Record Breaking Year for the WSOP

July 11, 2014

This year’s WSOP will go down in history as the biggest in history, with a record 82,360 participants and amassing the biggest total prize pool yet, $227,712,923. Spanning 65 events, registrants represented 107 countries, with an all-time participation high, surpassing last year’s 79,471 by 3.6%, with the Main Event alone drawing in 6,683 players and a prize pool worth $62,829,200. The winner of the final event for this year will win $10,000,000. This was the fifth-largest Main Event in the history of the series, drawing the largest number of players since 2010.

“There is only one WSOP,” said Ty Stewart, World Series of Poker Executive Director. “We’re humbled to have seen this kind of response to our 10th series at the Rio. More than ever before, we embraced the challenge to have something for everyone who loves the game. With some of the biggest events ever organized it is clear poker remains strong and its best days are ahead. We can’t wait to start planning for next year.”

This will be the tenth year in a row that the series has generated more than $100 million, but only the second time in the history of the WSOP that it has gone over $200 million. Since it began 45 years ago, more than $2 billion has been paid out in winnings, $1 billion of that paid out in the past five years. The prize pool this year surpassed 2013 by 15.5%!

In addition, the WSOP has raised more than $5 million for charity for the second time in the past three years, contributing $5.2 million to ONE DROP, an organization that supports water access projects around the world. Players have the opportunity to donate 1% of their winnings to ONE DROP on top of the two specific events that support the cause. Since the partnership between the WSOP and ONE DROP began in 2012, more than $12 million has been donated, directly impacting more than 100,000 lives worldwide.

Zachary Zaffos from Florida was the youngest player to participate this year, turning 21 one day before he played in Day 1-C of the Main Event. On the other end of the spectrum was William Wachter from New York, who is 93 years young and played in Day 1-B of the Main Event. Wachter was the oldest player last year, as well. Poker Hall of Famer Henry Orenstein finished eighth in Event #60, becoming the oldest person at 90 years old to cash in this year’s series.

The US represented the largest number of players with 78,165 and all 50 states were present, while Canada was the second most represented with 6,045 players. The UK had 2,894 involved, while France, German, Russia, and Brazil, all had more than 1,000 players participate in this year’s WSOP. Italy, Austria, and Australia rounded out the bottom of the top 10 entries by country list.

Out of the 64 bracelets awarded, the US landed 52 of those—the most in history.

The Big One for One Drop: Daniel Vs. Daniel

July 2, 2014

WSOP reporters refer to it as a “David and Goliath story,” which is so very fitting, to say the least. It could also be called “Daniels in the Lion’s Den,” as the final play came down to Daniel against Daniel. There are only a handful of other players that could have made The Big One for One Drop any more dramatic. The stage for the final table of the one and only $1 million buy-in tournament, Event #57 of the 2014 WSOP was set up with Daniel Negreanu on one side and Daniel Colman on the other. Behind Negreanu was a huge congregation of fans and supporters on the rail, as well as more poker experience than anyone else might ever catch up to. Behind 23-year-old young gun, Colman, was a strapping online poker career and apparently the skills to best the best.

This was Colman’s first final table appearance at a WSOP event, so the pressure was on for the $15+million prize and the platinum gold bracelet, which ultimately went to Colman after a highly honorable heads-up showdown. This ups his all-time money list exponentially, as previously he had only just under $160K in WSOP cash outs. However, Negreanu is not without title because after a second-place payout worth more than $8.2 million, Negreanu is now the world’s biggest all-time money winner with more than $40 million in career tourney earnings, surpassing previous all-timer and 2012 Big One for One Drop champion, Antonio Esfandiari.

Day 2 seemed to drag out, but by Day 3, a winner would submerge. Nine players sat at the final table, only two of which had won WSOP titles before. Scott Seiver, who finished in sixth place with $1.6 million in earnings, had one prior bracelet win, while Negreanu had six, hoping to land a seventh by the time it was down to two-handed play, but it only took 118 hands to determine the winner. Unfortunately Tom Hall would bust out in ninth place, the only one not receiving a come up on this tournament, as the Big One for One Drop prize pool only paid the top 8. Hall had been second-to-chip leader by the end of Day 2, trailed only by Esfandiari.

