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Best of Andrew N.S. Glazer

Gaming Guru

 

The Tournament of Champions, Day Three: The King of Kings

5 September 1999

Percy Shelley's Ozymandias was supposed to be the King of Kings, although the fame and works of the mighty Ozymandias were forgotten in Shelley's poem. Last night, David Chiu replaced poetic fable with memorable reality.

The modest, soft-spoken Southern Californian won poker's inaugural Tournament of Champions with a virtuoso no-limit hold 'em performance that left the SRO gallery breathless, a too-good-to-be-true finish for a too-good-to-be-true tournament.

Jeff Shulman and I had been exchanging superlatives as we tried to grasp the magnitude of what we were watching. "He's like Heifetz, playing that big stack of chips like a Stradivarius," I said. "He's like a Jedi Knight," Jeff replied, and I instantly agreed, stunned only by the fact that someone else had employed a Star Wars analogy before I had.

"You're 100% right," I told him. "It's like he's using the Force to see into his opponents' minds, and using that huge stack of chips to crush the breath out of his opponents, just like Darth Vader did in the first Star Wars movie." Because Chiu was certainly doing just that: not letting his shorter-stacked opponents breathe.

Except it's pretty hard to cast the likeable Chiu in the Darth Vader role. He's more of a young Obi-Wan Kenobe.

I'll back up, in a moment, and discuss the Path that Chiu took in reaching the final table. But any discussion of Chiu's performance has to start with his two "King of Kings" hands, the two moments that no one in attendance will ever forget, the two moments which made Chiu the ultimate champion from a field of 664 champions, the King of his fellow Kings.

In the first, Chiu held the chip lead, at about 1.3 million. Six players remained, and the blinds were $10,000 and $20,000. Chiu raised $75,000 from the button. Louis Asmo sat in the small blind, and after only the briefest of hesitation, moved his $600,000-plus all-in.

Doyle Brunson tossed his big blind hand into the muck, and Chiu summoned the Force, as well as some careful analysis of Asmo's style. After thinking for about a minute, Chiu picked up his cards, face-down, and tapped them on the table, as if saying "I salute your good hand," indicated he was folding, and then turned his cards face-up for Asmo and the crowd to see. Chiu had laid down pocket kings!

Asmo nodded with respect, and turned his own hand over. Pocket Aces! Chiu had read the moment and the man perfectly. The magnificent laydown had the crowd buzzing for minutes.

"We have a saying in poker," Chiu said afterwards. "The second-best hand doesn't win the pot. If I lose that hand, maybe I finish sixth. He's a conservative player, and he didn't hesitate very long pushing all that money in when he knows I probably have a hand."

The players went on break shortly thereafter, and I ran into Asmo in the hallway. "He read me perfectly," Asmo said. "I overbet the pot, trying to make him think I was on AK, so he would come after me. How often do you get a chance to get the chip leader call $600,000? But he figured it out. I showed my hand because he deserved to have it shown. His play was so good, he deserved to see he was right."

"And it was good for poker," I told him. "You helped create a moment no one will ever forget. If your hand goes in the muck, we're all just left wondering." Asmo nodded, and moved off to figure out how he could handle Chiu's growing dominance.

Forty-five minutes later, Chiu completed the other half of the pair of plays that will be forever linked.

Again on the button, Chiu had called a $40,000 pre-flop raise from Lynn Bauer. With $57,000 in blinds and antes already in the pot, Chiu and Bauer each saw $137,000 for the taking when the flop came 4h-2d-2h. Check-check. The 10c hit on the turn, check-check. On the river, the 8h hit, a flush if anyone had been on a flush draw. Bauer bet $100,000. Chiu looked him over briefly, shrugged, and called the bet.

"Queen-high," Bauer announced in a resigned tone. Chiu turned over Kc-7c. King-high! The man who had laid down pocket kings had just won by calling $100,000 with King-high! The crowd buzzed again.

"It was 100% he didn't have an ace or a flush," Chiu later explained. "He's gonna try me early on a flush draw. He can't be betting a King thinking it's the best hand. So he either has a big hand, or this is a pure bluff. I put him on Q-J."

