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New Kid in Town: Michael "The Kid" Gracz Takes Down the Million IV Title

by Justin Marchand |  Published: May 17, 2005


What do you get when you combine $7.4 million, 735 fired-up poker players, one of the finest cruise ships in Holland America's fleet, and seven days at sea sailing the Mexican Riviera? The answer is, the richest limit hold'em tournament in history, hosted by, the world's largest online poker room.

The ms Oosterdam, the largest cruise ship ever chartered for a poker event, set sail from San Diego on March 19 with 1,800 passengers. One week later, after making ports of call in Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, the fourth installment of's flagship event produced two new millionaires, paid 180 players, and shattered the previous record for the tournament, which last year offered a $3.82 million prize pool and drew 546 players. Passengers were also able to play poker at any time of the day during the cruise in a designated poker room, and the action was hot, with more than 50 live-action tables going nearly around-the-clock.

While 668 of Million IV players won their seats online, PartyPoker Million IV also attracted many top professionals who paid the $10,000 buy-in to be part of the richest limit hold'em event in poker history. This who's who of poker's top talent included past winners Kathy Liebert and Erick Lindgren, and the likes of Chris Ferguson, Barry Greenstein, Chip Jett, Scott Fischman, Josh Arieh, Mimi Tran, Joe Cassidy, Dan Alspach, Chris Hinchcliffe, and Paul Darden.

As the action got under way in the World Poker Tour's only limit event, Tournament Director Matt Savage immediately had to intervene at a table when he heard an "all-in" bet. Since kicked off its site in 2001 with its gala $1 million event, it has remained a limit hold'em tournament even though the majority of the Internet qualifiers played in no-limit hold'em satellites to get there.

It took four days of play and 729 player eliminations before the field thinned to a final table of four online qualifiers and two who bought in directly. David Minto, a 54-year-old rocket engineer from Alamogordo, New Mexico, brought $2.5 million to the final table, followed by Richard Kain's $1.55 million, Matt Cherackal's $1.44 million, Paul "The Truth" Darden's $900,000, Michael "The Kid" Gracz's $330,000, and Adam Csallany's $280,000. Final-table limits started at $30,000-$60,000 and climbed to $200,000-$400,000 before 24-year-old Gracz, a newcomer to the tournament poker circuit and recent North Carolina State graduate, took down the $1.5 million top prize after six hours of play.

It was the tight-aggressive play of short stacks Gracz and Csallany that dominated the most exciting action at the final table. Csallany, a 24-year-old computer science major at the University of Minnesota, came out gunning. He won the first six hands he played and built his stack up to more than $2.8 million. He and Gracz went at it heads up for the first two multimillion dollar hands of the tournament. Gracz, coming over the top on both occasions, came out the victor in each, which cooled Csallany's momentum and set him up for a fourth-place, $500,000 finish.

Minto's calm, cool, and collected play kept him out of the way for nearly the entire final table as the young guns battled it out. He avoided getting involved in a big hand and coasted to heads-up action against Gracz, who by that time had four times the amount of chips that Minto had. When it was heads up for the remaining $2.5 million in prize money, David ( screen name of Mad Dog X2) hung tough against Michael ( screen name of NC Kid). Minto made a diamond flush on the river with a board of A-Q-J-4-A, and Gracz check-raised with his set of aces for $640,000, putting Minto all in. Minto doubled up, but with the limits as high as they were, he could not even out the chip stacks. He did get up to $2 million after he won with A-9 and A-A on consecutive hands. His second-place finish was sealed, however, after the two players put in $1.2 million preflop, bet the hand out, and Michael's A-9 outkicked David's A-7. Minto could not cover the blinds for the last hand of the tournament and Gracz, with J-2, made trips on a flop of J-J-5. David's 10-5 was good for second place and a cool $1 million.

As Paul Darden said in late day-three action, "When there is a million and a half on the street, you have to make a run at it." And what a run he made. Down to only $25,000 with the limits at $20,000-$40,000, he was all in multiple times and either doubled or tripled up each time. Besides having his A-A cracked when a 4-4 made a flush on the river, he had quite a run and built his stack to more than $1 million (second place) with only 18 players remaining. With previous World Series of Poker wins under his belt, Darden was the notable player at the final table. He was knocked out in fifth place and pocketed $300,000 when his set of sevens was beaten by Gracz's queen-high straight.

It looked like a possible repeat might be in order as Erick Lindgren, last year's Million III winner, turned up his aggressive play and moved into chip-leader position with 18 players remaining. However, big back-to-back defeats, including his J-J losing to Richard Kain's straight on the river, sent Lindgren home in 10th place. The end came for Erick after he pushed his remaining chips in with 8-8 on a 9-6-4 board. Matt Cherackal called and flipped over K-K, causing Lindgren to comment, "I should have known, you have had kings every other hand."

You can see the exciting action on June 15 when the Million IV airs on the Travel Channel. ♠

Click here to see all photos from the cruise!