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No Joke, Gracz is a World Champion

It’s a good thing Mike “The Kid” Gracz has a degree in finance from NC State, because he has some serious wealth to manage. The 24-year-old poker whiz born in Poland and now residing in North Carolina recently cruised to a remarkable $1.5 million at the PartyPoker Million IV, and last night at the Rio Pavilion, The Kid padded his bankroll with an additional $594,460 by winning the $1,000 No-limit Hold’em with rebuys tournament at the 2005 WSOP. Gracz’s cash prize is the second biggest of this year’s WSOP thanks to a bountiful and record-setting rebuy-enhanced total purse of more than $2 million. Relative tournament newbie CT Law, from London, finished runner-up for $311,555.

Gracz started the final table with the 6th largest chip stack in front of him ($173,000), which looked even smaller considering he was sharing the table with Phil Gordon, David “The Dragon” Pham and the venerable Chuck Thompson, who was chip leader with $549,000. Gracz though held on early, and when it was down to 7 and he fell to the bottom of the count, Gracz was able to slash his deficit with aggressive raises that were answered by folds. Then, when it was down to 5, Gracz took out shortstack Shane Schleger to move ahead of Pham, who eventually was eliminated in 4th place ($154,125).

Down to three, Law was reigning supreme with a more than 3-to-1 chip advantage over Gracz and Thompson, yet Gracz closed in after knocking out Thompson in an all-in race (Gracz’s pocket eights picked up a third while Thompson’s A-J only paired). Then Gracz drew about even with Law on the first hand of heads-up play when he bet $100,000 on the turn with a board of Kh-Jd-10c-Ac. Law and Gracz then took turns doubling each other up, with Gracz eventually ceasing control about 30 hands into heads-up.

The final hand that won Gracz his first WSOP bracelet seemed at first to be one that would push this already 2-hour long match into the next day. After Law flat called Gracz’s preflop raise, the flop came up Jh-8c-5c, with Law checking, Gracz betting $75,000 and Gracz reraising all his chips. Gracz contemplated his move, then called, then looked to be a serious dog when Law rolled over top pair with a queen kicker. Gracz had middle pair, likewise accompanied by a queen. Law was about a 96% favorite, yet odds mean nothing when a set-making 8 jumps up on the turn and a no-help river 6 closes the deal, and the championship.

To say Gracz's accomplishments so far this year are impressive is an understatement. In addition to the WSOP and PartyPoker Million, Gracz has cashed in a few other major events this year and even won his first casino tournament, the 2004 Trump Classic at the Taj, with a prize of $295,275. No doubt, Gracz stands at the top of the ever expanding list of young guns (under 25 young that is) who are taking the poker world by storm.

Here's how the final table ended up:

1. Maciek "Michael" Gracz (Raleigh, NC, USA) - $594,460
2. CT Law (London, United Kingdom) - $311,555
3. Chuck Thompson (Santa Cruz, CA, USA) - $176,145
4. David Pham (Cerritos, CA, USA) - $154,125
5. Shane Schleger (New York, NY, USA) - $132,110
6. Shae Drobushevich (Moline, IL, USA) - $110,090
7. Pascal Perrault (Paris, France) - $88,070
8. Phil Gordon (South Lake Tahoe, CA, USA) - $66,055
9. Meng La (Torrence, CA, USA) - $44,035

(For hand-by-hand details and analysis for event #7 be sure to check out Card Player's Live Update Log and Daniel Lazerek's WSOP blog over at Poker Pages.)

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