If you’re like me and Dan, you’ve been watching The Main Event of the World Series of Poker at the Rio on ESPN, a yearly tournament that anyone can enter for the chance to win a coveted gold bracelet, bragging rights, close to $9 million dollars, and poker world stardom. If not, let me catch you up on what you’ve been missing.
The first WSOP was held in 1970 at the Horseshoe Casino where Benny Binion invited six people to participate. In 1982, attendance grew to 52 people. Five years later, there were over two thousand people coming to participate in various events, some held by satellite. 2003 was the big year for the World Series of Poker when ESPN decided to cover the entire event and establish a “Featured Table” where viewers could see the players’ hands and strategy as they show their hand to tiny cameras built into the table. It is broadcast as though live though there is a tape delay with commentators. That year revolutionized poker as we know it because it was the first year a person became world champion by qualifying at an online poker site. This person was the aptly named Chris Moneymaker and the draw to the main event for years afterward by amateurs is referred to by the press as the “Moneymaker Effect”.
What is truly amazing about the Main Event as opposed to other events in the WSOP is how many professionals are thrown off their game by the tactics of amateurs and don’t make it to the final table. Phil Helmuth holds 11 WSOP bracelets and is called the “poker brat” because he was the youngest person to win the Main Event at age 24 in 1989 and he has the worst attitude at the table calling everyone around him idiots and usually throwing a number of fits before he runs out of chips. He hasn’t even gotten close to the final table in the past few years I’ve been watching and this year left on Day 1. He makes a grand late entrance, usually in costume, and never gets his head in the game and has to leave with his tail between his legs shortly after being taken out by an amateur.
Scotty Nguyen is a five time WSOP bracelet winner and is known as the “Prince of Poker.” His most memorable quote is from the 1998 Main Event tournament where he told Kevin McBride, “You call, it’s gonna be all over baby!”. McBride called, but Scotty won. Scotty has a reputation for calling everyone “baby” and when asked about it, he revealed that it was difficult for him to say and remember other peoples’ names so he calls everyone “baby.” He went very far in the tournament this year but was knocked out in 209th place.
Phil Ivey was my favorite to win last year and he made it to the “November 9”, the nine players who play the final table in November. He’s a calm player at the table, very quiet, until his eyes widen and he says “I’m all in” and everyone else ought to be scared. He came to the table with a short stack of chips and the cards just didn’t play in his favor. This year he didn’t make it as far and I was bummed. He has 8 WSOP bracelets and is one of the most successful professional poker players and even comes with a cheering section of this cute little old man and woman who wear shirts with his face on them and give him apples to keep him nourished during the tournament.
Last year was very exciting as the two finalists, Joe Cada, a 21 year old kid from Michigan and Darvin Moon, a mountain man from the middle of nowhere (My favorite quote when he was playing, “I’m new to this game.”) faced off. Both had ridiculously good luck. Cada would go all in on a pair of 3’s or 2’s and always seem to flop a set to double up. Darvin Moon just kept getting Aces and Kings all over the place! In the end, it was Cada who won becoming the new youngest Main Event winner in the WSOP.
This year it could be anyone’s game once more! 7,319 people came to play this year. All the stars I named above are already out for the 2010 Main Event as well as Daniel Negreanu, Johnny Chan who famously won two back to back Main Event years and a cameo in the movie “Rounders”, Peter Eastgate who was the 2009 Champion, Doyle Brunson, “Action” Dan Harrington who always wears a big green hat, and Annie Duke who was the runner-up in the 2009 “Celebrity Apprentice” show where she was totally robbed of the title by Joan Rivers. Still in the running last I watched were Tony Dunst who likes to dress in a suit and shades each day and totally hit up a girl on the sidelines for a kiss on the cheek when he went all in and doubled up by getting the card he needed on the river, Matt Affleck who was a chip leader in 2009, and Filippo Candio who was penalized a round for excessive celebration as well as several others and we are marching steadily towards the November 9 Final Table!
At HauntedFlower.com, we recently acquired licensed World Series of Poker apparel for fans and players! What’s really awesome about the clothing is that some of it is thermal for those long, cold days in the air-conditioned casino and the hoodies have built in ear-buds for those who like to have headphones on during the tournaments. Check it out!