After nearly 14 hours of nail-biting high-stakes action in the final round of the World Series of Poker, Steve Dannenmann -- the accountant from Severn who became the Cinderella story of the tournament -- pushed all his chips into the center of the table, making one final bet.
He lost it.
But his second-place finish in the ballyhooed annual tournament earned him a prize of $4,250,000, which he split with his friend Jerry Ditzel of Severna Park, who put up half of Dannenmann's $10,000 entry fee.
The winner, Joseph Hachem, a Lebanese-born Australian chiropractor, took home $7.5 million.
"I got tired," Dannenmann, 38, said. "I was bored of it. I was trying to make moves."
"It was so intense and so nerve-racking it made the Super Bowl look like child's play," Ditzel said yesterday, speaking by cell phone from the Las Vegas airport, a check for more than $2 million in his pocket. "Until you see it firsthand, you don't know how intense it is."
Ditzel watched the action from a chair about 15 feet from a poker table at Binion's Horseshoe Gambling Hall & Hotel. Dannenmann's wife, Anita, 39, was sitting next to him.
"She was breaking my arm she was squeezing it so hard. She's very emotional," Ditzel said.
The final nine players in the tournament began playing at 4 p.m. Friday Las Vegas time and continued until past dawn yesterday morning.
About 13 hours into the round, officials dumped the first-place prize -- $7.5 million, in thick $50,000 bundles of $100 bills -- in stacks on a table near the players. Security men wielding shotguns stood by the cash.
Within an hour, Hachem claimed the fortune.
It was a theatrical finish to a plodding night that had been filled with smart and goofy moves by pros and amateurs exhausted by 90 hours of poker over six brutal sessions.
The final play unfolded slowly as Dannenmann raised before the flop, where three community cards are turned face up, and Hachem called. A six, a five and a four came out. Dannenmann bet an additional $700,000, and Hachem raised to $1.7 million.
The turn card was an ace and Hachem tossed $2 million more into the pot. Dannenmann hesitated, studied the table and then raised to $5 million. Hachem went all-in with more than $30 million and the small crowd packed in the bullpen roared as Dannenmann instantly called.
Hachem flipped over his cards -- a seven and a three for a straight -- against Dannenmann's ace-three. Dannenmann needed a seven on the river, or last card, to split the pot with an equal straight. A four came out instead and Hachem was the champion.
The first Australian to win the poker World Series, Hachem, 39, hugged Dannenmann, then wrapped himself in an Australian flag while his many compatriots and fellow poker players in the room chanted "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!" as they had through the night.
"Thank you, America," Hachem shouted in delight.
"Steve had some great hands and he played them very well," said Ditzel. "The other guy just caught a straight. Steve could've won just as easily. But it was pretty intense."
After the game, Dannenmann, Ditzel and some other Maryland pals went out to breakfast and then hit the craps tables.
"I think Steve won some money," Ditzel said. "I broke even."
Reached in their hotel room at the Mirage, Anita Dannenmann said they were checking out to go on vacation. She didn't say where.
"He'll call you next week," she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.