The Big Dance with Dogger9

Note: One of the greatest PokerStars stories to come from the World Series of Poker was that of Bernard "Dogger9" Lee, a Frequent Player Point qualifier who caught everybody's eye as the real deal. Lee has agreed to chronicle his journey for the Official PokerStars Blog. His trip report will be published here over the next several days. Enjoy.


Before the storm
by Bernard Lee
It turned out to be the week of my life: the 2005 WSOP Main Event. My name is Bernard Lee, aka "Dogger9". PokerStars asked me to write up a few memories. I am happy to share these with you.

Here is a quick background of my life: I'm a 35 year Korean-American male, married for 9 years to my beautiful wife, Katie. We currently have 2 wonderful children; Noah, 2 years old, and Maya, 2 months old. We live just outside of Boston, MA.

For several years, I have been playing on PokerStars. In late March 2005, I finally qualified for the 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event via a 1000 Frequent Player Point Tournament. Although I have played in several live tournaments before, this was my FIRST WSOP. Please follow along through this story of my "week" of a lifetime. It was a wild and surreal ride. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

On March 28, 2005, I decided it would probably be a good idea to play in a PokerStars Frequent Player Point Tournament in order to practice for the next Sunday Night $650 Super Satellite. I had played the Sunday Super Satellite the 2 weeks prior and had had 2 bad beats to knock me out of each. The worst was the night before when I was one of the top ten in chips and had KK vs QQ (who was one of the other large stacks) and of course a Q hit on the flop ended my "dream" for the night in 90th out of 301, giving away 16 seats. My fateful Frequent Player Point Tournament started at 11pm and before I knew it, it was 4:30am and I had made the final table. A miraculous hand 99 vs AJ with flop AKT, turn A and river 9 (Unbelievable!) carried me to my seat at the 2005 WSOP Main Event. I couldn't be happier as I told my wife when she woke that morning that I was going to the WSOP Main Event--a life long dream! My excitement was magnified a few weeks later when a work colleague, Mark Hanna, also qualified through PokerStars (where else?!). Las Vegas, here we come!

The anticipation was immeasurable. Mark and I felt like schoolboys counting down the days to summer vacation. Nearly every day we would call each other and say "60 days to go," "50...40...", "30, 20, 10 to..." To further prepare for the WSOP Main Event, I drove south to Foxwoods to practice in their satellites for the World Poker Finals. I won a one-table satellite to advance into the Super Satellite. Overall, I was happy with my play, but my night was over when my opponent flopped a monster (quad 3's), when I hit 2 pair on the turn. Oh well. I was pleased with my play and hoped nothing like that would happen in Vegas.

A month or so before the Main Event, I booked my flight to Vegas-- departing Boston Wednesday, July 6th, returning on Tuesday July 12th. My thought was that if I made it through Monday -- Day 5 (remember day 1,2,3 technically were all the first day of the tournament), I would be in the money and I wouldn't mind paying the change fee for my ticket. Also, I decided my last practice session was to be Sunday June 26th in the PokerStars Sunday Night $650 Super Satellite, but another life issue, more important than poker, came to the forefront.

My wife Katie had given birth to our second child, a daughter named Maya, on April 28th. She lost a lot of blood after delivery, but, in the weeks following, she seemed to get gradually stronger and stronger. However, in the month of June, Katie began suffering some severe belly pain. Initially, she thought it might be food poisoning, but when it occurred for the 3rd time in 2 weeks, we thought she should probably see her doctor. She underwent a belly CT scan at 10am Friday, June 24th. Quite unexpectedly the radiologist found a 7 cm tumor on her right ovary! We scheduled surgery right away on Wednesday, June 28th, only 1 week before the WSOP Main Event. I was very worried, but my wife, who is a physician herself, reassured me that this was not a life threatening procedure and that she would be ok. Still, this was an invasive procedure that would result in a rather large incision in her abdomen. My primary thoughts centered on Katie’s well-being and recovery; however, in the far back of mind, I have to admit I also thought about the possibility of not going to the WSOP Main Event. I even e-mailed PokerStars explaining our unexpected situation and asked if anything could be done. Alas, since they had already registered me with Harrah's, it was too late to make any changes. Lee Jones from PokerStars sent me an extremely sincere and personalized e-mail telling me to make sure that I take care of my wife first and foremost, and then worry about poker.

She came home the next day and we didn't really discuss the WSOP Main Event, but she knew that I was thinking about it. And what happened next is why I have been married to the best woman in the world for 9 years. She said, "I know you are worried about the World Series. I will be ok. I know that you need to go." After arranging for her sister to fly in from California to take care of her, and as long as her recovery went well, I was preparing to go. However, on the morning of July 4th (2 days before I was scheduled to leave), my wife had increased abdominal pain and said that we needed to see the surgeon to get her wound checked out. It was at this moment that I had serious thoughts of not going to Vegas -- if Katie needed to have another surgery or her complications were serious, I WOULD NOT GO! My family comes first!

When we entered the ER, poker was the furthest thing from my mind. In some respects, I had already resigned the fact that I wouldn’t be going. Oh well, there will be many more opportunities and many more WSOP Main Events. I'll just try to qualify through PokerStars next year. The surgeon entered the room and after a thorough check of the site, reassured us that she was fine and that the pain/discoloration was normal. I still was unsure if I should go. My parents and in-laws were not pleased that I even considered leaving Katie so soon after her surgery. However, once again, my wife said, "I'll be ok. You should go." I made sure my sister-in-law arrived to take care of my wife and two kids while I was away, which made me feel a little better. But, I did have some guilt as I left the house Wednesday morning. After kissing my wife and the kids good-bye, she reassured me she was going to be okay and said her usual "I Love You! Good Luck! Have Fun!"