The play evoked memories of Erik Seidel's brilliant no-pair call at the '99 World Series final table, the call John Bonetti had described on the Internet broadcast as "the greatest call in the history of the World Series of Poker." Meanwhile, Chiu's opponents were growing uneasy. What do you do about a chip leader who is so zoned in he knows when to throw away pocket kings and when to call with king-high?

Not much, it turned out. Indeed, the other mighty players were reduced to looking upon the modern Ozymandias' works, and despairing. So let's back up a bit, and review the plays that set the stage for Chiu's coronation.

When play began at 12:30 p.m., the three final tables each sat under the glare of cameras and assembled spectators. Just as with every other detail in the Tournament of Champions, Mike Sexton had created a high-class, professional environment. Multiple television cameras, including a highly mobile crane which provided magnificent big-screen pictures for the gallery (World Series, please take note), covered every angle.

The scene was so professional, in fact, that it made the print media's job more difficult, because I wasn't able to wander from table to table the way I usually can in these events. So I made a decision to follow Doyle Brunson, whose $161,400 started at Table 3, seat 9, along with Lynn Bauer ($184,600), An Tran ($95,200), Randall Skaggs ($222,700), Paul Kormelly ($135,600), Doug Saab ($55,900), Claude Cohen ($7,600), Bill Pollitt ($114,900), and the chips of "Toto" Leonidis (who was hospitalized the night before, and so his $67,800 was blinded off).

Play commenced with $200 antes and blinds of $1,500 and $3,000. Doyle took control of the table almost immediately. On the first contested hand, Kormelly bet $6,000 into a 3s-9c-5c flop, and Doyle said "raise it," and made it 25k to go. Kormelly called, the Qh came off on the turn, Kormelly checked, Doyle bet 50k, end of story.

A couple hands later, Doyle was checked to on an A-Q-3 flop, he put in a little 15k bet, and wasn't called. Memories of him describing people saying "Take it, Doyle," in his all-time classic Supersystem start drifting through my mind.

A short time later, 81-year-old Bill Pollitt, of Lansing, Michigan, wandered into trouble. Pollitt had been at my original table, 46, and was the only member of that group to reach the money. Although Puggy Pearson beat me in a number of pots, including my final one, Pollitt had been the one to do the heaviest damage, cracking my pocket Aces with A-5 offsuit. So at least some of my chips had reached the money, even if I hadn't.

Pollitt must have had something against Card Player writers, because he also proved to be one of the main torturers of both Phil Hellmuth and Linda Johnson. When the limits got big, he knocked off Phil twice with one undercard in the space of about five minutes, leaving Phil with 23k instead of about three times that much. Once in the money, seated to Linda Johnson's left, he swiped most of her chips with fearless calls and late arriving cards.

Pollitt now faced off against Doug Saab, who had limped in for 3k under the gun. Pollitt raised to 10k, and Saab called. The flop came J-5-3, Saab checked, Pollitt bet 10k, and Saab instantly shoved all-in, a bet of about 84k. Pollitt called instantly with the same hand that had defeated me, A-5, Saab turned over pocket eights, and when no miracles saved him, Pollitt had 10k left.

Ironically on the very next hand, Pollitt drew K-K, found himself up against 10-10, and got it all in before the flop, where a king hit the board. He was probably wishing he hadn't been so adventurous with A-5. I sure wished he hadn't been.

Doyle then won two more big pots on the turn. Four times already he has won big pots without having to show a card. Memories of Doyle's comment in his all-time classic Supersystem, "If I had position on average players, I could beat them all night without looking at my cards, if they didn't know I wasn't looking at them," start drifting through my mind.

We lost Pollitt a few minutes later when Kormelly raised 6k from the big blind, after Pollitt had flat called 3k in early position. Pollitt popped Kormelly back for all the rest of his chips, about 25k, and Kormelly practically beat him into the pot with K-K. Pollitt showed A-J and went out 24th.

Gene James walks over with a sad story from Table 3. He had pocket aces, raised 40k before the flop, and got called by David Chiu, who held Q-J. The flop came 8-9-10, Chiu went all-in, and James called with his Aces. Chiu is acquiring some serious ammunition.

