Friedman, From Richmond, CA Wins
$1,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em Event at 2003
World Series of Poker
Friedman is not your average 24-year-old
poker player. One might assume this young
man is relatively inexperienced in tournament
play and that the amount of prize money
($109,400 for first place) would be intimidating.
What most people watching the final table
of the $1,500 buy-in Pot-Limit Hold'em
event probably didn't realize was that
Friedman is a high-stakes poker player
(he plays as high as $400-800 limit) with
great confidence, and is blessed with
an immense amount of talent which suggests
we can expect to see his name come up
more often as the winner at major poker
came into the final table with an impressive
chip lead ($85K in chips versus his closest
rival, who had $55K). From the start,
Friedman was the most aggressive player
at the final table, winning the overwhelming
majority of pots with a barrage of pot-sized
raises and re-raises. At one point Friedman
lost the chip lead, but showed remarkable
composure and seized it back again. In
the end, Friedman had all the chips and
clearly deserved to win the title.
things did not go as smoothly for Friedman
on Day One. "I was down to just $300 at
one point" explained Friedman. Many players
give up at that point. But I stayed focused
and caught a few hands where I doubled-up.
Then, I was right back in the tournament."
John Juanda busted out in 10th place,
the final table was comprised of three
former gold bracelet winners -- Mel Judah,
Hans "Tuna" Lund, and Brent Carter --
with two victories each at the World Series
of Poker. But one by one they made their
exit, until each former champion had finally
been eliminated and the final table was
down to just four players. With Friedman
sitting atop a sizable chip advantage
($160K to his closest threat, Hov Ung
who had $60K) and the experienced tournament
pros gone, Friedman was now on the verge
of winning his first major tournament.
as we have seen in previous events, a
sizable chip advantage does not guarantee
victory. As demonstrated on the previous
day, even an "insurmountable" chip lead
can dissolve and turn around very quickly
-- especially in pot-limit play. Friedman
was clearly the favorite, but had to be
careful not to double up his opponents.
Next, Dennnis "the Swami" Waterman went
out in fourth place when he moved all-in
with A-Q and was called by Hov Ung with
6-6. The small pocket pair held up and
Ung suddenly appeared to be the biggest
danger to Friedman's chip lead.
to three players, Bernie Rygol, from Germany,
survived two "all-ins" with ace-high.
The two big pots put the three finalists
very close in chip counts, where any big
hand could conceivably swing the momentum.
Then without warning, Hov Ung took a devastating
beat and crumbled. Freidman tried to take
the blinds with a pre-flop raise, holding
K-J. Ung, with A-Q, came over the top
with an "all-in" re-raise, and Freidman
called. The board brought Friedman a very
welcome king, which effectively put Ung
out on the rail in third-place. The big
pot catapulted Friedman into a 4 to 1
chip advantage, as heads-up play began
between Friedman and Rygol.
few minutes later, Rygol (who was getting
low on chips) doubled-up with Q-J versus
Friedman's K-6. Neither one of those hands
are very strong in pot-limit games, but
when the blinds are racing around quickly
and wearing down stacks, in heads-up play,
they become playable sometimes. Holding
Q-J -- Rygol hit a queen on the turn and
survived. The two finalists would play
for another hour.
key hand took place when Rygol doubled-up
again with 10-10 versus Friedman's A-J.
Friedman failed to hit his overcard, and
the pocket 10s held up. Incredibly, the
big pot gave Rygol a slight chip advantage,
as he became the chip leader for the first
time in the tournament. But the glory
would be short-lived.
end came out of nowhere. After a few pots
where Friedman took back the chip lead,
Rygol's stack was hit with a sledgehammer
when Friedman was given a chance to see
a flop cheaply (holding 10-4 of hearts).
The flop come with all hearts, giving
Friedman a flush. With the board showing
7-6-3, Rygol made a bold pot-sized bet
with J-7 (good for top pair). Friedman
quickly raised "all-in" and Rygol called
the bet. When Rygol saw the heart flush
on the flop, he knew he was in trouble,
needing to catch two perfect running cards
to stay alive. It wouldn't happen. With
the crowd standing, and many in the audience
cheering, Friedman was presented with
the gold bracelet (his first) and $109,400
in $100 bills piled up high on the table.
the event came to a close, Friedman was
given an opportunity to make a public
statement, which stirred some controversy.
Normally, poker champions thank relatives,
or cite other poker players when reflecting
upon a victory. Friedman, however, chose
to do something a different. He made a
bold statement about being opposed to
war in general, and particularly the war
in Iraq. He also used the occasion to
criticize the policies of President Bush.
is debatable as to whether a poker tournament
is the proper forum to voice political
views. There are reasonable arguments
for both sides -- pro and con. However,
anyone who wins a gold bracelet at the
World Series of Poker is entitled to shine
in the spotlight, at least temporarily.
How one chooses to use that platform is
entirely up to them.
Friedman's political views and willingness
to express them publicly should hardly
be surprising given his background and
commitment to social causes. He is a part-time
student at the University of California
-- Berkley and is currently majoring in
Ethnic Studies. He is interested in attending
law school someday and is deeply committed
to civil rights and labor issues -- where
he hopes to focus on a career in the future.
political views may, in fact, be controversial
and will be viewed as inappropriate by
many -- given the boos and hostile response
of the crowd when he was permitted to
make his statement. However, there is
little controversy as to the poker talent
of this young man. Regardless of one's
views about the important issues of the
day, the majority opinion is that Prahlad
Friedman is a terrific poker player who
will be heard from again, and again.
-- by Nolan Dalla