The final table convened three winners of WSOP gold bracelets - John Spadavecchia, Mickey Appleman and John Juanda - along with seven other contenders. There were ten players, but only the top nine would be paid. Coming into the final table, the chip counts were as follows:
1. John Juanda - $213,200
2. Nick Schulman - $152,100
3. Chad Moore - $148,900
4. Chris Reslock - $124,000
5. Dan Tolly - $94,400
6. John Spadavecchia - $81,200
7. Daniel Shak - $65,200
8. Julian Studley - $38,800
9. Eric Panayiotou - $33,200
10. Mickey Appleman - $9,000
Mickey Appleman possesses four WSOP gold bracelets. A former social worker, Appleman made his living for over ten years betting on sports, in addition to playing poker. He was profiled in A Alvarez’ classic book, The Biggest Game in Town, which chronicled the 1981 WSOP. With only $9,000 in chips, Appleman came to the final table with his tournament life hanging by a thread. After relinquishing both the big and small blinds to opponent’s raises, Appleman was down to just $3,600 in chips, and was facing a $300 ante on every hand. In Hand #9, Spadavecchia raised under the gun. Appleman, on the button with As 9s, called all-in. The board came Qd-Jd-5d-7c-4s. Spadavecchia held AJ and eliminated Appleman in tenth place.
Daniel Shak, a 46-year-old hedge-fund manager from Bryn Mawr, PA, was next to go. Married with five children, Shak made the final table in an Omaha High-Lo event at the 2005 WSOP, finishing ninth. He also cashed in the in the WSOP main event, where he finished in the top 200. His wife took 8th place in the 2005 Ladies Event at the WSOP. Shak was holding As Qs in Hand #33. When Reslock raised to $7,000, Shak reraised to $22,000. John Juanda reraised to $40,000. Reslock folded and Shak called. When the flop came Ac-Kc-Jc, Juanda bet and Shak called all-in for his last $10,500. Juanda’s pocket kings had flopped a set, and he filled up when the turn an ace. Shak had to settle for ninth place, taking home $27,395.
A few hands later, longtime poker player Julian Studley took a stand. He had fought hard to make the final table, playing a short stack throughout the tournament. He went all-in preflop with pocket eights and was called by Reslock with Ah-4c. Reslock hit a pair of aces on the flop, and the board brought no help to Studley. The Belgian native who now makes his home in New York City, where he owns his own business and pursues many philanthropic activities, received $37,250 for eighth place.
Eric Panayiotou hails from Cyprus, and currently resides in Tom’s River, NJ. Panayiotou, age 48, also owns his own business. He has had many final table appearances, including the WSOP. He, too, took his last stand with pocket eights. Once again, Reslock called with an ace, this time Ad-5h, and once again, Reslock hit a pair of aces on the flop, eliminating Panayiotou in seventh place. Panayiotou received $46,560.
Just three hands later, Dan Tolly faced the ultimate test. An Air Force officer turned airline pilot who was born in Okinawa, Japan and makes his home in Lumberton, NJ, Tolly was holding Jh 10d when the flop came Jc-9s-5h. Tolly checked to John Juanda, who bet $15,000. Tolly raised to $45,000. When Juanda made it $100,000 to go, Tolly called all-in with his pair of jacks. But Juanda also held a jack, and his kicker was
higher - a queen. The turn and river brought two kings, no help to Tolly. His sixth place finish brought him $55,870.
John Spadavecchia was next. The winner of a WSOP event in 1990 and a WSOP Circuit event in 2005, Spadavecchia made the final table in the 1994 world championship. The Florida resident and tournament circuit regular made his move with Ad-7s, going all-in before the flop. Reslock called with Ah-Kc. The board came 5s-4s-2c-5d-Kh, giving Reslock the lock. John Spadavecchia took home $65,185 for fifth place.
Fresh from his win in the main event at Foxwoods’ World Poker Finals last month, 21- year-old Nick Schulman came to the final table with $152,100, just behind chip leader John Juanda. Schulman, who formerly made his living playing pool, demonstrated his poker prowess by making his second final table appearance in three weeks. However, his timing was off when he went all-in on a bluff holding 5d 4s, with nothing but a gutshot straight draw. Reslock, holding Ad 8h, had flopped two pair. When Schulman’s gutshot failed to materialize, he had to settle for fourth place and $74,495.
A onetime poker dealer turned highly successful tournament pro, Chad Moore wants the world to know that he is single. That’s what he told an interviewer just before the final table convened. A few hands after Reslock sent Schulman to the rail, he sent Moore packing as well. Moore went all-in with pocket sevens and Reslock quickly called with pocket jacks. Moore received $102,430 for third place.
In just three hours, Reslock had whittled down the final table to the final two, busting out five players. He faced John Juanda, who had eliminated two others. Reslock and Juanda were just about even in chip stacks when they began what turned out to be an epic battle for the win. Their confrontation lasted seven and a half hours and almost 300 hands.
One of the game’s most respected players, Juanda, 34, was born in Indonesia and now lives in Las Vegas. In the past ten years, this poker superstar has won dozens of major tournaments and millions of dollars in prize money. He holds three WSOP gold bracelets.
After about two hours with little in the way of drama, Juanda took the lead when Reslock, holding 9-7, made two pair on the turn. Juanda, with 6-5, had flopped a pair of sixes and a gutshot draw on a board of 7-6-3. The turn brought the 9, giving Juanda a double belly buster draw and he called Reslock’s $35,000 bet. Another six came on the river, giving Juanda a set. He bet $120,000 and Reslock called. Juanda dragged a $366,000 pot and the chip lead, with $575,000 to Reslock’s $385,000.
Neither player was willing to give an inch. Reslock fought his way back to even, and took the lead. Then Juanda made a comeback, drawing even again in a hand where both players had a straight, but Juanda’s was King-high and Reslock’s only Jack-high.
A key hand in the confrontation occurred when Juanda’s pocket Jacks met up with Reslock’s pocket Aces. After raises from both players, Juanda went all-in before the flop. Both hit sets when the flop came A-J-4. Reslock took a chip lead of nearly 4-1 over his sole remaining opponent, with $754.500 to Juanda’s $205,500. Still, the action went on for almost 50 more hands, as Juanda struggled back to draw even with his rival.
Finally, in hand #295, Reslock raised to $18,000 with Kd 7d. Juanda reraised to $60,000 and Reslock went into the think tank. He finally called, and when the flop came 7c-6d-3d, he came over the top of Juanda’s $65,000 bet, reraising to $200,000 with top pair and a flush draw. After several minutes of contemplation Juanda moved all-in. He was caught holding As-Kh. Although the turn brought both players a King, the river failed to bring Juanda either of his two outs - the non-diamond aces. Juanda’s second place finish earned him $186,240.
Chris Reslock had clinched the victory over tough opposition. He took home $335,235, a gold-and-diamond ring, his first televised tournament win, entry into the 2006 WSOP Tournament of Champions and the respect of his fellow players. While the heads-up confrontation may have seemed like a grind to some spectators, it demonstrated the tenacity and professionalism of both players.