On 31st May, 2011, the greatest showpiece in the world of poker began. The 2011 World Series of Poker, WSOP started at the Rio Hotel and Resort in Las Vegas with the opening event of the Casino Employees No Limit Hold’em. 27 events on and the tournament has already turned up some classic moments.
The opening event was eventually won by Californian native Sean Drake. He beat 849 other casino employees to take home $82,292 as he won the first tournament of the 2011 WSOP. As a part time poker dealer at Folsom Lake Bowl in his home town it was a fairytale finish for Drake.
Event #2 saw the first Brit make his mark on this year’s tournament when Jake Cody, from Rochdale, UK, prevailed victorious in the $25,000 Heads Up No Limit Hold’em Championship. He won $851,192 and swept aside 127 rivals.
Wins then came for Francesco Barbaro in the Omaha Hi-Lo Split 8 or Better ($262,283), Allen Bari in the first No Limit Hold’em ($874,116), Eugene Katchalov in the Seven Card Stud ($122,909), Harrison Wilder in the second No Limit Hold’em event ($205,065) and Amir Lehavot in the Pot Limit Hold’em Championship ($573,456).
There was also a special event on 2nd June when three rematches of WSOP classics were held. These included rematches of the 2003 Main Event heads up final between Chris Moneymaker and Sammy Farha and the 1989 Main Event heads up final between Johnny Chan and Phil Hellmuth. Chris Moneymaker and Johnny Chan won their respective rematches which gave poker fans a feeling of nostalgia.
The Americans showed little sign of being affected by the Black Friday controversies as they won two of the following three events. Sean Getzwiller ($611,185) and Geffrey Klein ($544,388) won the No Limit Hold’em and No Limit Hold’em Six Hand events respectively, either side of Brit player Matthew Perrins ($102,105) sealing victory in the 2-7 Draw Lowball. Russian Viacheslav Zhukov ($465,216) secured a win in the Omaha Hi-Lo Split 8 or Better ahead of a field that had a large American contingency. The next few events saw largely American wins as the home crowds witnessed the victories they wanted to see.
Event number 16 then saw a classic as two professionals and WSOP legends went toe-to-toe in a classic finale. Las Vegas son John Juanda ($367,170) gained his fifth WSOP bracelet to deny Phil Hellmuth a record breaking 12th WSOP bracelet in the 2-7 Draw Low Ball Championship. Even though the heads up was reasonably brief, it had been a classic show of how poker should be played at its best and finished with two of the best players in the game going for it right until the end.
Event 17 welcomed HORSE to the World Series of Poker for its 2011 debut. American Aaron Steurey defeated some big names including Michael Chow and Denis Ethier to get first place and win $289,283.
The next three events of No Limit Hold’em saw American and British victories, including the fairytale victory for Jason Somerville. Somerville has had previous finishes in 5th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd in the WSOP events he has entered. However, he lay to rest the ghost of the past events to get the win and take home $493,091. The New Yorker set chins wagging on 14th June as he won his first golden bracelet at just 24 years of age with such a spirited performance. Many are already tipping this lad to have a massive impact on poker in the near future off the back of this performance.
Event 21 witnessed the first French player to win a golden bracelet in 2011. Bertrand Grospellier, also known as ElkY, has already enjoyed success in the World Poker Tour and the European Poker Tour. This $331,639 victory in the Seven Card Stud Championship was another one to add to his tally. Elie Payan continued the French dominance into the following event which was the Pot Limit Omaha with a first prize of $292,825.
The Eight Game Mix is widely considered to be the most challenging event on the WSOP and it attracted some major names including John Juanda and John Racener. It was eventually won by John Monette who walked away with $278,144. It involved players trying their hand at all eight of the major varieties of poker from Hold’em to Omaha to Seven Card Stud.
16th June saw one of the biggest cash prizes seen to date in the tournament this year when Canadian Mark Radoja beat a host of the game’s biggest names such as Erik Seidel and JP Kelly to secure victory in the No Limit Hold’em Shootout and take a first place cash prize of $436,568. It was arguably the toughest field yet and Radoja earned every penny of that first place pot.
Oleksii Kovalchuk cast a huge shadow over Radoja’s cash prize when he won the No Limit Hold’em/Six Handed that was event number 26. Kovalchuk was the proud winner of $689,739 after sweeping aside 1,377 challengers in what can only be described as an epic effort that saw players from dozens of countries congregate together to try and win the first place.
There are still 31 events left to finish in this year’s WSOP at the Rio Resort and Hotel. This year’s spectacle has already seen history made with first bracelets being won and also history being denied with John Juanda frustrating Phil Hellmuth. The rematches of classic WSOP finals offered some vintage poker viewing for the purists and a variety of faces have been on show all month showing that the Black Friday investigation hasn’t hit the poker scene as hard as some thought it would.
It still remains a shame that the legendary presence of Phil Ivey is lacking due to his legal proceedings with Full Tilt Poker but the tournament has plenty of characters and drama involved thus far that the 35 year old from Las Vegas hasn’t been too sorely missed. There is still lots of time left for history to be created. Legends are still to be created and reputations are yet to be broken as the WSOP steam rollers into its second phase.
All eyes will be on the Main Event in July which will see the nine qualifiers for the November Nine Final Table decided to crown the 2011 WSOP Main Event Champion. There really is no event like it on Earth. This party has only just begun.