This year’s event attracted 42 players and amassed more than $37 million in prize pool funds and $4.6 million going to the One Drop  charity. To add to that donation, US residents may text ONEDROP to 20222 and donate $10 to the charity in honor of this epic event. More than $11 million has been raised for One Drop since the WSOP partnered with the charity three years ago. It’s hard to envision the actual impact that has had on the world, but it’s even harder to imagine the impact that would not have been if it weren’t for the visionary and generous genius of Guy Lalibertè, whose idea for a massive charitable tournament that would be the biggest ever in the world, made all of this possible. And it’s not just the money, but global awareness of this charity that will be enlarged due to television broadcasts of the event, as well as buzz in the poker community both live and online.

As always, there was much speculation about who would participate in this event this year. In hindsight, the WSOP has released the following stats.

Of the 42 registrants, 30 were pros, while 12 were recreational players or amateurs. Eighteen players were repeat participants from the 2012 event; 24 were new to the event. Fifteen participants were bracelet winners, while there was only one Poker Hall of Fame member, Erik Seidel and one WSOP Main Event Champion, Greg Merson. Five of the eight final table players from 2012 were return players (Phil Hellmuth, Bobby Baldwin, and Richard Yong from the 2012 final table did not participate this year).

Andrew Rennhack Takes a Bracelet

July 2, 2014

Last year, Seattle, Washington’s semi-pro Andrew Rennhack was named the Player of the Series for the Carnivale of Poker. He said, “Winning the Carnivale Best-All Around was nice, but that wasn’t my goal when I came out here last year. I came out here to win the gold bracelet. I had to wait an extra year, but I guess it was all worth it.”

While Carnivale of Poker did not return, Rennhack did, and like he said, it was well worth it.

Rennhack won Event #26 $1,500 NLH and more than $400K for his efforts, not to mention a gold bracelet.

The final table was tough, but Rennhack managed to out play runner up and Cali-based pro Michael Katz. By day, Rennhack owns and operates an ATM business, so this nice prize is just icing on the cake.

“I think [not being a pro] gave me some advantage,” he explained. ”I think some of the other players tightened up at the final table. They may have been thinking about the pay jumps, whereas I was just playing it one hand at a time. You just have to play one hand at a time and make the decisions that way….that’s the way to think about it.”

This is Rennhack’s fifth WSOP cash, but his first final table. Last year, Rennhack cashed out of a $365 HORSE tourney with just shy of $18,500. What a difference a year can make.

By his side were other Vegas-based pros and comrades, including Tony Gargano, Dan Smith, and Ryan Welch, as well as Katz.

For a stint, it looked like Welch, the only bracelet winner at the table, would be the victor with a sizeable chip lead, but he was ultimately out in fourth place, Gargano ended in third.

This event attracted 1,594 players, who amassed a prize pool of more than $2 million, which paid the first 171 players to finish the tournament. Phil Hellmuth was out in 29th place, and Brandon Cantu lasted to 98th.

Another First-Time Bracelet Winner Makes a Mark

June 29, 2014

Event #24 $5K NLH 6 Handed saw Kevin Eyster win his first WSOP bracelet after 37 overall major poker tournament cashes and a paycheck of more than $622K. Originally from Louisiana, but now living in Denver, Eyster has seen a great deal of success over the past seven years that defines his professional poker career. Now he adds one of the most prominent badges of poker success, a WSOP gold bracelet.

Outlasting 540 fellow players, Eyster managed to come out as chip leader after two and half days of grueling competition, which he lost late in the third day to Pierre Neuville, who ultimately finished runner up against Eyster after an unscheduled fourth day was added.

“This is what I’ve been dreaming about for my whole life,” said Eyster after winning. ”This is what I’ve been wanting to win my whole life. I’ve been watching this on ESPN, I mean words can’t even explain it.  I’m speechless.”

