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World Series Of Poker
 $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Result 9th July
June 25 – August 10 2006

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Event # 16 (3 day event)
Entries -- 214 (165)
Buy-in -- $10,000
Prize Pool -- $2,140,000
Lee Watkinson
(Long Branch, WA, USA)
wins $655,746 and
his bracelet
Pos. Player Origin Prize
1 Lee Watkinson NV $655,746
2 Michael Guttman Melbourne $360,659
3 Mark Dickstein NY $184,428
4 Rafi Amit Israel $143,444
5 Hasan Habib CA $122,952
6 Nick Gibson Windsor, GB $102,460
7 Jani Vilmunen Finland $81,984
8 Thomas Wahlroos Finland $61,476
9 Mickey Appleman NJ $40,984
10 Ben Roberts (London) $24,590
13 Barry Greenstein $20,492
14 Jim McManus $20,492
20 Daniel Negreanu $12,295
21 Sam Grizzle $12,295
23 Kirill Gerasimov $12,295
25 Dave "Devilfish" Ulliott $12,295
28 Padraig Parkinson $6,147
Key Facts 
28 places paid.
Tournament poker journeyman Lee Watkinson wins his first WSOP gold bracelet and $655,746

Las Vegas, NV - In spiritual circles, St. Francis of Assisi is best known as the patron saint of all animals. St. Francis was a 13th century friar who rescued, housed, and protected wounded and needy critters who could not care for themselves. If St. Francis has a modern-day disciple, his name is most certainly 'Lee Watkinson.' And, if you don't believe it, just ask a chimpanzee.

On July 12, 2006, Watkinson got a monkey the size of an 800-pound gorilla off of his back. After playing in major poker tournaments throughout North America and cashing dozens of times since 2002, Watkinson finally won his first WSOP gold bracelet. Watkinson prevailed in a blistering field of 218 players - comprised of the very best Pot-Limit Omaha specialists in the world. Each player paid $10,000 to enter the event, which created a total prize pool $2,049,200.

It took two days to play down to the last nine competitors. The final table included three former WSOP gold bracelet winners - Rafi Amit (1 win), Mickey Appleman (4 wins) and Hasan Habib (1 win). However, what was most remarkable was the international composition of the nine finalists. Demonstrating that Pot-Limit Omaha is the most 'European' of poker variations, five different countries were represented - including three players from Europe. This competition was also unique because it marked the first time at this year's World Series that a defending champion made it to the final table. Rafi Amit won this event in 2005.

There was also a greater sense of camaraderie present at this table than seen elsewhere. At one point, the entire table ordered a shot and drank a toast together. All poker games everywhere should be as joyous as this one. ESPN television was on hand to capture it all.

Afterward, Watkinson described the victory as more of a relief than a thrill. He finished second in this same event two years ago, which until tonight was the closest Watkinson had ever come to winning at the World Series. 'When I was playing heads-up and lost (the chip lead), I started thinking it was déjà vu all over again,' Watkinson said in reference to finishing in second-place at a number of majors in recent years. 'But then, I just re-focused my game and realized that it takes a different kind of strategy to win a Pot-Limit Omaha tournament. I just played the percentages, wanting to get my money in with the best possible situation.'

Watkinson owns a few businesses, including a record company and a clothing line - which were started exclusively with his poker winnings. The Washington State native holds a degree in economics, which perhaps explains why Watkinson is so astute as an investor and poker professional. Yet, as excited as Watkinson was to win over half a million dollars and the WSOP gold bracelet, he was quick to shift everyone's attention to a greater, more humanitarian purpose. Watkins was joined up on the poker stage by his fiancé Timmi DeRosa.

Together, they described their plans to constructively use some of the $655,746 in total prize money. Watkinson and DeRosa told of their longtime commitment to rescuing and retiring captive chimpanzees, many of which have been used in everything from major motion pictures to research laboratories. Watkinson and DeRosa told about how chimpanzees are not as useful as they become older and are commonly discarded. So a few years ago, the couple made a commitment to rescue as many creatures as possible and eventually build an animal sanctuary. 'All the animals need our help,' DeRosa said. 'But we really try to focus on the chimpanzees.' For this purpose, the Cortland Brandenberg Foundation ( was co-founded by Watkinson and DeRosa. This is certainly the first time ever in history that chimpanzees will benefit directly from a World Series of Poker victory. Following his win, as the arena stage was being cleared, Watkinson said he intended to got out later in the night and buy the chimps some cake and ice cream. Perhaps instead of St. Francis, we should call the latest WSOP poker champion 'St. Watkinson.'
by Nolan Dalla
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