We have passed the halfway mark in the annual World Series of Poker tournament so I want to give Party Poker people a recap of a few of the biggest stories to surface so far.
John “Razor” Phan takes a Pair of Bracelets: The first WSOP event that John Phan ever cashed in was the 2000 $500 Employees Only Event for Limit Hold’em – at that point, he was working for the players rather than working them over. Over the next few years he would build up a bankroll playing in LA cash games (he is a resident of Long Beach, California) and following his $518,920 payday for a 3rd place in the WPT Championship in 2004 his career was set. In this year’s WSOP he has cashed 4 times and been the outright winner of 2 events: $3,000 NL Hold’em for a $434,789 first prize and the $2,500 Deuce to Seven Triple Lowball for $151,911.
Layne Flack joins The Master in the Exclusive 6 Bracelet Club: Since beginning his WSOP career in the late 1990’s, Layne Flack has been a tremendous tournament force. This year, he took home the $1,500 PL Omaha with Re-Buys event for his sixth WSOP bracelet good for a tie for seventh most all-time (he is tied with Men “The Master” Nguyen.) Flack has also won a WPT title and with a May 18, 1969 birth date he still has a lot of bracelets left in him.
Erick Lindgren Finally Wins One: Erick Lindgren was the first WPT player of the year to win two WPT events in its inaugural season. He has been to 8 WSOP Final Tables and is not only a world class all-around poker player, but a popular member of the poker community as well (he is good friends with Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman and many other famous players.)But one jewel in the poker crown had eluded the man called E-Dog until about three weeks ago – a WSOP bracelet. On June 2nd, Lindgren took home the $5,000 Mixed Hold’em (Limit/NL) bracelet and $374,505 along with it.
Robin Hood Picks off his 3rd Bracelet: Barry Greenstein is unique in the world of poker because he donates every last penny of his tournament winnings to a number of humanitarian causes. So not only did the man called the Robin Hood of Poker win his third bracelet in $1,500 Seven Card Razz event, he has made approximately $400,000 in 2008 all destined for charities.
The Hinkles are Winning: After Grant Hinkle’s 10-4 bluff turned into a quad 10s suckout against James Akenhead’s AK – not to mention an $831,462 first prize and WSOP bracelet in the $1,500 NL Hold’em event – it was fair to think that the Hinkle family luck was spent. Yet less than two weeks later, Grant’s brother Blair took home a bracelet and $507,563 for the $2,000 NL Hold’em event, making the Hinkle brothers the first ever siblings to win bracelets in the same WSOP.
Daniel Negreanu wins his Bracelet Bet: For the past few WSOPs Daniel Negreanu has been taking bets on whether or not he would win another bracelet – at last check, he was taking around $40,000 in bets going against him 4 to 1. The man who won the very first WSOP event he ever entered has officially won the bet this year, as in addition to 3 other cashes including another Final Table, Kid Poker won the $204,874 and bracelet for the $2,000 Limit Hold’em event. It was the 33 year old Negreanu’s 4th bracelet.
The Mouth Walks the Walk: Mike “The Mouth” Matusow has also had a very successful 2008 WSOP with a 5th place finish and $138,062 in the $10,000 World Championship Omaha Hi-Lo Split 8 or Better and a win in the $5,000 NL Deuce to Seven Draw Lowball with Rebuys for $537,862 and his third bracelet.
David Benyamine is Really Really Good: David Benyamine came to poker after a serious back injury forced him to give up his lifelong dream of professional tennis. He first came to the attention of the mainstream poker public in the popular GSN show, “High Stakes Poker” after almost losing more than $600,000 to the enigmatic Guy Laliberte (here’s the hand: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4XLkaDeQOI.) So far in this year’s WSOP he has cashed 4 times with four top 10 finishes and he won his first bracelet in the $10,000 World Championship Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better. All in all, he has taken in about $1,000,000 in prize money and is a real threat to take home this year’s Player of the Year honors.
Who is Jacobo Fernandez? Every WSOP sees its share of unknowns climb to the top and this year’s is Jacobo Fernandez. But Jacobo’s success has been a little different than past unknowns. Take Chris Moneymaker in 2003 who gained fame for winning the Main Event – Jacobo hasn’t won a single bracelet but he has cashed 5 times. Take Jeff Madsen in 2006, who found success in multiple tournaments in his first WSOP – unlike the then 21 year old Madsen, Jacobo is a grown man who has been buying into major tournaments since 2007. All we know about the mysterious gambler is that he is reportedly a fixture of some of the more secretive Hollywood High Stakes home games (he lives in Hollywood, CA.) He cashed in a few tournaments in 2007 but didn't make any big waves. Then came the 2008 WSOP. Fernandez has cashed in 5 events so far, finishing no lower than 25th: he has finished 2nd in the $1,500 PL Hold’em event for $136,644 (713 players in the field,) 25th in the $5,000 NL Hold’em Shootout event for $16,920 (360 players in the field,) 12th in the $10,000 World Championship Seven Card Stud event for $33,417 (158 players in the field,) 4th in the $5,000 NL Hold’em event for $238,781 (731 players in the field) and 3rd in the $1,500 PL Omaha with Rebuys event for $222,659 (320 players and 1350 rebuys) all in a little over 3 weeks. As of June 25th, Jacobo was leading the Milwaukee’s Best Light Player of the Year standings by a narrow margin over David Benyamine and John Phan. All of this coming from a player so unknown that there is not even a Wikipedia entry for him.
All of that action and we aren’t even through yet: 12 events remain to be played with the three biggest of all the WSOP amongst them: the $10,000 World Championship of PL Omaha, the $50,000 World Championship of H.O.R.S.E. and, of course, the $10,000 Main Event.
Though Party Poker players are used to playing a big tournament every week in the form of the , there is still no tournament in the world like the World Series of Poker Main Event.
This year, organizers have structured the Main Event schedule planning for a record 12,000 players to buy in. If the organizers planned perfectly and precisely 12,000 people pay the $10,000 buy-in then that would constitute an astounding $120,000,000 prize pool. Furthermore, should the payout percentages remain the same as they were in 2006 (where Jamie Gold took home the $12,000,000 record prize) then the winner would walk out with a ludicrous $16,413,997.49.
Also remember that this year’s Main Event table will be played live on ESPN following a . More stories are sure to come with such incredible action yet to unfold and you can expect another recap on July 15, once the Main Event Final Table has been set.