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World Series of Poker, Day 7

Hachem wins endurance test -- and $7.5 million prize

Posted: Saturday July 16, 2005 8:03PM; Updated: Saturday July 16, 2005 8:03PM
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Joseph Hachem's first prize of $7.5 million is more than the entire British Open purse.

LAS VEGAS -- This was the scene shortly after 6 a.m. Saturday inside Binion's Gambling Hall and Hotel.

The floor was littered with empties and unconscious humans. A green mountain of cash -- bundles of Benjamins wrapped, 50 per stack, in rubber bands -- rested on an unused card table while at another three men -- Derrick "Tex" Barch of Dallas, Steve Dannenmann of Baltimore and Joseph Hachem of Melbourne, Australia -- played poker. Inside the room two men in suits toted rifles while in an adjacent room two feather-boa-clad dancers sat on chairs and waited patiently.

Just another night in Vegas, really. Except that the three men were into their 14th consecutive hour of playing Texas Hold 'Em and whoever knocked out the other two stood to win $7.5 million. The longest final table in the history of the World Series of Poker was locked in what seemed to be an interminable struggle for what would be the largest (known) prize in gambling history. Perspective? The grand prize in the main event would be worth more than the purse for the entire field ($7,154,642) at the British Open this weekend.

"That may be the gaudiest thing I've seen my entire life," said tournament director Johnny Grooms, staring at the cash cliff before him.

But by this ungodly hour, it was difficult to summon interest. The media members splayed out on the floor behind a curtain just a few yards away -- the Nap Pack, let's call them -- had already lost the battle with their own eyelids. The dancers, bless them, were killing time with two young journalists in a corner who for hours had been much more intent on sweating them than the final table. Consider them feather boa constrictors.

Then, perhaps because he was exhausted and just wanted to go to sleep, or perhaps because he sensed that this was his final opportunity to make a stand, Barch announced "All in." The time was 6:11 a.m. The blinds by this hour were $200,000 and $400,000. Tex placed his "paltry" chip stack of $2.5 million toward the middle of the table. Both Dannenmann and Hachem called.

The flop came Q-Q-6. Barch, who had done nothing but play poker at least 12 hours per day for the past seven days, stood up and began hoisting his knapsack over his shoulder. The two others checked.

The turn: Q.

Check. Check.

The river: 9.

Hachem, who'd gone in with a pair of Jacks, beat Dannenmann, who'd gone in with 7-7, and Barch, who'd had an A-6.

And then there were two.

As Dannenmann and Pachem continued their battle of attrition, Barch moved into another room and patiently answered our questions. "I think the longest I've ever played previously was 28 hours," Barch said, his wife, parents, brother and a few others by his side. "That's back when I played $20-$40 games for a living, but I wouldn't suggest that lifestyle to anyone."

Only minutes later, Dannenmann went all in to the vast relief of everyone still alive -- I mean, awake -- inside the cramped quarters on the second floor of Binion's (some onlookers waited more than four hours in line just to get in). It was the 232nd hand of the night.

Dannenmann had raised before the flop and Hachem, who had begun this session in sixth place (of nine remaining players) but now was the chip leader, called.

The flop: 6-5-4.

How Pachem, who after seeing that flop knew that he was most likely $7.5 million richer, did not scream at the sight of those three cards I'll never know. Dannenmann bet $700,000 and Hachem raised to $1.7 million. Dannenmann called.

The turn: an ace.

A raise and re-raise resulted in Hachem going all in. That's when he turned over his 7-3 to Dannenmann's A-3. Hachem had flopped the straight.

When a 4 came on the river -- Dannenmann had needed a 7 to chop the pot -- it was all over. The Aussie ruled.

"Jeannie! He won it! He won it!" an Aussie on a cell phone screamed. Then, to the crowd, "That's his [Hachem's] wife."

Hachem grabbed the phone and spoke quietly to his wife for a few moments. Then he held it up and looked at the crowd. "I think she fainted," he said.

Everyone inside the room could empathize. It was a long, long, looooooong night. And now, just after 6:54 in the morning, it was time to step outside and face the light of day.