Last year was a great year for Eyster, after winning a big tournament at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Florida and his first WSOP Circuit ring, but his most recent pay day represents his biggest career cash by far. He now owns more than $2 million in live earnings plus another $3 million in online winnings.

Speaking on his extra-supportive rail, made up of mostly fellow Louisianans, Eyster said, “I really appreciate that all of them came out to cheer me on.  After yesterday, they were as tired as I was, but they showed up today to support me and I appreciate their help.”

The second-place finisher, Neuville, almost became the second Belgian to land a WSOP win in the same week, following behind Davidi Katai, who won just a few days before.

Marking his fourth cash this year was third-place finisher and WSOP Circuit ring winner Andrew Lichtenberger, who was appearing in his fifth WSOP final table. Other key players in the final included Jeremy Kottler, 5th, and Bryn Kenney, 4th, both appearing in their third WSOP final tables.

This event generated a prize pool worth more than $2.5 million that paid the top 60 players including Matt Jarvis, 9th; Greg Merson, 13th; Kory Kilpatrick, 17th, who won his first WSOP bracelet three days prior and went on to cash third in Event #42 PLO 6 Handed; Matt Salsberg, 31st; Freddy Deeb, 33rd; and Bertrand Grospellier, 51st, who just cashed in 16th two days earlier in Event #22 $10K HORSE.

Dominik Nitsche Wins Third WSOP Bracelet

June 29, 2014

Germany’s Dominik Nitsche caught his third bracelet this year, second for the 2014 season, in Event #21 $1K NLH, receiving more than $335K for his efforts. And the efforts were many, as he was faced against Dave D’Alesandro, who ended up the runner up. Also in Nitche’s way to his third bracelet was Bob Bounahra, who was the first player from Central America to make the November Nine in 2011. He finished 7th in the 2011 Main Event, but the Belize native made it to 3rd in Event #21.

This is yet another win for Germany this year, as George Danzer won Event #18 $10K 7 Card Razz. For Nitsche, this win catapulted him over the $2 million WSOP career earnings mark, which now spans 19 career cashes.

Nitche said, “It feels really good to win this one. Of course, the first one feels really great, and so does the second one, and so does the third. They all feel good in different ways because this is the top prize in poker. This is what we play for.”

Nitsche’s first bracelet this year was earned last month in Atlantic City at the 2014 National Championship. He now joins fellow countryman David Kitai, as the only European player to have at least three WSOP wins. But what’s even more impressive is that Nitsche is now the youngest player to ever win three gold bracelets. At 23 years old, he now takes the title from Phil Ivey, previous record holder, who won his third bracelet by the age of 24.

“I have been playing poker for seven years,” said Nitsche.  “At this rate, I really think I can catch Hellmuth (who has 13 wins, to date).  Of course, he and Phil Ivey are great players so to be talked in the same breath as them is really something for me.  I will just say I am really proud to come to Las Vegas where I have enjoyed a lot of success over the years.”

If Bounahra had won, he would have joined the November Niners bracelet club, along with Ylon Schwartz, Phil Ivey, Matt Jarvis, Scott Montgomery, Michael Mizrachi, and Eric Buchman, but this was not his time.

Other notable mentions include sixth-place finisher Jeff Gross. This was his third final table finish in WSOP events. And Thayer Rasmussen, who finished fifth, was at his second WSOP final table.

This event attracted 2,043 players and amassed a prize pool worth more than $1.84 million, paying out the top 216 places, which included Mickey Peterson, 14th; Jason Senti, 21st; JC Tran, 38th; David Williams, 65th; Jason Koon, 82nd; Erik Seidel, 83rd; Jonathan Dimmig, 105th; and Matt Brady, 190th.

Kilpatrick Kills a Table Stacked with Experience

June 19, 2014

Event #20 $3K NLH Shootout has wrapped up after a final table of all US players that included bracelet-winners Phil Galfond and Taylor Paur, both at their second final table of the year in this event, as well as Chris Bell, and Noah Bronstein (who went to one final table last year), but they were no match for the bracelet winner, Kory Kilpatrick, who is not $254K richer and owner of his first gold bracelet.

