This article was written soon after the birth of my first son, Joshua, back in January of 2004.  I guess my estimate of the WSOP reaching 5000 entrants was off by about 20 years! 

21-year old Joshua “the Chief” Hilger outplayed 5,000 of the top poker players in the world to take home the $40 million prize and the 2025 World Series of Poker championship. This year’s event again was limited to 5,000 entrants, but every entrant paid a record $25,000 each setting a new record with a total prize pool of $125 million and a whopping $40 million going to the winner.

Joshua outlasted his opponents over a grueling two-week event which culminated in the final table this past Sunday on May 23rd. Among the final table participants were poker legends Phil Ivey and the “poker brat” himself, Phil Hellmuth, with yet another record-breaking final table appearance. Phil Hellmuth, winner of 28 World Series of poker gold bracelets was chip leader and found himself in great position to take home his 4th World Series of Poker main event championship.

As the field got narrowed down, Joshua’s relentless aggressive play put him into position to battle the legendary Hellmuth for the championship. The spectators were in for a night full of surprises as the young Joshua outplayed Hellmuth and put him on the defensive from the beginning. Joshua put Hellmuth on the edge when he got him to lay down top pair on the turn and Joshua showed down a complete bluff. The hand proved to be a turning point as Hellmuth could never fully recover after that hand.

The final hand culminated in Hellmuth showing his impatience as he went allin preflop with AJ only to run into pocket queens from Joshua. The queens were good and Joshua “the Chief” Hilger was the new poker champion. Joshua gets his nickname from his middle name Ariki, which means first-born chief in Maori, the native language of New Zealand.

The event, to be televised on NBC, is expected to exceed last year’s Nielson ratings of over 25 million viewers a week. Over 50 million viewers are expected to see Joshua celebrate his tremendous victory at the final table.

Joshua, playing in his first World Series, is the son of the 2008 WSOP champion and poker author, Matthew Hilger.

…suddenly reality hits as I am awakened by my wife asking me to go change another diaper. Can’t a father dream anymore?

Joshua Ariki Hilger was born November 28th, 2003 and is our first child.

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