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The Biggest Party in Poker

by Mike Sexton |  Published: May 17, 2005

Print-icon's flagship event, the PartyPoker Million, is known as "The Biggest Party in Poker." It's hard to refute that. The event is held annually aboard a luxurious cruise ship and is a combination of big-time poker (and I do mean big-time) and a weeklong party. For a poker player, life just doesn't get any better.

The PartyPoker Million has been the largest regular season event on the World Poker Tour in each of its three seasons. In fact, it's the third-largest event (in terms of prize pool) in the world – trailing only the main event at the World Series of Poker and the WPT World Championship. This year, the PartyPoker Million IV prize pool was a whopping $7,207,108! Two players walked off the ship as WPT millionaires, and an incredible 178 more made the money!

Michael Gracz (seated) with (left to right standing) David Minto, Shana Hiatt, Mike Sexton, and Vince Van Patten

The PartyPoker Million is a limit hold'em tournament (the only such event on the WPT), and far and away the largest such tournament in the world. The great thing about the PartyPoker Million is that anyone can qualify online at at an affordable price. Players win a luxurious cruise for two and an entry into the finals for about what it costs to go to the movies and buy some popcorn.

This year, 676 players qualified on for PPM IV. The rest of the players (59) bought in for $10,000 (plus $500). Thirty-one of the final 36 players were online qualifiers, and four of them made it to the final table. Dreams do come true for those who reach out and try to grab the brass ring.

Once again on the World Poker Tour, youth prevailed at the final table. Three out of the final four players were 22, 23, and 24 years old! But not so fast you young whippersnappers – there was one guy at the final table from my generation, and he was the chip leader. That was retired Lt. Col. David Minto, who turned 54 the day we played down to six players. Upon making the final table, he said, "This is the best birthday present I've ever had."

Congratulations to all of those who made it to the finals, especially the money winners. The PartyPoker Million IV champion was 24-year-old Maciek Gracz from Raleigh, North Carolina. He won $1.5 million, a WPT title, and a $25,000 entry into the WPT Championship. Gracz is an aggressive poker "phenom" whom I predict you're going to see a lot of in the future. And the best part about him is that he's really a good kid – humble, polite, and respectful of his elders. In fact, all three of the young final-table players are great kids.

The runner-up was Minto (aka "The Colonel"), from Alamogordo, New Mexico. You couldn't help but love him. He was the most smiling guy you ever saw. Even after losing the first 10 hands at the final table, he never stopped smiling. Indeed, he was happy to be there, and why not? He qualified online and walked off the ship with $1 million!

The third-place finisher was Matthew Cherackel, a talented 22-year-old Princeton student who's majoring in molecular biology (class of '05). He plans to become a doctor, and his $700,000 in prize money will certainly cover the costs of medical school. Fourth place was captured by Adam Csallany (23) of Roseville, Minnesota. Adam pocketed a cool $500,000 for his efforts. The fifth place finisher ($300,000) was former WPT Champion Paul Darden of New Haven, Connecticut. Rounding out the top six was Richard Kain of San Francisco, California, who pocketed $200,000. Honorable mention goes to defending champion Erick Lindgren for making a bold effort to defend his title, finishing 11th.

History was made as the World Poker Tour passed the $100 million mark in total prize money at this year's PartyPoker Million (and created its 21st and 22nd millionaires). Gracz entered the record books as "The $100 Million Dollar Man." WPT founder Steve Lipscomb said, "What the WPT has accomplished in such a short amount of time is truly astonishing. $100 million is a mind-boggling number. It took the PGA Tour more than 30 years to reach $100 million in prize money, and we did it in less than three years."

When reflecting on how far the WPT has come, poker sensation Jennifer Harman said it best: "The World Poker Tour has changed the lives of poker players forever."

The estimated prize pool for PPM V is $10 million! Qualifying is already under way. The "cruise package" is valued at $17,500. For more details on "The Biggest Party in Poker," go to I hope to see you on the ship next year! Take care.

Mike Sexton, author of WPT – Shuffle Up and Deal, is the host of and a commentator on the World Poker Tour (which can be seen every Wednesday on the Travel Channel).