Dynamite Dave

David Williams won $3.5 million finishing second in poker's grandest tourney, but dammit, that's just not good enough

"Growing up, I felt more sorry for my mom than anything," Williams says of not having a father around. "She had to do everything for us financially. But my grandparents and my mom did a good job with me. It shapes you, and you figure out who you are. He was never really in my life, so I don't identify with my Persian background much. I consider myself black because I was raised black, so I'm black. But, you know, if my background appeals to people because of my mix, that's cool. I just don't want to be called 'the Tiger Woods of poker' or some stupid shit like that. They already call Phil Ivey that, and it's terrible. But it is cool to be out there doing this, because you don't see many black guys playing poker."

He stops for a second, and a goofy grin--the one Brittany says she sees all the time, the one she says David saves for when he's most comfortable--spreads wide. "Maybe I'll have to make up a nickname to really get things going. What do you think? Something cheesy. Like Dynamite Dave."

It was a long WSOP for Double D. He had to get awfully lucky a few times, but that's a prerequisite for anyone who gets close to winning the coveted bracelet. (Along with an incredible sum of money, the WSOP champion gets his picture on a wall with the past winners and a gold bracelet.)

David Williams looks over his chips at the WSOP, where his second-place finish earned him $3.5 million.
Courtesy of WSOP
David Williams looks over his chips at the WSOP, where his second-place finish earned him $3.5 million.
David Williams' phone rings a lot from all over the world.
Tom Jenkins
David Williams' phone rings a lot from all over the world.

The night before the final table, he was extra stressed and decided to take a soak in the hot tub back at Camp Bob. That's what he and Boeken called the place where they stayed. A buddy of theirs from Magic has a rich dad with a nice home who offered to put them up. Then, calling it a "nice home" is like calling Ronald Reagan's funeral "a quiet little service." A large mansion serves as the main house, and there are several other dwellings surrounding it for guest use. Palm trees grow all around the property, and there are big pools (that's plural) and a private movie theater spread out over the 8.47-acre compound. It's so plush that the MGM Grand runs a picture of it in its hotel magazine along with a blurb that reads something along the lines of "holy Christ, dawg, you gotta check this spot out."

"It's like a private Disneyland," Boeken explains.

It was a good place for Williams to get his mind right. The day of the final table, he was a little more relaxed, and it didn't hurt that things worked out almost from the beginning. Before he knew it, he and Raymer were the only players left. For the first seven or eight minutes they never saw a flop--one would bet, and the other would fold.

The first hand in which they engaged each other also happened to be the last of the 35th Annual World Series of Poker. It's a hand that's been much discussed on Internet poker sites, one that will be dissected ad nauseam when ESPN airs the final installment.

Williams had ace-four off-suit and only about half of Raymer's chips, a distinct disadvantage when playing heads-up. He decided to play aggressively and led with a $300,000 raise. Raymer casually called with a pair of eights.

"He didn't look at it for too long, so I didn't think he had a pair," Williams says. "A pair of eights, heads-up, is usually a hand where you have to stop and think how you want to play it. Do you want to call or re-raise? But it takes a second."

Williams had what he thought was a good "read" (a combination of calculation, observation and instinct that gives you a feel for what your opponent might be holding). It turned out to be the wrong read--something that happens to every player. It just happened to Williams at the worst possible moment. The flop came down two-four-five. Raymer, in good shape with a pair of eights, craftily checked. Williams, who made a pair of fours, figured the flop didn't help Raymer. He bet $500,000.

"The only hands that beat me there are three-six and ace-three [to make straights], or a five and [a higher] pair would beat me," Williams says. "But...I thought I was ahead in the hand. If not, I had nine outs." (Meaning if he wasn't already ahead, any one of nine cards remaining in the deck could make his hand the winner.)

Rather than call this time, Raymer raised $1.6 million. Williams instantly called. It was the quick reaction that drew the most criticism from poker pundits.

"I'm a quick thinker," Williams says. "I always play like that, and I also thought I was ahead, so it didn't take me much time. I went with my gut--and that's usually the right thing to do. People say I should have slowed down. They say if I had, I would have figured it out. But it's like, no, I still would have called."

The fourth card was the two of hearts. Raymer, holding two pair--eights and twos--bet $2.5 mil. Williams called.

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