Doyle then put on another clinic. He made it 13k to go from middle position, and Randy Skaggs called from the small blind. The flop came 10-9-2, check-check. Doyle bet 10k when another 10 hit on the turn and Skaggs called. On the river (a six), Skaggs bet out 30k, and Doyle called like a shot—no hesitation whatsoever. Skaggs turned over K-Q, and Doyle showed A-J! A brilliant no-pair call, with raggedly little small-blind-loving cards all over the board. There must be something to this skill I keep hearing about, reading players. And all this time I thought I was just supposed to concentrate on my own cards.

Over on the other side of the room, I hear that Claude Stephanescu has gone all-in with pocket sevens, and been called by David Chiu with Q-Q. The drama ends quickly with a K-Q-10 flop, Claude is 21st, and Chiu is now the chip leader. Much the same event plays out at the middle table shortly thereafter when New Zealand's Martin Comer shoves it in with Q-Q against Men "the Master" Nguyen, who holds K-K and flops A-K-9.

We lose players 18 and 19 on the last hand before the break, and since it was the same hand, even though Allen Cunningham and An Tran were playing at different tables, they thus split the $10,000 for 18th and $7,000 for 19th. After the break, we have 17 players at two tables, $500 antes, and blinds of 3k-6k.

I'm still following Doyle, but all the post break play centers on Men the Master, who gets involved in perhaps six of the first twelve pots and dominates action the entire hour. Win some, lose some, Men is drinking a Corona beer and playing to the spectators with comments about the bets he is making, clearly enjoying the limelight and the action, and while some of his plays haven't worked out, he has added to his stack during this flamboyant assault.

The antes move to $1,000, and the blinds to 5k and 10k; Men has another Corona and chips, except he won't be eating these chips; they'd belonged to Skaggs, who moved his whole stack in pre-flop. "How much?" Men asked. "About 70," came the reply, and the dealer began to count. "You don't have to count, I believe him," Men said, and with that statement I was sure Men had a monster hand. Sure enough, Men calls, A-J for Randy, K-K for Men, and with the blinds and antes, Men has quickly added 100k to his stack.

Sixteen players remain, five of whom are Europeans. Men offers to bet that the winner will be an American. Doyle says, "Five Europeans, ten Americans, and one Texan." Mike Sexton promises to have the Texas flag available for the TOC 2000.

Barbara Enright, just in front of an approaching 10k blind, goes all in for her last 13k. The button and both blinds call and all employ the "check her to the river strategy," in an effort to maximize chances of ousting her, but they don't have much ammunition, it turns out: 4-6, 7-2 (suited, at least), and 7-7. Barbara has J-6 offsuit, and when a Jack hits the board, she has quadrupled up. She's still a short stack, but is hanging in, and has another prize to shoot for: Russ Hamilton has donated a $1,000 pair of diamond earrings to the woman who lasts longest.

Barbara wins the earrings moments later, when Las Vegan Nancy Nevitt shoves her last few chips in with Ad-8d, gets called by K-J, and sees both a king and a jack flop.

We lose Germany's Claus Schumacher next, when he moves his last 100k all-in from middle position pre-flop. Doyle calls him quickly, Q-Q for Claus, A-A for Doyle. Claus actually picks up a diamond draw on the turn, but neither a diamond nor a Queen arrive on the river, and Claus is 14th.

"That's why I love no-limit," whispers Phil Hellmuth. "All those tiny stacks and you're just in control of them all."

Louis Asmo takes out Hans Pfister's all-in move with A-Q suited, and we have a dozen left. "Three more places and we get a new car," Barbara says. And indeed, all nine finalists will receive a new vehicle: a Mercury Sable for finishers 6 through 9, a Mercury Marquis for finishers 2 through 5, and a Lincoln Town Car for first.

Richard Santos falls next. He has been quiet and conservative, waiting for a hand, but the cards have not cooperated. Finally he makes a move, shoving all-in with A-9, but Doyle has Q-Q, and no miracle ace saves him.

Men orders another Corona. The antes move to $1,500, and the blinds to 8k-16k. It's getting pretty expensive to sit on the sidelines for a round. Enright, realizing this, goes all-in for her last $29,500, which is only 13.5k more than J.P. Massar's big blind. He hesitates a long while and finally calls; given Barbara's obvious desperation, we assume he's calling with something pretty raggy. Barbara turns over Kh-9h, but Massar, sporting a woman's hat, complete with a big red flower (a friend had lent it to him for luck and he immediately started winning; he wasn't going to remove it now), turns over K-J off. Barbara sighs, dead to a nine or hearts, and neither materialize. When Lee Munzer asks about the long hesitation during the break, Massar tells him that he "just spaced" momentarily.

