At the final table of the 2005 World Series of Poker main event, one player emerged as the “aw shucks” guy. That was Steve Dannenmann, the guy with the big smile on his face. He was so happy to be at the final table in Benny’s Bullpen, that you couldn’t see the stress on his face like you could on the other eight players. He was shocked that he made it so deep into the main event.
Steve Dannenmann - Source: Las Vegas & Poker
Before the 2005 WSOP, Steve Dannenmann was just like any guy in your home game. After the final table aired on TV, the world became intrigued by the guy who won $4.25 million. ESPN portrayed him as a goof-ball and a total fish. At heart, he’s just one of the guys and his level of poker skills increased each day he got further and further into the main event. These days he still considers himself an amateur, but if he applies himself, Steve Dannenmann can easily become a regular on the tournament circuit.
Steve Dannenmann was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1966. He earned a business degree at the University of Baltimore and became a certified public accountant at the age of 23. Over the last decade he built up his business and now has over 2,000 clients. He started playing casually in home games in Baltimore. He even attempted a foray into online poker. About two years ago he gave it a whirl and lost his shirt. He read several poker books and improved his game. He admits that he’s not even the best player in his home game.
A friend suggested that he buy into the main event at the 2005 WSOP. They split the entry fee and Dannenmann gave it a try. During the breaks he would call his friends up on his cellphone and give them updates of his progress. One hand in particular was captured by ESPN’s camera crew. It was the infamous hand where he bluffed Howard Lederer out of a pot with 6-8o then was portrayed bragging about it on an episode of ESPN’s WSOP coverage. In reality, Lederer had been raising his blind all afternoon and Dannenmann decided to take a stand. He found his favorite hand, 6-8o, in the big blind and called Lederer’s raise. He missed the flop but check-raised Lederer who folded his hand. When the next break occurred, Dannenmann called his friend back home in Maryland. ESPN made it look like he bluffed Lederer then got on the phone seconds later to brag about it.
When the final table of the main event began, the last two players I expected to play heads up were Steve Dannenmann and Joe Hachem. A lot of people expected a Mike Matusow and Andy Black duel to the finish. They were the most experienced players remaining but they were both busted out relatively early. Hachem got Dannenmann heads up and the rest was history. Although he lost, Dannenmann left Binion’s Horseshoe on a positive note. He never expected to cash in the main event, let alone make the final table. He was genuinely happy to walk away with $4.25 million for second place.
Dannenmann was invited to participate in the Tournament of Champions. He broke the ice with some of the best pros in the game by buying them knick-knacks from the gift shop. His goal was to survive the first day of the TOC which he did. By the second day, his confidence grew and he felt that he belonged at the tables and was no longer intimidated. He wanted to prove that he wasn’t a fluke and that he could actually hold his own against the best players in the world.
Dannenmann was in the middle of some controversy involving Phil Hellmuth. Dannenmann did not like the tone that Hellmuth was taking with the other players, especially Mike Matusow. Hellmuth had been demanding a ten minute penalty on Matusow from the tournament director. Hellmuth was being difficult as always, for the duration of the TOC.
Dannenmann had taking a verbal beating from Hellmuth during the final table of the WSOP main event. Hellmuth did some radio color commentary during the final table and didn’t have nice things to say about Dannenmann’s play. At the TOC, Dannenmann had enough of Hellmuth’s antics. He decided to call Hellmuth out for his lack of respect at the tables. He said that no one should go out and buy Hellmuth’s books and DVDs because he was a “punk.” You could see the other pros trying the hardest not to laugh.
Dannenmann took 5th place at the TOC. Although he did not win, that might have been his most impressive performance to date considering the quality of talent in the field of players. Plus he got some respect from the veterans after he stood up to Hellmuth at the tables.
In November of 2005, Dannenmann proved to himself that he could win a tournament after he picked up a first place victory during one of the weekly tournaments at the Bellagio. Pros Don Mullis and Minneapolis Jim Meehan were both at his difficult final table.
These days, Steve Dannenmann lives in Maryland and only plays in a few events on the tournament circuit. He continues to play poker in home games and is still a dedicated accountant to his clients.