Once again we see players like Galfond, who have won WSOP bracelets previously, seated at a final table and defeated by a non-bracelet winner. Hailing from Memphis, Tennesse, 20-year-old Kilpatrick now lives in college town Athens, Georgia where he attends Rhodes College. Before his WSOP win, he was already a well-respected online multi-table tournament player who, in 2008, made more than $100K in just one week, which would have made him 14 and somewhat of a child prodigy in poker. Of course his live winnings didn’t start adding up until June of 2011, probably following close behind his 18th birthday, when he earned his first WSOP paid position coming in 62nd at $5K NLH.

Since then, he’s earned more than $554K in career earnings, which was doubled last week when he won his first bracelet. Many say this kid is on his way to becoming a poker legend before it’s all said and done. He’s got quite some time to achieve that, though.

“There were really no bad players here, everyone played solid,” said a modest Kilpatrick after winning. “I was really feeling it today. It feels great.”

This win represents Kilpatrick’s 13th cash in WSOP events, though this event was the first of this year, and he’s already made a second payday this series, finishing 17th in Event #24 NLH Six-Handed, making that 14 final tables in just three years, which is a feat in itself.

Once the 10-palyer final table was set up, it took 83 hands to eliminate Narendra Banwari. Fifty-seven hands later, Dylan Linde was out in 9th. In the end, Kilpatrick went heads up against Eric Wasserson, who finished second, while Paur finishded 7th, Bronstein took a third place spot, Bell came in 5th, and Galfond finished 6th.

The 389-registrant event collected a prize pool worth well over $1 million and paid the last 40.

Kilpatrick posted the following tweet after his win:

“Thanks for the love, my friends. You are all sexy savages in my heart. We got em!”

First-Timer George Danzer Wins the 18th 2014 WSOP Bracelet

June 18, 2014

A new event this year, Event #18 $10K 7 Card Razz, was the first of its kind in the 45-yar WSOP history. This is the highest buy-in for a Razz event ever, making it a championship event and attracting some of the best Razz players in the world, and even the Godfather of Poker himself, Mr. Doyle Brunson, one of the most decorated WSOP players of all times, made a rare appearance. With 112 registrants, the field was stacked, but only one was to become the world champion of Razz, and that was Germany’s 30-year-old George Danzer. He came out of the event with a gold bracelet and just under $300K.

Danzer has been in six previous WSOP final tables. Just two weeks ago, he was finished fifth in Event #5 $10K Limit 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball, and last year, he also placed fifth in the $50K Poker Players Championship (Event #55), but this is his first bracelet.

Speaking on his victory, Danzer said, “It’s everything. For ten years no, since I was 21, I always wanted to come to the World Series and be a World Champion. I was always watching the news to see who won, and I wanted to be like them. I come over every year, and it’s my tenth year now. When you get close, you get a taste of it, and I came close a couple of times. I’m really, really happy now.”

Taking down a touch final table, Danzer managed to outlast David Bach (8th), 2009 $50K HORSE champion and final table contender at a previous Razz event this year, just two weeks ago for which he placed fourth, beat only by Greg Pappas, third, Phil Hellmuth, second, and Ted Forrest, first. Also seated at the Event #18 final felt was Yuval Bronshtein (4th), who was at his fifth final table, Naoya Kihura (7th), Japan’s one and only bracelet winner; and Brian Hastings (5th), who also has a previous bracelet win.

Second place went to Brandon Shack-Harris, who won his first WSOP bracelet earlier in the season in the $1K PLO, just barely missing his second bracelet in as many weeks. This puts both Shack-Harris and Danzer in the running for WOP Player of the Year, though both still fall short of catching up with Justin Bonomo.

This is Germany’s second bracelet this year, the first won by Dominik Nitsche, winner of Atlantic City’s National Championship last month, which was Nitsche’s second bracelet win.