Barbara Enright's departure will prove to be a dramatic turning point in this tournament, not so much because one of poker's great ladies is gone, but because the timing of her exit means the player who must come over from Table 1 to fill her place is David Chiu. Table 2 has traded a short-stacked player for the chip leader, and while most have played with Chiu before, they haven't seen him up close and personal the last few hours.

They will wind up wishing they never had never seen him, period.

Even without that foreknowledge, the three best players left in the tournament—Chiu, Brunson, and Men—are all at the same table. With ten players left, we're hand-for-hand for the right to come back to the final table, a new car, and a shot at poker's flashiest new jewel.

Men decides to take on Chiu first. He raises 35k from the button, and Chiu raises back 100k more. Men folds. A few hands later, Men calls from the small blind, Chiu raises 35k from the big blind, Men re-raises 100k more, and Chiu, after a brief hesitation, raises that bet another 200k. Men considers, and folds. I note that Doyle has been studying both players very carefully during this exchange.

The studying doesn't help.

With Men now backed off, it's Doyle's turn. After a flop of 6h-5s-3h, Chiu bets 80k and Doyle calls. The 2h hits on the turn, completing all kinds of possible straight and flush draws. Chiu moves all-in, and Doyle folds. Chiu shows his hand: pocket aces, a strong hand to be sure, but a nerves-of-steel all-in hand against the master of no-limit small suited connectors. Chiu has eaten off large chunks of both Men's and Doyle's stacks, and neither of them can be happy about Fate's choice of their new seatmate.

The final table is set shortly thereafter, when Guy Sitbon, whose stack has been eroded by the large blinds, can't survive an all-in blind. The final table and chip positions are set:

Seat 1, David Chiu, $885,500
Seat 2, J.P. Massar, $170,500
Seat 3, Louis Asmo, $450,000
Seat 4, Doyle Brunson, $480,000
Seat 5, Michel Bittan, $84,500
Seat 6, Lynn Bauer, $320,000
Seat 7, Doug Saab, $441,000
Seat 8, Jan Boubli, $218,000
Seat 9, Men Nguyen, $275,000

Although the final is slated to begin at 8:30, the action is delayed a bit by a wonderful series of ceremonies. The players are introduced one by one, much as at the World Series final table. Each finds a gift box of TOC champagne glasses awaiting him. The French team is honored for its impressive showing of seven players (out of only 12 starters) in the final 45. Various poker celebrities and icons are acknowledged.

It's a poker love-fest, a poker "feel good" night. Mike Sexton and his partner Chuck Humphrey have grabbed poker by its bootstraps and pulled it up to a new level. This ceremony, as well as the incredible play which was to follow, and the expert color commentary provided by Amarillo Slim Preston and Phil Hellmuth, should make an official 1999 TOC video a "must have" item for poker players.

But enough about ceremonies. There's a King to be crowned, a new star to be born.

Men wins the draw for the button. On the very first hand, Bauer makes it 32k to go from middle position, and Massar goes all-in for the rest of his $170,500 from the small blind. Bauer calls without much hesitation, which can't have made J.P. feel very good, and sure enough, he turns over K-K. J.P. can only show Ac-8c. The flop is pretty favorable, with two clubs; Bauer is going to have to survive 12 outs twice, and suddenly HE can't feel very good. But no more clubs or aces arrive, and in one hand Massar is out.

With the crowd just having barely had time to catch its collective breath, another big hand develops. Bittan, who became a big favorite here with his easygoing nature, friendly smile, and donation of a $5,000 prize to the player who made the first royal flush, shoves his smallish stack in. With antes of $1,000 and 8k-16k blinds, it will cost $32,000 to play a single 8-player round, and Bittan has less than 80k. Men Nguyen, understanding Bittan's desperation, calls the all-in bet with Q-J. Michel turns over K-Q; Men is dead to a Jack or a fluky straight. But the flop comes Q-J-rag, a rag on the turn, and a final Jack on the river to add insult to injury, and the likeable Bittan is gone.

