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From the agony of defeat to the thrill of victory at WSOP

12 June 2012

Everyone who remembers watching the 2005 World Series of Poker on television can probably recall a red-headed 23-year-old college graduate who ultimately became the "Agony of Defeat" poster child for that year's entire series.

Adam Friedman, playing in his first major poker tournament ever that year, not only managed to outlast several thousand players in the Main Event Championship, he also made it into the money in what was his first-taste of what it's like to compete at the very highest level.

The experience was utterly intoxicating. But as riveting as was the emotional high when Friedman exploded from out of nowhere to make a serious run at poker's world championship, once he was eliminated in 43rd place, the cliff-dive off the mountaintop was devastating.

Friedman was seen weeping afterward, collapsing into the arms of his parents, emotionally drained and utterly disappointed. Of course, the actuality that he posted a remarkable achievement was completely lost. What mattered most was that Friedman thought he had not played as well as he could in the tournament's final stages, which cost him a chance to finish higher and perhaps even become that year's version of poker Cinderella.

Fortunately, just as in life, poker sometimes grants the most deserving a second chance.

Early this Saturday morning, Friedman enjoyed the thrill of jubilation he achieved with his first WSOP gold bracelet victory and $269,037 in the $5,000 Seven-Card Stud High-Low Split world championship. Instantly, the past was forgotten. Memories of previous miseries were erased. Odd how winning a WSOP gold bracelet is the magical cure for all poker pain.

"I’ve gotten close on a lot of occasions, including last year when I was the chip leader going into the final table of the $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. event," said Friedman. "I was just fortunate that the cards came my way tonight. There were other occasions throughout the years where I was chip leader going into the final day, and the cards just basically laughed at me. I mean, it happens from time to time. You know, it took seven years. It could have taken 17 years, or longer. And I’m very happy, at least in some sort of way, to get the monkey off my back."

Adam Friedman, a 30-year-old professional poker player now living in Las Vegas, won his first WSOP gold bracelet. The thrilling moment of triumph took place early this morning at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

Friedman prevailed amongst a stacked field totaling 212 entrants -- including many of the world's best tournament players. The runner-up was former gold bracelet winner Todd Brunson, who showed absolutely no satisfaction with his consolation prize amounting to $166,269. Brunson's disappointment was amplified by having the chip lead during much of the heads-up showdown against Friedman.

Friedman was raised in the Columbus, Ohio area. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree in business and marketing. Oddly enough, Friedman stumbled into poker as a profession quite accidentally. He won a seat in the 2005 WSOP Main Event Championship online, where he finished in 43rd place. Little did he know that his life would change from that instant.

After winning nearly a quarter-of-a-million dollars on what many may have considered a fluke, Friedman decided to take several months off and test himself at the tables in order to see if he really could make something out of poker. For the next seven years, Friedman managed to grind out a decent living. He took the game seriously and treated it as a business. He moved to Las Vegas. He also continued to improve his game. Friedman now says he is "light years" ahead of where his poker skills were seven years ago. He also conveyed that poker requires an everlasting commitment to improvement.

Like many professional and amateur players alike who arrive with high expectations at the WSOP, Friedman hoped to make a major breakthrough this year. Now, he has done precisely that. He not only won a WSOP gold bracelet; he not only earned a huge six-figure score. He has proven to himself and the world that he can indeed compete among the very best -- and even beat them.

In a sense, there is nothing more satisfying than that.

Other players that made the final table included John Monnette, who finished third for $109,444, Nikolai Yakovenko, who was fourth, Sven Arntzen, who was fifth, Zimnan Ziyard, who finished sixth, Phil Ivey, who was seventh, and Bryn Kenney was eighth.

The top-24 players finished in the money. Notable players who cashed but did not make the final table included Phil Hellmuth (15th), Allen Bari (17th), Eli Elezra (19th), Andy Bloch (21st) and Bryan Devonshire (24th).

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From the agony of defeat to the thrill of victory at WSOP is republished from