All together, the players amassed a prize pool worth more than $1 million. The top 16 finishers received compensation for their hard work at the felt including Daniel Negreanu (10th); Paul Volpe (13th), winner of Event #13 $10K NL 2-7 Draw Lowball just two weeks ago; Nick Schulman (15th); and Scott Clements (16th).

JC Tran’s BFF Wins First WSOP Bracelet

June 14, 2014

“It means a lot. This is actually my very first tournament that I’ve ever won, period, and it just happened to be a World Series of Poker event. It meant a lot because I always thought, ‘When would I win my first one?’ But it is hard when you only play two, three, four a year, you know?”

Perhaps Todd Bui should play more tournaments because he is apparently better than at least 347 other poker players. That’s how many fellow players he bested in Event #16 $1,500 Limit 2-7 Draw, which netted him just under $125K. Not bad for his first win, and a year’s salary. And even better, of those 347 other players, one of them was seasoned veteran and bracelet owner Tom Franklin, who came in second.

Buy-ins to this event resulted in a $450K prize pool that paid the top 36 finishers. Other notable cashers included Layne Flack, 30th; Mike Leah, 11th; and Vladimir Shchemelev, 4th, who won his first WSOP bracelet last year in the $3K PLO Hi/Lo.

The heads up action went fast and quickly declared Bui the winner. He is now expected to stay and play in more events in addition to the typical mixed game events he comes to the Rio to play in each year.

Ironically, Bui’s best friend is JC Tran, now a fellow bracelet winner. They grew up playing poker together in Sacramento, but Tran, who took his poker career straight to the top, grinding NLH tournaments, while Bui moved to Southern Cali to play cash games and go to college.

Bui says of Tran, “Me and him are like brothers. He’s one of my best friends in the world and definitely my best friend in poker and my longest friend in poker. Before I moved down to SoCal to go to college, we used to play in a small cardroom in Sacramento…. It was me and him every day; we were inseparable. We were like Tom and Jerry.”

Poker Dreams Really Do Come True

June 14, 2014

There are hundreds of satellite seats to the WSOP given away each year via online poker site promotions, and with the initiation of online poker, where better to earn your free spot to play in the biggest live poker series in the world? Satellite seats are awarded to multiple events throughout the series, including the main event, but also to the 2014 WSOP National Championship, an event that often goes unnoticed by many because it is played in Atlantic City on the boardwalk in an effort to celebrate the season’s best WSOP Circuit players. This year was the fourth year that this honorary event has taken place, but because it is carried out on the other side of the country and finished before the Las Vegas events ever begin, most people are unaware of its existence, though it is a bracelet event.

Not quite as lucky as Chris Moneymaker, but riding on his coattails, Tracy Doss was one such recipient of an online satellite seat that allowed him to play in the National Championship event this year. While he did win his seat online at, though he didn’t cash first or win the main event, he did make the final table, lasting to fifth place before exiting with an $86K stack of cash.

It was quite an honor for this Columbus, Ohio native to even make the final table of such an event considering the field of players he was up against, but Doss was understandably dissatisfied. “Honestly, I was really disappointed in my finish. If I’d have won that flip, I really think I could have won the tournament,” he explained.

Interestingly enough, it was Chris Moneymaker who inspired Doss to play online poker and led him to win that satellite seat 11 years after Moneymaker’s rags to riches story. “I’m a product of the Moneymaker effect. I watched him win the Main Event in 2003, and immediately went out and bought a computer.”

But Doss’s most recent satellite seat is actually not his first. In 2004, he turned a $200 buy-in into a WSOP Main Event entry, which only took him to Day 2 that year, but was enough to convince him that professional poker could be a possible career for him, so he relocated to Las Vegas in 2005 with a dream of making it big in poker.

He says of his initial experiences, “I played a mix of live and online poker, and I got pounded into oblivious. I made some final tables and made a little money, but I couldn’t sustain a life as a pro.”