Two players out in five hands. Maybe this will be a quick love-fest after all… but no, play settles down to a more conventional pattern of bet-fold. Some chips change hands, a few pots are contest for more than the blinds, but no one gets hurt, for a while. The antes move up to $1,500

Staring at a flop of 2h-5d-7d, Doug Saab bets 40k, only to see Chiu raise another 80k. Saab flat calls the raise. The 6c hits on the turn, Saab checks, and Chiu moves some chips: 200k worth. Saab thinks a long time, and folds. The rich get richer.

Men enters a brief stage of trickiness that doesn't pay off (at least in the short run; far be it from me to judge the possible long term effects of the plays). He flops two pair from the blind with K-6, but checks them to the river, and can't get paid off even on his little 20k bet there. Shortly thereafter, Men holds pocket tens and flops a set against Asmo with 10-J-Q. He checks on the flop and again on the turn, where a rag hits. On the river, an Ace hits, and Asmo makes a small bet. Men calls in disgust, and sure enough, Asmo, who'd entered via the blind, turns over a king with a bad kicker. Men had the right idea in wanting Asmo, who never would have called any bet until the river, to catch up, but Asmo caught up a little too well.

Men stays in the middle of the action. Doyle enters a hand from mid-position for 50k, and Men, in the small blind, thinks briefly, and then announces with a flourish and a raised beer, "all-in!"

"I didn't see you had your beer when I bet," Doyle drawls.

"Corona!" Men exclaims. Doyle asks for a count. While the dealer ascertains that Men has bet 359k, Men keeps working the room. "Corona!" he shouts. "Maybe Corona make me brave!"

Mike Sexton notes from the podium that Men appears to be seeking corporate sponsorship of his own. Doyle, who has not been drinking any courage-inducing beverages, decides to fold.

It was at this point that Jedi Knight Chiu made the amazing laydown of K-K vs. A-A. The electricity level in the room went up and stayed up, as did Chiu's chip count. Shortly thereafter, Boubli, whose stack has been dwindling courtesy of the blinds and antes, takes a stand after Chiu opens for 65k. Boubli called for his last 45k with 9-7 off, against Chiu's A-J, and the A-2-2 flop removed both the drama and the final Frenchman. The table is beginning to creak from the weight of Chiu's chips.

Doyle, who well understands that he can't afford to fall too much further behind Chiu's lead, makes an aggressive all-in move with pocket nines. Lynn Bauer calls with his last 300k fairly quickly and shows Ah-Kh. The flop comes 2c-4h-2h and the room buzzes. Bauer can win with 3 aces, 3 kings, or 10 hearts (one heart is in Doyle's hand). The 8h arrives immediately, and even though several spectators shout "Nine!" as the river card falls, it is instead the 10s. Lynn has doubled through, and hurt Doyle badly, as the next break arrives.

Just in case the short stacks had nothing to worry about, the antes now climb to 2k and the blinds to 15k-30k. Hey, now this is a game I know, 15-30. It's just that I'm used to $15-$30, not $15,000-$30,000. It will cost $57,000 a round to watch, until we lose someone. And even though losing someone reduces the "per round" cost to a mere $55,000, the blinds come around that much faster. Buckle up.

In the first hand after the break, Asmo, one spot off the button, raises it to 80k. Saab moves all-in from the big blind, and Asmo mucks. "Make a decision to get more aggressive against ME during the break, I'll show you," the raise seems to say.

Men makes a move of his own, an 80k raise from the button, but Chiu, using his Jedi Master powers to crush the breath from Men the Master, moves all-in (admittedly he did not use the Force to move his chips forward; he just announced it). Men counts his chips, sees he will have 220k remaining if he folds, and does just that.

Doyle realizes he needs some chips and takes a shot at the $51,000 in dead money by moving his stack all-in. Two or three such successful moves and he will have some chips to play with. Men, perhaps thrilled to be in a pot with anyone other than Chiu, asks, "how much you got, Doyle?" It looks to be about 300k. Men takes a big pile of his $5,000 chips and slams it into the middle of the table. "I CALL!" he shouts.

