Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #17 David Williams
In 2004 the WSOP Main Event had swelled to 2,576 players, up from the 839 the year before when an accountant named Moneymaker won the main event. When the heads up play began, it was Greg Raymer who was the biggest stack versus David Williams, who was fighting an uphill battle. Raymer’s aggressive nature secured the victory, as David Williams took the second largest payday in poker history at the time with $3.5 million ($1.1 million more than Moneymaker had won the year before). The poker boom was on, and Williams was now everywhere as the man that finished runner up on TV had become a poker superstar. His next cash was another $573,800 for a runner up finish at the WPT Borgata Poker Open, and then finally a win for $121,057 at the Five-Diamond World Poker Classic. But after a dream year in 2004, he just kind of fell away from the spotlight for a little. I’m not exactly certain why, but a lot of people wondered if David Williams had fallen off the map completely after that score, or that he was a “one-hit-wonder” because of the lack of giant scores that he’d receive.
But Williams was still crushing the poker scene, actually booking 6-figure earnings in every year since his brides maid finish at the main event, including a $1 million year in 2006 capped off with 2 more WPT final tables, and a bracelet win at the WSOP. In fact, Williams came just one spot short of another WSOP bracelet in 2006, finishing 2nd in the Deuce to Seven Draw $5k buy-in event to Daniel Alaei, and silenced his critics. An interesting footnote was that Greg Raymer was also at that final table, but finished in 5th.
Williams continued running good in tournaments with a number of final tables over the years, booking $375k in 2007, $327k in 2008, and $221k in 2009. During that stretch, he made 2 more WSOP Final Tables, but he was missing that giant score that would place him back on the same stage as his WSOP Main Event runner up finish. Well in 2010, Williams would find that score at the 2010 WPT Five Star World Classic.
The WPT Championship event saw 195 players pay the $25,000 buy in for a massive $4.7 million prize pool, and the field was chalked full of professional poker talent every step of the way. Walking through the Bellagio tournament in Las Vegas, it was a “who’s who” of poker superstars. That viewpoint didn’t change much as the final table saw 6 players who were WSOP Bracelet winners, and sharing 26 total bracelets between them (Phil Hellmuth -11, Bill Baxter -7, Scotty Nguyen -5, and Eric Baldwin, David Williams, and David Benyamine with 1 each). With all that bling on the final table, and all that money in the prize pool, a great story was bound to emerge from the event.
Nikolav Evdakov was eliminated in 9th place, and he was followed by the elimination of Scotty Nguyen in 8th. Phil Hellmuth was the next to go in 7th as he’d miss out on the opportunity to appear on television, as the WPT makes their televised final table a 6 person broadcast. John O’Shea was eliminated as the short stack in 6th, and was followed by 7-time bracelet winner Bill Baxter. Then French high stakes cash pro David Benyamine found the exit in 4th leaving Williams 3 handed with Shawn Buchanan and 2009 CardPlayer player of the Year, Eric Baldwin.
After a slugfest, Williams eliminated Buchanan in 3rd and took a massive chip lead into the heads up battle with Baldwin, where he’d call Baldwin’s All in shove with just a pair of deuces. Baldwin improved when he hit an ace on the flop to give him a pair, but Williams spiked a deuce on the turn to seal the victory and claim the WPT Five Star World Poker Classic and a massive payday of $1.5 million. The story was one of redemption, as talks permeated around Williams rekindling some of that old magic from a few years ago.
Williams would close out the year with another final table at the NAPT Bounty Shootout in Los Angeles, and when all was told, Williams had boosted his career total earnings to more than $7.9 million, good for 23rd on the all time money list. I will remember the Williams story in 2010 as one that made me wonder, which is a better accomplishment….finishing second at the WSOP Main Event in a field of more than 2,500 players, or winning a prestigious event with fewer than 200 of the world’s greatest players? When you ask David Williams, I’m certain that he will tell you, “it’s all about the championships.”