The WSOP Moves To The Rio

Bye bye, Horseshoe. Hello Rio!

The Rio Las Vegas
Rio Hotel and Casino

In 2005, the World Series Of Poker had totally outgrown its old haunt at the Horseshoe, and Harrah's Entertainment, the new owners of both the Horseshoe and the WSOP moved the tournament to its flagship Vegas venue, the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino, where the big tournament is held to this day. Around this time Harrah's was also in the process of taking over Caesar's Entertainment, which then made them the world's largest gaming company, a position which they still remain in today.

As it turned out, it was a good thing that the WSOP moved to a much bigger venue, since the number of entrants to the main event exploded once again, growing from 2576 in 2004 to 5619 in 2005. The amount of preliminary events also expanded significantly that year, from 32 to 45. Johnny Chan won his 10th career bracelet, breaking the tie with Doyle Brunson, and then Doyle turned around a few days later and matched Johnny with his own 10th, in the 35th anniversary since he first sat down at the WSOP in its first year ever in 1970. Doyle's son Todd also took home a bracelet, his first. T.J. Cloutier won his 6th bracelet which was worth a nice sum of $657,100.

Greg Raymer
Greg "The Fossilman" Raymer

First prize in the main event had gone from $2.5 million two years ago, to $5 million last year, to a whopping $7.5 million this year. With this much prize money awarded, and with the huge popularity of poker worldwide by now, winners of the World Championship of Poker instantly became world famous. 2005 was Joe Hachem's turn to take the world stage. The former chiropractor from Australia would go on to hit yet another record breaking jackpot in the world of poker.

Hachem got into poker after a disease affecting his hands forced him to give up his chiropractic practice. So while sitting home out of work and pondering what to do for a new career, he now had more time to pursue his hobby, which was playing poker. He then made a name for himself doing well at local tournaments in Melbourne, Australia. He found, like a lot of players do, that his biggest challenge was controlling his temper, which he worked hard on, and actually became known for his gentlemanly play, something several top pros still need to work on.

He traveled to the WSOP in 2005 with his own money, looking to not only play in the main event but in some of the preliminary tournaments as well. He finished 10th in one of them, netting him $25,850. There were so few Australian players at the WSOP at the time that he said people would make fun of him by calling him things like the Australian Champion. However he was very proud of his home country and one of the things he really wanted to do, aside from going after personal fame and fortune, was to do Australia proud at the WSOP by doing well.

Joe Hachem
Joe Hachem

In reality, there was actually a decent sized contingent of Aussies at the WSOP that year, and as Hachem progressed in the tournament, and was the last Australian standing, they really got behind him and cheered him on. Hachem credits this support as providing him even more inspiration to do well, although not much was needed given the importance of the event and the huge prize money at stake, particularly with making it to the final table. The top 9 were all guaranteed at least a million dollars, for the first time in WSOP history. This year, everything was bigger and better in fact.

"Diamond Joe" never did build that big of a stack during the days leading up to the final table, but he did manage to keep it around average sized, without getting into any real trouble. However, once at the final table, he spent most of the time there short stacked, and at one point it looked like it was probably over for him. He got all in pre-flop with Q7, a pretty questionable move especially considering there were several opponents at the table at this time. His opponent, Aaron Kantner, had a real hand, pocket 9s. So Diamond Joe needed to see a queen hit the board or he was gone. He did manage to get his queen though and double up, to not only stay alive but get a more comfortable amount of chips.

Kantner, who had position on Hachem throughout the final table and had been using it to push him around, finally took a significant hit to his stack. He ended going out in 4th place, earning a nice $2 million for his efforts, but seeing his dreams of even more money and a lot more fame dashed. This was Kantner's first big success in poker though, and in fact the 2 million represents almost all of his career winnings, so it certainly was a big payday for him, and in spite of probably wondering what might have been if Hachem hadn't sucked out on him with only a single over card to his pocket nines, he couldn't have been too disappointed either.

So the 2005 World Championship of Poker then came down to three men: Hachem, fellow amateur player Steve Dannenmann, an accountant and financial advisor, and professional player John "Tex" Barch. All three players were unknown at the time, and one of them was to become world champion. Barch had been playing the tournament circuit for the past couple of years, and had at least some decent success, with 14 cashes up until that point. Dannenmann had been reading Harrington's series on tournament poker at that point, and credit's the books for his doing so well that year.

Final Table 2005 WSOP
Final Table 2005 WSOP

Barch was the first to bow out, finishing third and netting $4.5 million, which alone was enough to put him 13th on the WSOP all time money list. So it then came down to the accountant versus the Aussie for the title. At this point the final table had been running for over 13 hours straight, a WSOP record. The heads up portion didn't take anywhere near that long though, and a mere 6 hands later, it was all over.

They say you need a generous amount of both skill and luck to win a major poker tournament, and Joe Hachem definitely had both going for him this year, especially in the luck department. He was dealt 73 offsuit, Dannenmann raised, and he surprisingly called. This is definitely a hand you want to throw away normally, but who knows, maybe Hachem had a hunch here. When the flop was dealt, it came down a perfect 456, giving Hachem the straight.

Hachem has remarked that he worked hard on controlling his emotions, but to be sitting with the nuts in a hand where all you need to do is get the other man's chips in and you win $7.5 million dollars and the world championship had to be a mind boggling exciting moment, and had to take an unbelievable control of your emotions not to give things away. Hachem did manage to do so though, and in fact delayed his aggression until the turn, giving Steve a chance to catch up perhaps.

That's exactly what happened, as an ace hit the turn, giving Steve top pair and an open ended straight draw. Now the accountant was willing to get his money in, but little did he know that he only had 3 outs and that was only to tie the hand. So both players were all in, and when a blank hit the turn, Hachem received the glory he sought. He wrapped himself in the Australian flag and raked in the $7.5 million dollars and the championship.