Doyle turns up Qh-10h, and Men's hope that Doyle was pushing a small pair is gone. Men turns over pocket nines, a microscopic favorite, mostly by the margin of his nines getting in the way of some of Doyle's straights. Probably not what he was hoping for, but at least better than seeing Doyle turn over 10-10.

The flop removed the drama quickly: 2-Q-6. An eight hit on the turn and a king on the river, and the crowd buzzed again: Doyle is back! Men is crippled! Can "Texas Dolly" come back against the seemingly unstoppable Chiu?

Men shoves his remaining 63.5k in two hands later, and Asmo with 30k already in for his big blind, tries to oblige the table by calling the other 33.5k with a weak hand, 10h-4h. Men has Ah-Kd. The flop of A-A-J ended most of the suspense and another Jack on the turn completely ended it. Men was still hanging, barely.

Two of the quieter members of the final six then mixed it up. Bauer made it 60k to go, Saab moved all-in, and Bauer called quickly. 10-10 for Saab, Q-Q for Bauer, and the flop, like so many others, immediately ended the little remaining suspense with a queen. Saab is out.

Men has received a free step up the ladder, but he's still thinking about climbing all the way to the top. He moves all-in on the next hand, gets no callers, and shows 2-2. "Ready to gamble now," he exclaims. "Get me another Corona!"

While the liquid is sent for, Chiu makes it 80k to go, under the gun. The recently-enriched Bauer raises back 160k more. Men dumps his big blind hand, and Chiu calls. The flop comes 2d-Jd-4s, Bauer checks, and Chiu bets 350k in an attempt to claim this half million dollar pot. Bauer mucks his hand, no doubt scared by the implications of the big pre-flop smooth call. Easy come, easy go.

It was at this point that Chiu made the second of his immortal plays, the call-down for 100k with king-high. It sounded like a chant going around the room. "He lays down kings, he calls with king-high! He lays down kings, he calls with king-high! He lays down kings, he calls with king-high!"

He IS the King of Kings, it appears, King both of how to play with and against that particular playing card, and soon, it seems, King of a tournament where only champions—kings, if you will—could enter.

What do you do with a player like this? Lose to him.

Men is still short-stacked, and when Chiu bets 80k, Men decides to go all-in. K-J for Men, A-J for Chiu, Q-6-6-3-8, and the Jedi Master has eliminated Men the Master. Men takes it like a good sport, and the crowd, which has appreciated his by-play all day, gives him a rousing round of applause. I strike out margin notes about calling a Men Nguyen victory a "Corona-tion."

Four players remain. Chiu has about two million, the other three each have about 400k... and not much time.

Doyle goes first. He raises 80k, and Chiu calls. The flop is 2-5-2. David checks, and Doyle moves all-in. David, with a disarming smile, asks, "You sure?" Doyle isn't offering any free information.

David sits and thinks for a couple of minutes. During this time, the computer announces that the limits are going up to 3k antes, and 20-40k blinds. I wonder if hearing this announcement will have any bearing on Chiu's decision, that maybe he'll be more willing to lay it down with the bigger blinds putting more pressure on the shorter stacks. Chiu calls. So much for my theories.

Doyle shows one of those classic Doyle Brunson no-limit suited connector hands, 5c-6c, giving Doyle two pair and the lead. David shows A-Q. The turn is a Queen, surprise, surprise, and the 7c on the river ends Doyle's tremendous run. The entire room rises simultaneously for a thundering ovation—none of these gradual, "oh, everyone else is standing, I guess I will too" standing ovations for the great Doyle Brunson—and Doyle, still using a crutch to get around from a recent ankle injury, waves to the crowd and exits quickly.

Bauer falls next, only minutes later. Chiu makes it 90k to go, and Bauer, in a strange move, says "call and all-in." Unlike the movies where lines like "I'll call your $90,000 and raise you another $300,000" work just fine, in real poker of course the first declaration stands, and the bet is quickly ruled a call.

I turn to Jeff Shulman, inventor of the Jedi analogy that I have so ruthlessly exploited, and say, "that's a move. He's trying to set up his hand as stronger than it is. He knows the rule as well as we do." Jeff agrees.

