Dynamite Dave

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

"If I raise there, I don't want to give him a chance to fold," Williams says. "I want to give him another chance to bet at it."

Raymer obliged. The fifth card was the two of clubs. Raymer went all-in, and Williams immediately called. They each had a full house, but Raymer's was better--eights and twos, while Williams had fours and twos.

The whole hand took maybe two minutes. Just like that, Raymer was thrusting his hands into the air and Williams was left to watch another man celebrate.

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.

"Because I play a lot more hands than most people, he probably thought he was in good shape there--that he was ahead or that I was bluffing," Raymer says. "People who judge the play or criticize him are evaluating without fully understanding everything that was going on. But I would imagine that he's probably going to think about it for a while. Anybody would."

This is gambling. Sometimes you guess right; other times your gut betrays you, and if it didn't hurt so much already, you'd punch it good. Plenty of people are going to second-guess him, call him a chump, call him a fluke. They'll say he was lucky, and it'll sound like a slur. And maybe he was lucky, but so what? You'd have to be to get that far, but you'd have to have some talent, too. Some people can always beat the game. David Williams is one of those people. He excels--at school, at Magic, at poker. He wins, possibly because it's fun, definitely because he needs to in order to find peace. Mediocre doesn't work for him--a 3.9 GPA doesn't work for him. You can call it drive or obsession or lunacy--just understand that, whatever it is, it causes Williams to go and go and go, to never be satisfied. People may bet against him to duplicate his WSOP success, but it seems safer to put money on him, because he's going to do something when he's done with school, and regardless of what it is--poker or economics or whatever--it's awfully hard to imagine him failing.

"I don't know that I'll play poker forever," Williams muses back at the restaurant. In about a week, he'll head out on a poker tour that will take him all over the world in order to capitalize on his now-famous mug. Then there's school in the fall and who knows what after that. "Financially, it would probably be smarter to invest the money. Because I'd have to play dangerously large stakes right now to make it interesting. So, it's like, what can be earned and at what potential cost?"

He won't have to worry about that for a while. After the government takes its cut, he figures to clear $2 million to $2.5 million (more than what the winner took home before taxes last year). He's going to buy a car, maybe a Bentley, so he and Brittany can stop sharing her little white Eclipse. He gave his mom a chunk to pay off the house and the bills. The rest of it will pad his future. The only indulgence so far was the Rolex that now lights his wrist. It's a ridiculous combination of platinum and diamonds that demands attention--25 G's worth.

Things are pretty great for David Williams right now. As he pushes what remains of the food around his plate, he agrees and says he knows as much. But just when you think he's moving on, relaxing a little, he regresses slightly.

"I was so close," he says. "There's just no way to describe how it makes you feel when you watch someone else become the champion."

He shoves the last of the pasta in his mouth. At least he has his appetite back.

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