Deciding to move again, Doss took a job with his brother and moved his family to Portland, Oregon. But nine to five just wasn’t his bag, and he continued to lack fulfillment. Eventually, his wife suggested he try poker again, and they returned to Vegas earlier this year. His luck seemed to be holding out because he was playing good poker. With a boost of confidence, he continued to succeed and ultimately found himself in Atlantic City, where he says he “wasn’t nervous at all.”

After his fifth-place cashout, he said, “I wanted that bracelet. I wanted to win,” which just adds fuel to his motivational fire. He says, “I’m going to play tons of satellites, and I have July 5th marked off on my calendar to play the 25 Seat Scramble.”

In addition to living his dream of playing poker professionally and full-time, he has another pan in the fire, High Roller Pizza, which will open this summer on the south end of the Strip. “It may not be a gold bracelet, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time,” referring to his dream of opening a free-range, organic pizzeria.

Doss dreams big, but that’s what it takes to win big and succeed. It seems like the cards are stacked in his favor, and he will undoubtedly become a pro poker force one of these days, and with his enthusiasm and drive, it’s likely to happen sooner than later.

And such is the beauty of poker dreams. Becoming a professional athlete for a majority of the world is out of the question due to lack of skill or lack of youth, and most dream professions require years of schooling and unobtainable amounts of money, but becoming a professional poker player is a possibility for anyone who has the skills and the aspiration, whether young or old, rich or poor. It’s just another facet of poker that sets it apart from all other careers.

Participation at WSOP Seniors Event Trumps Last Year’s Turn Out

June 10, 2014

The ideal model of a true poker face is exemplified in Dan Heimiller, who manages to keep it on just about 24/7, unless he’s just won a WSOP gold bracelet, then he makes an exception and cracks a smile for his fans. Over the past two decades plus, Heimiller has been around the block once or twice when it comes to live poker tournaments, and he’s done pretty well for himself as a poker professional. With numerous first-place finishes under his belt and literally hundreds of cashes, 52 of them WSOP cashes, his total career earnings are valued at just under $4.8 million, $2+ million from WSOP and WSOP Circuit cashes. He is one of the most decorated poker players in the business with roughly 25 first place career wins. Hailing from Missouri, USA, he is the all-time money maker for his home state, by far, with more than $3 million more than Dan Nassif, second on that list.

With such an impressive career, it’s no surprise that Heimiller has won his second gold bracelet and the biggest payday of his career worth $627K when he took down Event #17 $1K Seniors NLH, 12 years after his first bracelet, which he scored at the 2002 WSOP in a 7-Card Stud event.

“Back in 2002, it wasn’t for as much cash, so that makes this one a lot more important,” Heimiller said after winning the biggest senior event in the history of the series. “It was lso a smaller field and wasn’t as prestigious back then. It was a great feeling, but this one feels extra spectacular because it was for such a big prize.”

Heimiller bested a player field that rose to 4,425 players (more than last year), all of whom may have been over 50, but weren’t easy competition. Once play got down to the final table, the competition had gotten downright fierce with Heimiller, Barry Schwartz, and Dennis Phillips seated around the felt, where there were no young guns or overnight, Internet-made players. With a leveled playing field, it was the best against the best, and they all had wisdom, experience, and confidence to back up their chip stacks.

Phillips, who finished second in the seniors event two years ago and third in the 2008 main event, was perhaps the most intimidating.

Heimiller, who fancies mixed games over Hold ‘em, jokingly said, “My No Limit game seems to be catching up. Up to a couple of years ago, I used to tell people No Limit was my worst game. There seemed to be a lot of people who had a great grasp of it, so I was an underdog. But now I guess I’m able to hold my own.”

Finishing runner-up in this year’s seniors’ event was Iowa’s 58-year-old firefighter, Don Maas, who was the chip leader at the onset of the heads up showdown, but it was no match for Heimiller’s proficiency and experience. This was Maas’s first WSOP cash, which amounted to $388K of the prize pool that totaled just under $4 million.

Other notable seniors who cashed in the event included Barbara Enright, 72nd; Dennis Phillips, 5th; and Barry Schwartz, 8th. The top 468 seniors were paid, making for a pretty lucrative tournament for literally hundreds of players.

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