The flop comes 10-7-3, Chiu checks, and Bauer now goes all-in. Chiu calls, rather quickly, and turns over J-10. Bauer shows Jd-9d, and Jeff and I exchange knowing looks.

"If WE could figure that one out," I say, "you can sure bet that David Chiu could!" The turn and river bring no help, and Bauer departs with a big chunk of change and a beautiful trophy. Chiu has roughly a 10-1 lead in chips, about $3,000,000 to $300,000. Not all that long ago, $300,000 was a stack with some fight in it. Now, it looks pathetically inadequate, especially with Chiu so far into the zone.

In a sort of homage to the Granddaddy of all poker tournaments, the World Series, they stop the event to bring the two trophies—which look just like Bauer's but each is a bit taller than the next—and the cash onto the table. As they do this, I realize I have been repeatedly laying my leather notebook down on, and picking it up from, the table where a half million in cash sits. My notebook has usually been about 10 inches from the money, and I have been so spellbound by the action that I have paid no notice to my proximity to all this cash, which would come in quite handy in the Glazer budget, I assure you.

It seems fitting that the final two protagonists are the participants in the A-A vs. K-K hand, the defining moment of Chiu's prowess. The end comes quickly, in two parts. First, David bets 80k, and Asmo calls. The flop comes Qc-7s-Kc, Louis checks, David bets 80k, Louis calls, the 7c hits, check-check, the Ac hits the river, check, David bets 90k, call, David shows the 9s-10c for a club flush. Louis Asmo has about 70k left.

I glance up at Hellmuth and Amarillo Slim, doing the video play-by-play. They both seem awed.

The next hand ends it. Louis tosses his remaining chips in pre-flop and David calls. Louis shows Ad-8d, and David has Kh-Jh. The flop comes Ah-4h-5s! Louis has flopped a pair of aces, but David has the nut flush draw. The 6s comes on 4th street. I turn to Linda Johnson and say, "the next card seems like a foregone conclusion." BANG, the 8h hits, David has made his flush, Louis can't win even starting with the best hand and making two pair.

The Dean Man's Hand, Aces and Eights, ends Asmo's great run, and the spectators again rise with a thunderous ovation. What play! What cards! What a celebration of poker at its finest!

As I (and I suspect a lot of other people) earlier looked over the final 27 players, I had thought, "it would be great for poker if a legend like Doyle Brunson won this tournament." And certainly that would have been true. But watching Chiu's Zen demeanor, his pleasant conduct and engaging smile, and most of all, his brilliant, brilliant play, I started thinking that perhaps this result was even better for poker.

Giants like Brunson, Amarillo Slim, Puggy Pearson and the rest paved the way for the TOC, and as Brunson proved today (and as he regularly proves over at the Bellagio), these legends "still got game." But a new star was born today, even though David Chiu already owned two World Series bracelets. David came out of nowhere only four years ago to claim the opening limit hold 'em event at the World Series, and held onto the money he won there in the high limit Southern California games at the Commerce and the Bike. David Chiu studied the great players in those high-limit games and learned from them. He took another bracelet home in the '98 Series, as well as a title from the U.S. Poker Championships, at the Taj.

Yes, it would have been great for Doyle to win this event. But somehow it seems fitting that in poker's greatest new event, a brilliant concept brilliantly executed by Mike Sexton, Chuck Humphrey, and the Orleans Hotel and Casino, a new star would shine so brightly on the new and wider poker horizon opened by the 1999 Tournament of Champions. Thank you, Mike. Thank you, Chuck. And thank you, David. Thanks for memories that will last a lifetime, for daring greatness, and for succeeding.

Andrew N.S. Glazer
Andrew N. S. Glazer was a blackjack, backgammon and poker pro whom Newsweek Magazine called a "poker scholar." He also was the weekly gaming columnist for The Detroit Free Press, and a regular contributor to Chance Magazine, and the top gaming information websites.

Books by Andrew N.S. Glazer:

Andrew N.S. Glazer
Andrew N. S. Glazer was a blackjack, backgammon and poker pro whom Newsweek Magazine called a "poker scholar." He also was the weekly gaming columnist for The Detroit Free Press, and a regular contributor to Chance Magazine, and the top gaming information websites.

Books by Andrew N.S. Glazer: