim the pot.
Knocked out in fifth place for $41,110 was Andrew Davey, a retired British attorney now living in Las Vegas. He threw his last punch when he called from the big blind with 7-4 against Goldberg, who put in a pre-flop raise with K-4. The flop came Q-Q-4, and after much raising and reraising, the turn brought an eight. When a nine fell on the river, Davey bet all in but was outkicked and went down for the count.
Almost down to the felt, Ken "Skyhawk" Flaton made his final stand when he took K-J up against John Bonetti, who held A-7. The flop came Q-10-8, giving Flaton an open-end straight draw. But he failed to catch and bit the dust in sixth place for $31,975, as Bonetti claimed the pot with ace high.
Cashing seventh for $22,840 was David Shi, who raised before the flop with Ah 4h and was reraised by Charlie Brahmi, who held A-Q. Shi called all in but was forced to exit when the final board showed Q-9-8/A-8.
After losing several big pots in a row, Layne Flack took his last shot when he raised before the flop with K-8 and was reraised by Andrew Davey, who held K-J. Flack called all in, but when the board brought blanks, he was outkicked and had to settle for eighth place and $18,270.
Short-stacked from the outset, John Juanda survived two all-in battles before finally meeting his demise when he called all in before the flop with K-10 against Ken Flaton's K-Q. But when the board brought no help to either player, Juanda fell victim to a higher kicker and was sent home with ninth place and $14,615.
Walking into Binion's Horseshoe on the second day of the 30th Annual World Series of Poker, I felt like I'd wandered into a school reunion. Practically every face in the room seemed familiar, even if I couldn't always immediately put a name with each face. The same surly mugs I'd seen at the Rio Carnivale of Poker, at the LA Poker Open VIII, and to a lesser extent, at Bay 101's Shooting Star tournament.
Forget zillions of no-chance hopefuls coming out of the woodwork for poker's biggest event. The first and second floors of Binion's were full of the roughest, toughest, most experienced poker players in the world, and surely that meant a big name would take down the first event, the $1,500 entry fee Limit Hold 'em tournament.
That judgment, it turned out, to be just about as accurate as Captain Renault's famous "Major Strasser has been shot... round up the usual suspects" line in CASABLANCA. Plenty of usual suspects available, but the key suspect, fortunately for Humphrey Bogart's Rick Blaine and for Atlantic City native Charlie Brahmi, wasn't isolated until it was too late for anyone to do anything about it.
Brahmi emerged from a World Series record field of 609 entrants (so much for rumors of the World Series' demise). This crowded field produced a prize pool of $913,500, a mere $338,000 of which was earmarked for the winner.
When casual observers heard that Brahmi hailed from Atlantic City, most assumed that an East Coast pro had shown those Westerners what poker was all about. But Brahmi's Atlantic City roots predate casino gambling.
"I was a Boardwalk merchant for most of my life," Brahmi explained. "I owned land in Atlantic City long before the casinos got there. Eventually the real estate got so valuable that I didn't have to work anymore, and I didn't want to live life like my dad, who worked as a doctor for so long that when he finally retired he didn't have the energy to enjoy his retirement."
So five years ago, Brahmi sat down with his wife to discuss his options. "What do you want to do?" she asked him.
"I want to play poker," he said. "Every day. And win. I don't want to play and lose. I want to become a good player and win consistently."
Brahmi's wife proved to be more understanding than, well, let's not try to assign a percentage of womanhood who would go along with such a scheme, with financial security already assured by the vicissitudes of the real estate market. "Go ahead," she said. Although most men might assume such an answer would use up all the luck they were due for the rest of their lives, Brahmi went ahead and lived his dream.
For a couple of years, Brahmi's results were mixed, but over the last three years he started winning more and more often. "I looked at myself as a satellite specialist," he explained. "I made about $30,000 last year, just playing satellite tournaments and selling the entries. For quite a while I didn't feel like I was a good enough player to justify entering the bigger tournaments, so I just kept playing satellites."
Alert the media! A solid poker player whose ego was smaller than his wallet! In big time poker this is such a rare combination that in retrospect it seems easy to say Brahmi was destined for a big score.
"Over the last year or so I started thinking maybe I could try the bigger tournaments," he said. "I entered the 7-stud, eight-or-better tournament at Foxwoods and was the chip leader with nine players left; I felt sure I'd make the final table. But I was dealt 2-3-5 of hearts on the same hand another player was dealt rolled-up aces, and when I got the 7 of hearts as my fourth card, I fell in love with the hand (who wouldn't?), and never got there. At $6,000 a bet my chips went away in a hurry, and I didn't make the final table. It was a pretty big disappointment."
With nine players left in his first-ever World Series tournament, Brahmi faced a formidable field. John Bonetti, Super Mario Esquerra, Layne Flack, John Juanda and Ken Flaton were among the final nine, and of these five big names, only Juanda was short on chips; the other four were the chip leaders.
But Brahmi picked up some hands and knew what to do with them. "It seemed like every time I picked up A-K the last two days, an ace or a king hit the flop," Brahmi explained. "I was hitting a lot of flops."
Eventually Brahmi was left to face down Bonetti for the title, and while Brahmi had a big chip lead, he was facing a vastly more experienced player, and a hot player at that: Bonetti had won the Shooting Stars no-limit hold 'em tournament only a week before. Bonetti craftily tried to use some of this experience against Brahmi when he suggested that, to speed things up, they convert the final to a no-limit event. Brahmi had about a 3- 1 chip lead at that point, making him a huge favorite at limit poker but a much smaller one in a no-limit event.
Brahmi declined, as he later declined a Bonetti offer to have one ragged-looking flop decide the whole event. "You like your hand that much?" Bonetti asked. "Tell you what, you like it that much, we'll play this one hand for the bracelet. Just say yes and we'll have this hand decide the tournament. Say yes and we got a bet."
Brahmi mucked his hand and played on, under more conventional rules, although he wasn't beyond a little gamesmanship of his own. Once the two players were heads up, Brahmi took out wallet photos of his three children and placed them on the table, leaning the photos against available chips, glasses and candy bars. When one spectator told Brahmi he thought it was a touching gesture, Brahmi smiled.
"I love my kids, but it wasn't all sentiment," Brahmi explained. "Bonetti is Italian and superstitious. I figured it would give me an edge." Indeed, with a grandfatherly smile, Bonetti protested, "I gotta play the whole family! But they're beautiful kids, god bless 'em."
Although "the whole family" might have helped, eventually Brahmi's chip lead, aggressive style, and uncanny ability to hit flops beat Bonetti into a hard-fought second- place.
Yes, the Usual Suspects were certainly in evidence, but as the 30th World Series kicked off, it was Everyman who came through, a nice guy who realized five years ago it would be nice to take some time to smell the roses. Little did he know those roses would take the form of one of those highly coveted World Series bracelets. No doubt the Usual Suspects will have their turns during the 15 remaining events. Today Charlie Brahmi got to walk off into the sunset, and even for a crowd which clearly held a lot of affection for Bonetti, it was a happy Hollywood ending.