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Poker History at Sea
Tournament Poker
by Mike Sexton

Poker history was made the week of March 10–17, 2002 in the Million (PPM). This tournament had the largest first prize—$1,000,000— ever awarded for a Limit Hold’em tournament. It was also congratulations to PPM champion Kathy Liebert!

Liebert is a professional player who has been around tournament poker for a number of years. She is an excellent player who is well liked and respected by her peers. Her favorite game is No Limit Hold’em, but that may change after this tournament. She was the chip leader after the first two days of play and was third in chip position entering the final table. She was a deserving winner, playing beautifully all week.

The event itself was historic. guaranteed a million dollar first prize and added $200,000 to the prize pool. The tournament was held aboard ship on Carnival Cruise Line’s Elation (hosted by Linda Johnson and Card Player Cruises). It was the first time an online poker site staged an event where players could qualify for the finals from their home for as little as $22, win a cruise for two and $500 in cash, and play against some of the greatest poker players in the world in a live championship final.

One hundred players qualified on and thirty-nine more bought in for $8000. The field included eight former World Poker Champions and numerous poker superstars. All participants enjoyed a wonderful vacation. They brought family and friends, relaxed, and partied. They also enjoyed playing in a poker tournament with a guaranteed first prize of $1,000,000!

The final table consisted of two former World Champions, Chris Ferguson and Phil Hellmuth; four experienced poker veterans; and three players who had qualified online at for $22. The final table was set up in the ship’s beautiful Cole Porter Lounge. The room was packed and the atmosphere was electric. Everyone was rooting for their favorite player, mostly the three online qualifiers still in the competition. It was the Davids, not the Goliaths, who captured the hearts of those in attendance (people do like to root for the underdog).

The final three players were just what the crowd and TV (the event was filmed for a program to be aired on the Travel Channel) were hoping for. For Poker drama, it doesn’t get any better. It came down to Poker superstar Phil Hellmuth, a former World Champion who is the all-time leading money winner at the WSOP, a lady, and a $22 online qualifier, Berj Kacherian (a database administrator from Los Angeles, California). And they were playing for a first prize of $1,000,000!

The most likely favorite, Hellmuth, finished third. The crowd was mesmerized as one of the Rudys of the poker world might win, or that a woman would win. The heads-up battle between Kathy and Berj lasted over three hours. The lead seesawed back and forth nine times before Liebert finally prevailed. Poker history was made. Let’s hear it for Kathy and the ladies!

Final Standings of the 2002 Million:
First Kethy Liebert $1,000,000
Second Berj Kacherian $93,600
Third Phill Hellmuth $62,400
Fourth Bruce Yamron $46,800
Fifth Scott Buller $37,440
Sixth Chris Ferguson $24,960
Seventh Mike Yuwiler $18,720
Eighth Ken Flaton $15,600
Ninth Mel Judah $12,480

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