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WSOP: History -- 1994 Recap

Russ Hamilton Wins $1 Million and His Weight in Silver for the World Series of Poker's Silver Anniversary

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T.J. Cloutier won two WSOP bracelets in 1994The World Series of Poker reached its silver 25th anniversary in 1994, and Jack Binion used an idea from Jim Albrecht to commemorate the occasion. The champion of the main event that year would receive his weight in silver bars in addition to the $1 million first-place prize. The added value of the silver anniversary promotion provided a silver lining for anyone who won the event that year, and the main event field ballooned to 268 players. There were 20 preliminary events in 1994, and another round of professional players either claimed their first gold bracelet or added to their collection. Those pros included: Johnny Chan ($1,500 seven-card stud), Vince Burgio ($1,500 seven-card stud eight-or-better), Jay Heimowitz ($1,500 pot-limit hold’em), Lyle Berman ($5,000 deuce-to-seven lowball), Huck Seed ($2,500 pot-limit hold’em), Erik Seidel ($5,000 limit hold’em), Barbara Enright ($1,000 ladies seven-card stud), and T.J. Cloutier, who won two bracelets ($1,500 Omaha eight-or-better and $2,500 pot-limit hold’em).

Barbara Samuelson just missed the final table that year, finishing in 10th place, but she still set the record-high finish for a female competitor. This must have hurt Jack, who likely was pulling whole-heartedly for her, the lightest competitor left in the field at that point. Stephen Lott (ninth), Don Pittman (eighth), and John Aglialoro (seventh) were the three final-table players that missed television time that year, leaving a fresh batch of faces to compete for the title of world champion. Robert Turner, Al Krux, Burgio, John Spadavecchia, Hugh Vincent, and Russ Hamilton were the final half dozen that year, and while all of them were playing for keeps, one of them was also eating for keeps.

Hamilton decided to make a potential victory as lucrative as possible for himself by packing on the pounds during the main event that year. He ordered a full steak dinner while at the table on the final day of the tournament, and he followed that up with four banana splits. His timing was perfect, because right before the final table all of the players stepped on a scale to weigh in and determine the amount of silver that would be awarded to the winner. Hamilton even tried to step on the scale with $2,000 in half dollars in his pockets, which he was relieved of, but even without that extra weight he tipped the scale at 330 pounds.

Turner was quickly eliminated by Vincent after the final table began, and that was followed by the first major action. Burgio raised to 30,000 preflop and Hamilton made the call. The flop was dealt 10 7 6, and Hamilton bet 15,000. Burgio made the call, and the turn fell 9. Both players checked, and the river brought the Q, making a queen-high flush on the board. Hamilton bet 80,000, and Burgio reraised an additional 80,000, which was enough to put Hamilton all in. Hamilton called instantly, and after Burgio showed down the A for an ace-high flush, Hamilton revealed K J in the hole to win the hand with a king-high straight flush (the first ever at the main event final table).

The Mayfair Club representative that year, Krux, moved all in a few hands after that, and Hamilton called him down with his newfound wealth. Krux held pocket sevens, and Hamilton held A-Q in the hole. A queen came on the board and eliminated Krux in fifth place. Hamilton was closing in on the chip leader at that point; he held 1.05 million to Vincent’s 1.55 million.

Vincent used that chip lead well, eliminating Burgio in fourth place with aces up as his weapon of fate. Vincent then bluffed Spadavecchia out of a huge pot when he fired a 500,000 reraise over the head of Spadavecchia’s initial bet of 50,000 on a flop of A K Q. Spadavecchia mucked, and Vincent revealed pocket tens. Three-handed play that year ended up taking on the qualities of an epic battle, lasting five and-a-half hours. It finally began to come to a close when Hamilton opened the action on a flop of K 10 6 after making a large raise preflop that was called down by both of his opponents. Spadavecchia was timed out of the hand while he busy trying to get the burger that Hamilton had ordered for him cooked a little longer in the kitchen, but Vincent decided to call. No further action occurred until Hamilton moved all in on the river, and Vincent folded K-3 faceup on the table. Hamilton was now the chip leader, and Binion was squirming.

Binion was given some hope when it was Vincent that eliminated Spadavecchia in third, and not Hamilton. Vincent took the chip lead into the heads-up match, but he soon lost it when Hamilton won the largest pot in main-event history at the time. Hamilton raised to 150,000 preflop and Vincent made the call. The flop was dealt Q 6 5, and both men checked. The turn card was an 8, and Hamilton bet 400,000. Vincent shoved all in at that point, and Hamilton made the call. Vincent held 10-9 for an inside-straight draw, and Hamilton turned up two queens for a set. The river brought another 8 to fill up a boat for Hamilton and add 1.98 million to his stack.

Russ Hamilton, winner of the 1994 WSOP main event It was all over soon after that, when Vincent limped to a flop of 8 6 2 and then bet 100,000. Hamilton raised him all in, and Vincent made the call with 8 5 in the hole. Hamilton showed down K 8 to dominate Vincent, and after the turn and river cards were delivered 10 and J to hand Hamilton the world championship. He was awarded the $1 million first-place prize and on top of that $28,512 in silver bars to match his weight in silver. While his eating habits might have suggested he was only concerned with the money during the tournament, his reaction after the win suggested otherwise. “When we got down to three players, and then two players, it was never about the money. There was only one thing that mattered — having my picture up on that wall and winning the bracelet. They can take the money, they can take the silver, but they can never take that picture off the wall,” said Hamilton.


1994 WSOP results

WSOP history article links:

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Quote source: “All-In the (Almost) Entirely True Story of the World Series of Poker,” by Jonathan Grotenstein and Storms Reback