Eric Kesselman Wins
WSOP Pot-Limit Hold’em
Championship. Former
attorney and public
defender gets winning
verdict in $311,403
settlement
Up to Date WSOP Results
Official Results and Report
Event #18
Pot-Limit Hold’em
Buy-In:  $2,000
Number of Entries:  590  
Total Prize Money:  
$1,073,800
Witness for the Persecution

Eric Kesselman Wins WSOP Pot-Limit Hold’em Championship

Former attorney and public defender gets winning verdict in $311,403
settlement
2006 World Series of Poker
Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino – Las Vegas
Official Results and Report

Event #18
Pot-Limit Hold’em
Buy-In:  $2,000
Number of Entries:  590  
Total Prize Money:  $1,073,800
Defending Champion (2005):  Edward Moncada
Overall Tournament Statistics (through end of Event #18):

Total Entries to Date:                          17,502

Total Prize Money Distributed:                $ 31,882,692
Witness for the Persecution

Eric Kesselman Wins WSOP Pot-Limit Hold’em Championship

Former attorney and public defender gets winning verdict in $311,403 settlement


Las Vegas, NV – Life is full of tough decisions.  Success depends on the decisions that we
make.  Those who make wise decisions are typically successful in life.  Those who make
wrong decisions commonly fail.  Of course, “luck” makes some of our decisions irrelevant.
Three years ago, Eric Kesselman faced a very tough decision.  He had just turned 30-
years old.  He had earned his undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University and
graduated from New York University Law School.  He passed the bar exam in New York
State and was working as a public defender on Long Island.  He enjoyed all of the
trappings of a successful life and career.  The trouble was – Kesselman wasn’t happy.
“Basically in law, I feel like there are jobs where you can make a lot of money versus jobs
where you may have a lot of fun and which provide an opportunity to do something
rewarding.  In law, very few jobs have both,” Kesselman explained.  “When you see the
workload and experience the monotony, it is tough.  When you see legal cases you have
worked hard on, and then the defendants are back two weeks later (charged with crimes
again) it gets very depressing.  That’s very common in being a public defender.”
At a personal and professional crossroads, Kesselman made a decision.  He quit his job.  
What he decided to do next shocked even those who knew Kesselman best.  The ex-
attorney decided to become a professional poker player.    
“I decided I did not want to practice law anymore,” Kesselman said.  “I had some friends
who were gamblers and got into poker largely because of them.  After losing a bit at first,
I started to learn from my mistakes and improved my game.  Eventually I started winning,
turned professional and have been supporting myself through ( playing mostly online)
poker ever since.”
2006 marked the third consecutive year that Kesselman made the annual pilgrimage to
the World Series of Poker.  Although he made enough money the rest of the year to pay
the cost of his buy-ins and expenses, Kesselman’s tournament results up until July 12,
2006 had been a disappointment.  Fact was, he had never cashed at the WSOP.  That
would all change suddenly, in a very big way.
The 18th event at this year’s World Series of Poker presented by Milwaukee’s Best Light
was the $2,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Hold’em competition.  The event began with 590 entries.  
After two days of play, the final table included only one former gold bracelet winner –
Harry Thomas, Jr. (the $5,000 Seven-Card Stud champion in 1985).  Two players had
previously cashed in the WSOP main event – writer Jim McManus (5th in 2000) and Jason
“Big Bird” Sagle (23rd in 2004).  When the first hand was dealt out, Sagle enjoyed a
slight chip lead over Kesselman, with the rest of the players back in the pack.
The most experienced player went out first.  Harry Thomas, Jr. hoped to steal a round of
blinds with ace-five suited but was instead called down by “Big Bird” Sagle, holding
pocket threes.  Thomas failed to make a pair, and was eliminated.  Thomas, hoping to
win his first WSOP gold bracelet in 21 years, instead collected $21,476 for ninth
place.          
Christopher Black went out next when his ace-queen was topped by Chris Viox’s pocket
eights.  The two big cards failed to connect, which expelled the San Diego school teacher
in eighth place.  Black, aptly nicknamed “Shakespeare” for his English and journalism
teaching credentials, received $32,214 in prize money.
Dustin Holmes got the axe next.  The poker pro from Los Angeles, who won his way into
the event via a free online qualifying tournament, was eliminated when his ace-queen
was ripped by Eric Kesselman’s nine-eight suited.  Kesselman got out of line a bit early
with the hand by making a bold pre-flop raise, and when Holmes re-raised all-in,
Kesselman thought he was pot-committed, and called.  Kesselman caught three lucky
diamonds to make a flush, which knocked out Holmes.  Seventh place paid $42,952.
Jim McManus has been immortalized forever with his classic poker and angst-wrought
narrative, “Positively Fifth Street,” which chronicled his personal experiences at the 2002
WSOP.  McManus hoped to write a bright new chapter in his poker career, but this one
did not have a happy ending.  On his final hand of the night, McManus had king-queen
suited which lost to “Skip” Kim’s ace-ten.  An ace flopped, and McManus was forced to
accept a sixth-place finish on his poker record.  The Chicago writer earned $53,690.
No one was more surprised or disappointed to see the fifth place finisher than the man
who took the position.  Jason Sagle had started the day in such promising fashion.  But
he ran bad during his final hour and eventually went out with pocket fives against Eric
Kesselman’s pocket sixes.  The bigger pair held up and Sagle added $64,428 to his poker
bankroll for fifth place.
Things do not get much uglier than what happened next to Kevin Ross.  He was dealt
pocket kings.  He raised to 40,000 before the flop.  Kesselman re-raised to 100,000.  
Then, Ross pushed all-in.  Kesselman could not get his chips in fast enough.  Wham!  
Kesselman’s pocket aces were tabled and all of the sudden poor Kevin Ross’ two
cowboys looked like they’d been blown off Brokeback Mountain.  Ross, an Ohio antiques
dealer, collected $75,166.
Christopher Viox was the next player to go out.  He decided to gamble on his final hand
holding king-ten, which was edged out by “Skip” Kim, with pocket sixes.  The small pair
held up and Viox was forced to call it a night.  Third place paid $85,905.
“Skip” Kim put up a valiant fight before crashing to the felt in second place.  On the final
hand of the tournament, Kesselman moved all-in with ace-ten, which dominated Kim’s
ace-nine.  Kim was drawing slim and failed to catch a nine.  Kesselman’s higher-kicker
played and ended the event.
Hyon “Skip” Kim, an anesthesiologist born in South Korea, felt no pain when he was paid
$164,291 for second place.
A historic win at the 2006 World Series of Poker seems to validate the choice Kesselman
made back in New York when still unhappily employed as an attorney.  “The appeal to me
for poker is the ability to work for myself, work at my home, set my own schedule, and to
make a very good living,” Kesselman said.  “Also, for me the key to success is to play only
the poker games I enjoy.  I will only play the games I like to sit in, such as short-handed
games.  I keep myself fresh that way.”  
Kesselman turned more philosophical when asked about his future.  “I keep asking
myself what I will be doing in five to ten years.  I really have not answered that yet.  As
long as the poker craze continues-- which I think it will -- I will be happy to keep playing
poker.”
Indeed, life is full of tough decisions.  Based on three years spent as a successful pro, a
$311,403 win in poker’s most prestigious tournament series, and one gold bracelet – it
certainly appears that Eric Kesselman made the right one.

by Nolan Dalla
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Eric Kesselman
Hyon “Skip” Kim
Christopher Viox
Kevin Ross
Jason “Big Bird” Sagle
Jim McManus
Dustin Holmes
Christopher Black
Harry Thomas, Jr.
Jeff Rothstein
Jair Beltran
David Zeitlin
Marc Scott Sarner
Kirill Gerasimov
Joe Hachem
Jeff Slayton
Harley Hall
William Davis
Kakoun Haim
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Men "the Master" Nguyen
Keith Hawkins
Shawn Vanasdale
Mikhail Ustinov
George Tatalovich
K.U. Davis
David Chiu
John Clark
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Katja Thater
Thomas Fuller
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$311,403
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